Episode Number: 167

Episode 167- How to Not Die Poor w/ Michael Arceneaux

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Jamila Souffrant 0:00

You're listening to the Journey to Launch Podcast How To Not Die Poor with Michael Arceneaux.

Recording 0:10

Welcome to the journey to launch podcast with your host Jamila Souffrant. As a money expert who walks her talk, she helps brave journeyers like you get out of debt, save, invest, and build real wealth. Join her on the journey to launch to financial freedom in five, four, three, two, one.

Jamila Souffrant 0:37

Hey, hey, hey journeyers welcome to the Journey to Launch Podcast. I'm always excited that you join me if you're a first time listener, welcome, welcome. If you're a returning listener and journeyer you know what's up. I'm super excited to have you here. Hopefully this conversation will inspire you, educate you, motivate you, all the things. Give you the fuel you need to continue on your journey.

Now today on the podcast, I'm talking to Michael Arsenault, who is a New York Times bestseller. And he first wrote the book, I can't date Jesus love, sex, family, race and other reasons. I put my faith in Beyonce. What an amazing title first of all. And so his second book is really what caught my attention. I knew that he had brought the first book, I didn't read his first book, but I knew that it did really well and had a lot of great feedback. But with his second book, I was intrigued because the title of it is, I Don't Want To Die Poor. And that caught my attention. Because I was like, what is this about? And of course, it's about money. And Michael writes from a place where I think a lot of people can relate from, you know, he's not a personal finance expert, or someone talking about money from that point of view. He's a regular person. You know, he's a writer. He's a creative, he's an entrepreneur, but he's writing from this position of dealing with money, primarily student loan debt.

Now, how many of you guys can relate to that? You know, I also had student loan debt. But Michael talks about it in a way in which I really think a lot of people can relate to about just the burden of student loan debt, and how he accumulated the student loan debt and what it was like what it is still, like he's still paying it off. And he has such a wonderful way with words, you know, I do really try to read every book, when I have an author on it, do my best to read their books beforehand, so that way, I know exactly, you know, what the book is about, and that it's a good book. So that way when I'm telling you that you should pick it up, like I really mean it, but I really do think this is an amazing book, that you will find a lot of similarities, similarities, and if you are in the space of paying off debt, and not wanting to die poor. So, he says he's still working on it. He's still working on not dying poor, but from what I can tell this is going to, I think, inspire and help a lot of people. So I'm excited that you are tuning in.

Now if you actually want to watch this episode, so I sometimes record the video of the interviews, so if you want to check that out, you can go to my YouTube channel, go to youtube.com/journeytolaunch or if you're following me on social at journeys launch on Instagram, or Facebook, I'll probably post some clips there. But I always find it interesting people like if you're listening to this and you probably like listening to podcasts, but sometimes people will say, oh, it's so cool to actually see you. You know, interviewing someone like you see the video sometimes that adds a new dimension.

Hey journeyers I'm back with a what I believe is going to be a wonderful conversation. This is the first time I'm speaking to our guest his name is Michael Arceneaux. Did I pronounced that right?

Michael Arceneaux 3:48

You got it right. Thank you.

Jamila Souffrant 3:50

So nervous about that part. And Michael, he wrote an amazing book called I Don't Want To Die Poor and the reason why I'm excited to have you Michael on the show is like, I have a personal finance, podcast and brand. And so oftentimes I end up talking to people who are within the space already like, which is fine, you know, experts in certain fields. But I always like talking to people who are not in the space like, right like there's no echo chamber here. It's like such a real person, the real story and you you're such a good writer.

Michael Arceneaux 4:19

Thank you. I appreciate that.

Jamila Souffrant 4:21

So the way you like put into words, your experience with debt, and still fighting through it and as a creative, as an entrepreneur, like I think it's amazing I think will help a lot of people because you're you are speaking to the people. So welcome.

Michael Arceneaux 4:37

That's very common. So thank you. I appreciate that. Thank you for having me.

Jamila Souffrant 4:40

All right. So, I Don't Want To Die Poor first of all, the title alone is just amazing. And I feel like that's what most of us all of us who have not come from money who is nothing is secured in this world like that's what it is that was pushing us forward in this world. But so the book itself, seemingly is about like student loan debt, but you touch upon a lot of things right?

Michael Arceneaux 5:01

I will thank you by the time I just didn't get to the point this is my second book, my first book is called I can't date Jesus. So um, I don't want to die pours very much as direct, succinct, simplistic way of saying, you know, I don't want to die for obvious reasons. But in particular, as you read through like the first chapter, which is kind of an extension of what started as like an essay in the New York Times Sunday review about personal private debt is that I really like if you have private student loan debt, which actually disproportionately impacts black people like of the over a trillion dollars in student loan debt. One hundred billion of that is private loan debt. One hundred billion is still a lot of money. If I died right now, like God forbid, Beyonce forbid, everybody forbid, my mom would still be on the hook for the loans based on the way that type of debt is set up in the country. So we are disproportionately dying but even before that, we are still disproportionately dying from a lot of different things. So I don't want that for speaks to that kind of like reality that a lot of people are probably grappling with right now. They were already but even more now.

Jamila Souffrant 5:57

Yeah, and I think the timing of when this book--When did this book get released?

Michael Arceneaux 6:01

It was released April 7, which at the time was the deadliest week for the Coronavirus, ongoing pandemic. I don't recommend releasing the book during the pandemic. But yes, I thought the book was really timely already, but it's definitely more timely because many of the factors that I write about are unfortunately wreaking havoc on everyone right now.

Jamila Souffrant 6:21

Right? It it's just even more pronounced and real for people. You have a lot of amazing like chapter titles. I love all of them in your book. I'm just gonna read a couple of them because I want to like focus on a couple points. So one is like You Self Centered Bastard. That's one of your, your chapters.

Michael Arceneaux 6:39


Jamila Souffrant 6:40

I Love Instagram, It Sometimes Makes Me Want To Die. And It's Cheaper To Die. So there's a bunch of amazing titles but the one about You Self Centered Bastard. You know, the whole point of that from what I got as a lesson is that sometimes you have to be a self centered person. Is that correct? This. When it comes to money.

Michael Arceneaux 6:58

That would not be my interpretation exactly.

Jamila Souffrant 7:01


Michael Arceneaux 7:01

It's not a swat away though. Because well in this instance just for those who haven't read it yet, I highly recommend this trade paperback paperback. It's very affordable if you got it. But no, I think well you self centered bastard is basically an insult that my mom regretted that she hurled at me, honestly, understandably, because, you know, I just come from working poor working, class people, and we don't have the means like that to kind of take on that type of debt. So she does regret what she said. And she did really soon after. So this is me, like very much later talk about what I talked about is kind of grappling with the debt. So to your point to be true, I don't. The thing is, I don't consider it to be selfishness or self centeredness. I don't think there's anything wrong with you know, as much as the book I did. There's the marketing copy of the book like oh, protect chasing his dream, but if you really read the book, it is much in an indictment of the system at large not so much to me. So like even though my mom had her feelings which are justifiable, and I think did what I did not, you know, understand why people do what they choose to do to get ahead or in my case escape, you know, an abusive situation. If you read, I can't say, Jesus, there's a lot of going on in the house. But yeah, I think it is important for people to kind of, you know, sometimes make that choice because we have to serve opportunity, as I write it from a queer perspective. Like I wasn't out at the time, but I really, it was a lot of things beyond just trying to chase my dream. So no, I don't regret it. But yeah, I just want to make sure I don't encourage self centered behavior, because I do think narcissism floats very highly within Americans, particularly my generation. So yeah, hopefully that was clear. I'm sorry. I was just trying to Okay,

Jamila Souffrant 8:35

That's very clear. I mean, there is a fine line, right, like, but you know, I find like even I think for most of us who did not come from money or and we have to, like pull ourselves up from our bootstraps, and you know, work within a system that is damaged, is that you have to make choices. And one of the choices you talked about was like and what was taught to you is that, you know, education by any means, regardless of the cost like at that point, and it was so many like young people millennials like my generation, like your generation, like you weren't taught about cost of college, it was something you just did to like, get as far as you could, right?

Michael Arceneaux 9:10

Oh, yeah, I even like I don't come from folks who like went to a four year college like that my mom was an LPN, she went back to school to become an RN, my sister Diego, we would like to kind of the first one, like, as I knew to like my family, my mom didn't have any presence about how expensive college was, which is why she lashed out on me. But for a lot of people, what has happened to us with these private student loans is frankly, black people already are disadvantaged, because collectively, we don't have as much access to certain things. So certain lenders will take advantage of that. My loans, which has impacted me, and which impacted a lot of people, and which will continue to impact even more people unless college is changed. Is that as is the educational equivalent of a subprime mortgage. So yeah, there are certain things that I didn't know about going in and I acknowledge that and accept responsibility for but again, when I say it's also it's is much an indictment of not me. But more so like the system itself is because like social mobility a lot harder to attain for people. And for Black people in particular, you know, realistically, for some reason when we talk about it. But government jobs are usually how most people, black people particularly became middle class before they were ever, like really go for your education. You know, [inaudible] decimated that, you know, if you're under 40, and you were born around Reagan, you really are set up to fail unless you are already born with money if you really looked at it. So you know, we don't have as much I take advantage. So that's what I was really trying to highlight. Particulary like this type of debt, like, yes.

People asked me, would you go back and do it again? Yeah, of course. Because unfortunately, I might have not done at the private loan route. But the reality is what I've had to take out all this debt to have the same advantages as like a middle class white person, or hell even like upper middle class middle class black folks. Yeah, because what other option would a person like me have had so it's about kind of saying, yeah, I'm hard on myself, and I'm telling you, this is like the emotional way that I carried as much as like the financial debt and how that impacted me. But it's also, you know, again saying, like me learning to forgive myself for something I didn't need to be forgiven for. Because while I did go in with, I wasn't completely green, we read the book, but also couldn't take into account that, you know, media as I understood it, no longer function that way, because they didn't know how to deal with the advertising model. And if for some reason, no one ever thought like over the course of 20 something years of broadband internet, or internet that maybe you should get people to pay for the content. At least they get used to getting it for free. And then, and then the Great Recession happened. So it's like, no matter what I would have pursued when I graduated, like even if I want to go to med school, or whatever, I mean, maybe med school but other jobs. The fact is, we were all screwed. It's just kind of like what are we going to do?

Jamila Souffrant 11:49

Yeah, at the point that we were all you know, around graduating, there was like a lot going on and you're talking about a book like deciding like or thinking through profession like choices. So you you graduated, and your degree was in media.

Michael Arceneaux 12:01

Yeah, it was a broadcast journalism, major degree in broadcast journalism, very helpful.

Jamila Souffrant 12:06

Nowadays, right, well, I appreciate

Michael Arceneaux 12:07

But I appreciate my degree though, shout out Howard, I learned a lot.

Jamila Souffrant 12:11

He went to Howard, my brother went to Howard, when you think about choices, right? Like at that time, was it consciously making a decision about choosing what you enjoyed, versus not chasing the money or what was gonna make, you know, a lot of money.

Michael Arceneaux 12:24

I knew journalism didn't pay a lot of money up front. I just had a fundamental belief in myself that I actually could really go the distance if actually, given the opportunities. Like I really did study, frankly, how a lot of everyone moves in media, like I literally was very much always into research. And my mom didn't want me to go anywhere in the midst of chaos. So I was on the internet a lot of time reading a lot. Studying people like, oh, I like what this person does. How did they get to that point? So by then it was kind of like I mentioned, I'm just going to go like NYU or Columbia. And then I thought how much those costs and then I actually move someone around the corner for me. He went to NYU for a year. And then he dropped out because he didn't have enough money that's like at the time like 30,40 something thousand dollars a year and he knew where we come from we nobody had that. And then he dropped out. I mean, he's fine now because he married rich, but he married a rich white man. I don't know if I ever will become but I could have stayed in Texas.

And don't get me wrong. This is for everybody listening, particularly at a time like this when it's, you know that this situations I graduated in are even worse now. And you want to stay well, because a racist game show host is President not just like a bunny drunk all over President Bush was but if I wanted to go to UT Austin, maybe I would have got some money, I probably still could've created a nice life. But when I looked up Howard at first I thought it was a compromise, but it's actually not a compromise is actually the best place I should be. Because for me what I wanted to do, the School of Communications was around. They were known for even recently placing people in markets where they actually worked their way up. And yeah, it was a lot of debt, but it wasn't nearly as much debt as like some of the other schools that I've been applying to talking to so it was still like a calculated risk. It was just certain variables that I didn't, I could have anticipated some things I should have known, like, I didn't know how merciless a corporation would be about a private loan. I've essentially will have paid by the end of next year $100,000 on a $60,000 loan over like a 12 year plan, which is extended to 13 only by the grace of like, in my grace, that's ironic of Hurricane Harvey relief that they gave to people who were within, like, it's just kind of all of these different things, you know, people were having to help cope with it, you know, like people getting hurt people, you know, it was hurting us all, because I still contribute to places, you know, in Texas and all that. So it was just a lot of different things. You can't prepare for any of that. So that's why you know, in hindsight is 2020 but as hard as I was on myself, you know, when you sit down? Well, I by the time I wrote the book, I was already kind of at peace enough. But I thought it was like I wanted to flip the narrative on its head because it's so often like it's our fault. Or like, oh, it sucks, but not to the extent to which no, we were set up.

Yeah, yeah. And that's why I think a lot of people if they pick up your book and read it, like, they'll get it, because what you talked about, like realizing almost like, you know, looking back and realizing like, wait a second, this is not all on me like, obviously there's some self responsibility there. But it's not all like the system itself. And even when it comes to like the protections or the pause on student loan payments, that was enacted until September, like that was our for federal loans, you know, like.

Only for federal loans.

Jamila Souffrant 15:04

I don't know the exact numbers, but there are so many people with the private loans that are still struggling.

Michael Arceneaux 15:22

But just even succinctly though, [inaudible] but you know, currently, more than half of U.S. black adults don't have a job. And a lot of those people probably do have student loans. And just statistically they probably have loans like mine, maybe not as high but just based on the way the payments are structured, and they don't even they don't negotiate like the government if you end up paying more in interest and it's also a scam. They still work with you. These don't imagine how many people are hurting right now. How many people are having their credit damaged all these different things through no fault of their own by the fact that even this government doesn't want to do it like Germany Canada does essentially pay people to stay at home, make them watch. and use a mask until we get over this. But we're all gonna hurt the most but particularly if you're having this type of struggle you're going to be looked at especially if you're getting those calls that are right about they're gonna talk to you like you're doing something wrong when it's not you're literally It's not your fault.

Jamila Souffrant 16:25

Yeah, yeah. So you talked about and you've just said like for you you pursued media and you felt like you could go the distance in it I and I do have like a lot of people who are within the creative space that listen or want to dabble in that are writers you know me myself, like becoming an entrepreneur recently full time like and really it's based on my efforts and like my creativity that this works, but then it's like I still need to get paid like support my lifestyle. What is that experience like for you? How have you grown since you first entered into this field to now where you are now?

Michael Arceneaux 16:58

While I've never ever glamourized, the situation I have been in. I think, again, like, literally if you're born under Ronald Reagan for 40 years, has been grossly stagnation and gross inequality. If you're not the person benefiting from it and more than likely you're underpaid. Most Americans in this country are underpaid no matter how big the checks are, which is why when they say Americans are two checks away from like, complete ruin, sadly, and unfortunately, as we saw in recent months, but not enough now, there are people in bright lines and a lot of people probably making over six figures you make over six figures and be broke. Most people don't make six years in this country, they make about like 40 or 50 or 50 something and that's still not enough to always have been things.

But in terms of me writing, I have always told people and I've mentioned this throughout both of my books, unless I was I mean, I've struggled but on paper I still make a pretty decent living. In fact, me having to work so hard means I make more money because I have some debt to pay off that I don't want to be swallowed whole by. I say that off to say, if I weren't making enough money to even just barely survive, then I wouldn't have I would have dropped this a long time ago. I'm always reevaluating my strategy in terms of my greater goals. You know, a lot of things that I wanted to do took longer than I, you know, wanted. But also sometimes being able to sacrifice again, it's a privilege, like most people don't get to be in media and entertainment because they can afford the privileges and even if you are broke in media and entertainment trying to get there, that's still a privilege because you're just a little bit you're doing just a wee bit better than someone who literally can't even stand up alone. My advice to people who want to be writer the creative is that, you know, really go with it with humility, be kind to yourself. Is it something I remind myself to do, but realistically, like you need to be able to make money. Like I always I used us as one example like on Girls on HBO, which I like I know it's controversial, even though I get like the cast get annoying, trust me, but there was an episode like where Hannah because it was mighty white, but I know some black guys attitude but that's again, certain class.

That, you know, they want to do advertorial writing, which is basically write ad copy. Yes. not glamorous, yes. Not your passion. No, it's not your voice. You know what I mean, before this stuff happens advertorial copy pay really well. In fact, if they do so well, usually the money you get quicker because it's coming from whatever they allow you to basically write it in your voice. Now more than ever, you get paid to do marketing copy is not for everybody saying you don't necessarily have to have your name, write something under like for some people like that might be there above that. Me I made sure I did it with, you know, my approach. I like oh, I don't wanna do that. But I'll do this. Okay, I'll make this work. Oh, this is just basically sponsored content. Like that's a way to actually make money. There's also other things to do that are non writing like that I've done to make money. It's just like, realistically, until you can learn up as a freelancer, particularly enough contracted work, where you at least have a base pay that you're making each month and then you have to learn about taxes and insurance. And I know that's a step by step thing. But yeah, you have to humble yourself and be willing to do a lot of things to get to what you think you Your purpose? I'm not a purist, you know, I don't believe in that. I don't glamourize it. So it's just kind of is what it is.

Jamila Souffrant 20:06

Yeah, no, I love that too. And that's solid advice. It's realistic. It's just like too and because we're at the age where now these more quote unquote stable companies, these bigger companies are trying to be more down trying to like get more into the culture like I think that there are more opportunities out there trying to think smaller because that's how you connect with your audience versus like this big top down like not going into the wheat so like I think there's a lot of opportunities especially now for people but you have to be creative and think outside the box.

Michael Arceneaux 20:34

This is just an aside, I know a lot of people want to be brands which don't want to go into tangent that come usually alarms me, but I think you know, if you want to be known for something particular you are creative to do something like voice driven. Please actually have some semblance of like, an ideology or a point of view that actually speaks to whatever you want to represent and try not to force it because I think if you actually just are who you are and speak to that consistently, yeah, people will get it, you don't have to tell them that I can see that a lot. And I don't necessarily think that'll be really healthy. Because people kind of chasing basically. Yeah, I mean, people are gonna like the micro influencer thing will probably be how people go about it, but like, also kind of recognize that you're trying to be quote unquote influencing money but like most of these corporations that you're trying to, ideally get a few dollars from it that don't have many dollars to give right now, because this economy is a lot worse than advertised. I might not be an economist, but you just you know,

Jamila Souffrant 21:32

Right. Well, and I think I mean, that speaks a testament of you who you are and the books you've written, like, it's like legitimately like your voice, and you're not changing for anyone or anything. And that has what sets you apart in my opinion on from anyone else has done this.

Michael Arceneaux 21:48

I appreciate and you know what I've mentioned before, because it's true if I had wanted to write a book a different way, particularly the way they like to consume otherness in ways that I never want to present myself that probably would have yielded me short term greater financial benefits. But it wouldn't be creatively what I wanted to do or say it kind of defeats the purpose what I was trying to do. But again, like I mentioned how I took a smaller book advance for the first book because I wanted to write the book that I wanted to write. And I knew that if I got to write the book, I wanted to write that it would have some commercial success. So that's, you know, thanks that other people now have gotten better book deals because of me. And I got a better book for the second. So like, it's also keeping in mind that you being pioneering is not I don't say that with ego. It's more like you're pioneering by virtue of the fact that white folks just don't let us in. So we always kind of pioneer by default, but like, also be considerate of the next person that you, you know, your choices impact others. Unfortunately. But also be cognizant of that.

Jamila Souffrant 22:44

Right, right. Now, one of the things you talk about is the healthcare part of things as being just an independent contractor. And I love your realness about your perspective on Obamacare, and like how that worked out for you. So can you talk about that a little bit?

Michael Arceneaux 23:00

Obamacare was a one of the thing again, thinking of the collective, it was a, it's a greater good for the collective in terms of the American public, because much of what the legislation did was for the greater good. However, when people talk about how the legislation was imperfect, if you have to actually live through its imperfections, you know exactly what it is. I'm one of the few people who, because I'm a stepchild of a nurse, and judges know how black men die easily and faster. Make sure I always had health insurance, even when I was like one of the younger but I didn't go but once you you know, because of the markets. Bringing Obamacare, again, in my opinion, was essentially Romney care, which is essentially what Bob Dole who plan was in 1996. And so it already off the bat wasn't the best program to me for consumers, but again, it was for the greater good.

That said, because of Republican challenges on all fronts and state courts, because the Supreme Court ruling basically that insurance market is screwed. And it was already kind of bad before that, because essentially, if you make over the median us income, you don't qualify for the subsidies. So you are prone to basically what might have been before $200 if less than that for a health bill, is now like six or $700. And you're paying over $1,000 a month in student loans like I do. You can't do all of that at once. And then you can find more expensive plans and you kind of juggle with them. But also they got to 700 liberalism explain this because so many of the like Aetna got out of the market, it's a mess. So there's a reason why so many Americans only have insurance by name. There's a reason and I basically write to the plan how to help insurance market still, even if it's better than what it used to be. It's killing a lot of black people to you know, point. You know, I write about one losing one on with AIDS and my first book and my second who I referenced in the title chapter, battling it out for he recently died in the fall. Not so much. I mean, he was in poor health but his poor health was left untreated because of the cruelty of Texas under the Republican leadership and just general racism including having no health insurance and the chapter's called it's cheaper to die because in many ways when you look at the numbers it could be. So a lot of people are dying right now because they basically devalue black life to value to life of like basically the poor, working poor, which is most people in this country even we don't claim that title. Yeah, well, I'm working on right now simply for a lot of reasons but just the fact that our healthcare system is so screwed.

Jamila Souffrant 25:26

Yeah, no. And I think like you said that line that you when you cross it in terms of like your income to not qualify for things and that's the same thing with housing.

Michael Arceneaux 25:35

All of it. It's that weird gray area where it's like and you know, on paper like it doesn't count for the fact that like if you're black, you might be healthy. When you're starting from behind, you're starting from behind. And if you're like you're starting from behind no matter what, but some of us started more behind than others. But these are these things are all designed to kind of like further trip you up. And this is why like on paper sure you in some way person or Make the same amount of money. But as your money's probably going so many different places, then this person because they're born into generational wealth, it's just it's one domino after another. And it continues to be unaddressed, which is why it's important for more of us to talk about it, even if we happen to like President Obama personally.

Jamila Souffrant 26:18

Yeah, no, no. And again, just like that fine line, like sometimes it's just like that you cross over to where you don't get assistance, like, like, I remember my friend like she was trying to look for somewhere for her sister who has a couple kids to live. And like the amount that you had to make to get a subsidy to live in this place. Like, if she was making that like, she wouldn't be able to, like live now. Like she would be practically homeless.

Michael Arceneaux 26:41


Jamila Souffrant 26:41

So I'm like, Who is this actually helping because she actually really needs to help, but because she makes a decent amount, so therefore, thank God she's able to like take care of her children. She can't afford or she's not gonna be approved for like this housing when she's the one that really needs it. And you know, I think it's interesting.

Michael Arceneaux 26:57

Yeah, and right now, we having this mass, a lot of eviction causes like a lot of like homelessness unless people ain't like acting those subsidies [inaudible] and employment insurance runs out in July like we're kind of looking at a really dire situation kind of like immediate in August when it already is. And again, like it's those things like there's this wide middle between, they really think they're middle class, but it really kinda is like this, again by design and I think more of us have to again talk about this because a lot of us have been left out and just having to figure out a home and that can eat a lot of us up but yeah, like I again, if I write about respective like student loan debt, but like a lot of people are carrying debt in this country, and it does eat away at you.

Jamila Souffrant 27:43

Yeah. And what I find is like, you know, at the different levels, especially for black people like that you're earning income, so you know, if you are low earner or even mid right, it's still hard to kind of get ahead but even as a high income earner, right sometimes maybe you're the first one in your family to do that. Like that doesn't equate to wealth. Like, that's income. Hmm, but not wealth, not net worth?

Michael Arceneaux 28:04

That's what I mean. When you put them on the same paper like this white person, probably her money is keeping more of it because she's born more likely than to generational wealth and you are. And even if she isn't, like she still just has so many more advantages in terms of like, even where she gets to live and where you do. It's hard.

Jamila Souffrant 28:19

It is hard, but you know, I also I also come like many right come from the perspective what to do about it, right. I think you're writing from your perspective and your experience and is great, right? Like it It helps bring out people from the shadows who are feeling this way to feel like this is like this is normal, I'm not alone, the anxiety, the all the things that come up with dealing with money. And then like, I know, my platform is helping, like with the education of finances and bringing more people into the fold making it accessible, but for you like what do you think are the things that we can do personally to help this but then also knowing that it's a systemic thing to what needs to be done like from the outside like from the top down?

Michael Arceneaux 28:57

Honestly, right now I'm being thrown for a loop because white people suddenly acknowledge racism that, you know, the police kill us. And you know, they don't let us vote all the time. So I might have been a little bit more cynical a few months ago, actually, no, I write about student loan debt cancellation, in I Don't Want To Die Poor, because number of congress people brought it up. But you know, it really got into the national conversation because of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. And actually, since the time of publication before the pandemic, I will say, Joe Biden, not my favorite person, however, definitely voting for him because that's who the Auntie's picked. And I'm not done with that man or more. So take a sit down, gotta go. Please vote. But he was very, he was a staunch anti debt cancellation person. He's actually included it now. It's only 10,000, which is not a lot, particularly for like just the average American However, there is a stipulation. I'm poorly prepared right now, but there is more money allotted to forgiveness specifically for black college graduates who again are disproportionately in impacted by the type of debt that I'm talking about. So that legislation proposal like actually called like mentalistic proposal actually addresses that. And I think now more than ever, because for unfortunately, that man has made this economic situation so much more dire for everyone that I think is going to create, it's going to take a lot of stimulus. And from the climate, I always like to kind of reboot the economy anyway. So I think we really have an opportunity to push for even more because I think debt cancellation has already proved like studies have already shown when you cancel if you cancel all of our debt, particular our generations like we will buy a home, you'd have more money to spend, it would literally create jobs and boost the economy, like our collective generational debt is dragging down the entire country. And it was going to be like this great mortgage crisis for us anyway, so why not use this opportunity to do something and what people can do individually. But again, I commend everybody that has been out on the street, just to kind of get them laws off our backs our country again, but like no fight about racial injustice. I just think just to say as we continue to have to basically fight for survival once we can pass meaningful legislation that regard I think there's still opportunity to multitask sure that I'm saying like there's opportunity I think now more than ever to really push people to like consider debt cancellation because it really will benefit us because right now the way things go yes, we could have a different president but like we're still kind of sitting in ruin because the damage continues to be done. So I think there is opportunity but we all do need to be more vocal about it and hound these people because they're only gonna do they weren't doing much anyway.

Jamila Souffrant 28:58

Right? Well, and two like, you know, you talk about some of your highest career moments at the same time happening at your lowest or just parts where financially we're just not on. Can you share a little bit about that because it reminds me of your whole like the Instagram I hate thing? Like this reel that a lot of us put out like yeah, I may look successful. You know, my house looks nice, and like my Instagram pictures look good, but you don't have a clue what's going on financially in my life.

Michael Arceneaux 31:58

Hmm. Well also wanted me to kind of like upend the idea of a lot of narratives is also like, what does success look like in America right now for a lot of people. Being financially challenged and actually being hugely successful, depending on what you do, depending on who you are, depending on how you start, is probably more of a reality for a lot of people then, you know, I think, again, there are a lot of people who are high earners who are now in breadlines by virtue of missing a few checks.

But I do say, you know, because of the low events because of reality, because fundamentally, like, again, another thing that I can't control, no matter how much personal responsibility I take, is that I can't control the fact that people are always gonna devalue me as a black gay person, both you know, in terms of injustice, racism, but also the casual racism of lower expectations. So me being perceived to have less commercial viability by virtue I'm black and gay and as soon as people don't care means that people are less likely to pay me for certain things and have to prove myself even more, which means I started eating more great to financial disadvantages. So that's how you can end up making a list and losing your health insurance around by basically the same the same week. It's because your accolades can mean something, but if they don't come with the money that you deserve, it doesn't necessarily mean nothing. But it does put into perspective that like, fundamentally, the bottom line does matter as designing this country. And until that changes, like that's something you'll have to kind of like face directly. So I wanted to also you know, people think of Carrie Bradshaw and all these people that glamorize certain things, but also Yeah, I thank you. I wanted to paint a realistic picture of like, it's not just me that people like Samantha Irby, they do it. But I really want to make also just an indictment of like the system because I don't want people to say, oh, videos on this and an author is truly great. But that doesn't necessarily pay the bills. At least not immediately, and people need to know that.

Jamila Souffrant 33:51

Yeah. So the New York Times bestseller getting to the New York Times bestseller list.

Michael Arceneaux 33:56

We're very grateful, very grateful.

Jamila Souffrant 33:58

But then also you said, that's when you couldn't pay health insurance that same week.

Michael Arceneaux 34:02

Yeah, cuz I mean, I got paid like $15,000 for that book whenever you would probably get at least 50, or maybe 100, or some people even more. So if that's like, yeah, I mean, in here and the caveat is I'll earn some royalties, most authors do not. But if not for the generosity, and I don't ask for things, if literally not for help, if not getting over my ego and pride. Back would have been a disastrous summer for many reasons, accolades and all and it was already like a struggle.

Jamila Souffrant 34:29

Right, right. And one of the things that I thought about asking you was about this idea that, you know, when it comes to money, some people will feel it's not taking care of it's out of control, there's issues going on. And then there's other areas of their life that are not so great, either, whether that's healthy relationships with other people, right, romantic or just platonic, whatever. And sometimes you just think, well, that's my money issues are totally separate. And oftentimes, they're all interconnected. And you don't really realize that like, because you're not thinking about it in that way. You're just like, Well, yeah, I have money problems. But how is that affecting all these other things?

Michael Arceneaux 35:01

Exactly, um, one thing about the book is that I even learned while writing it, because it turned out to be much more difficult in 2019 imagine kind of some of the reasons why I thought about over much of that. But, um, is that, you know, it impacted every facet of my life in more ways than I thought, when I really sat down to kind of like, write everything out, it became even clearer to me. So it actually even kind of influenced the writing, like the change of certain things and like, oh, wow, this. Yeah, so it was cathartic in that regard. But also, I really, you know, if people can afford it, because I'm also again, aware of how difficult times all right now, if you are struggling with debt, and again, like the emotional debt as much as the financial, I do, write another little graph for like, I try to live in voice of people who I know, it's hard to communicate those feelings and I know because it's been so hard for me, because you know, a lot of I Can't Date Jesus about basically intimacy and finding pleasure as a way of forging my own identity independence like religion in an upbringing, but I came to know it and see is that writing about money is far more intrusive and personal, actually scarier to write about because you're admitting like, oh, you're successful, but you felt broke. And even more broke is technically, one of the most even you know, gets is all these different things. But like, again, that that debt that I carried is just, you know, it just started paying off some of the private loans this week, and I literally teared up when a week ago because I could literally start to feel the weight off.

Jamila Souffrant 36:27

Yeah, yeah. And that's powerful. Like you just said, like writing this book was more emotional than the other book. And that's the thing like money like intertwines, it's such an important part of all our lives. It's like it dictates everything we do and what we can afford to walk away from jobs situations that are not healthy. Spending time right with people that you love family, like they're like it seeps into every area of our life. And I think it would be like the number one thing we learned about in school, and that the number one thing like we talked about with our friends, but it's not. So I hope that your book and platforms like mine my podcast, just like the fact that we talk about money like will help normalize conversations between people.

Michael Arceneaux 37:07

I agree. I very usually uncomfortable talking about money. It was good it's for the greater good. So I appreciate it.

Jamila Souffrant 37:15

Okay, so Michael, tell everyone where they can find more about you and get your book.

Michael Arceneaux 37:20

Well, I'm available wherever books are so and I did do the audio book if you don't mind the slight twang so https://www.michael-arceneaux.com. Our social I am young spelled the regular way s i n i c k that's young cynic. It was a joke from a blog post. Remember those, but it's too late to change it because it's not worth coming up with another name. I really appreciate you making time and space for me. It's been really great to talk to you.

Jamila Souffrant 37:47

Thank you, Michael.

Okay, journeyers, I really hope you enjoyed that conversation with Michael. As I said before, go pick the book up I Don't Want To Die Poor I think that it's something that so many people you listening can probably relate to if you have student loan debt or any other debt, and he writes it in such a witty, relatable way. Again, if you wanted to watch the interview, so maybe you listened and you're like, oh, that was great. I want to watch the interview. Now check it out on the Journey to Launch YouTube channel, go to youtube.com/journeytolaunch and make sure you're also subscribed there.

If you want to support me and the podcast and love the free content and information that you get here, here are four ways that you can support me in the show. One, make sure you're subscribed to the podcast wherever you listen. Whether that's Apple podcasts, that purple app on your phone, your Android device, YouTube, Spotify, wherever it is that you happen to listen, just subscribe so you're not missing an episode. And if you're happening to listen to this and Apple podcasts, rate review and subscribe there I appreciate and read every single review. Number two, follow me on my social media accounts. I'm @journeytolaunch on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And I love love love interacting with journeyers there. Three, support and checkout the sponsors of this show if you hear something that interests you, sponsors are the main ways we keep the podcast lights on here. So show them some love for supporting your girl. Four and last but not least, share this episode this podcast with a friend or family member or co worker so that we can spread the message of Journey to Launch. Alright, that's it. Until next week, keep on journeying journeyers.

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What started out as an essay about one man’s struggle with student loan debt in the New York Times, has morphed into Michael Arceneaux’s next best seller, I Don’t Want to Die Poor. Michael Arceneaux, the author of the New York Times bestseller, I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race and Other Reasons Why I Put My Faith in Beyonce just released his second book, in April 2020. This book, I Don’t Want To Die Poor, is all about money.  

In our conversation we talk about Michael’s struggles with student loan debt, the pressure to get a college education, and the faults of the student loan system. Michael is not a “money expert”, which makes this conversation even more enlightening and real. If you have ever been in debt (or are currently in debt), listen in as we discuss the struggle to not die poor. 

In this episode you will learn:

  • What happens to private student loans when you die
  • How the student loan process is systematically flawed 
  • Tips for creatives and entrepreneurs who want to make money and create
  • Why Black Americans are disportionately affected by private student loans
  • All the reasons why you should read Michael’s new book, and more


You can watch this interview with Michael Arceneaux on youtube by clicking here.

I'm listening to Episode 167 of the #journeytolaunch podcast, How to Not Die Poor w/ Michael Arceneaux! Share on X

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