Episode Number: 169

Episode 169- Become Your Own Money Expert & Build A Financial Life True To Your Values & Desires w/ Saundra Davis

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Jamila Souffrant 0:00

You're listening to the Journey to Launch Podcast: How to Become Your Own Financial Expert and Build a Financial Life That's Sustainable With Your Values and Desires With Saundra Davis.

Recording 0:15

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 0:42

Hey, hey, hey journeyers! Oh, welcome to the Journey to Launch Podcast. Buckle up because we are about to take off. I'm really excited for you to hear today's conversation. This week's episode with special guest, Saundra Davis. Now I want to just give you a little background about Saundra. You know, I came into the space as a blogger then podcaster. And then you know all the other titles that come along with doing what I'm doing. But Saundra has been in this game for years like she I call, you know, one of the vets. I feel like I'm still fairly new in the personal finance space, although I've made a name for myself, and I've already been able to impact people the way I have. I'm super inspired by Saundra and her commitment to her craft to financial education. She teaches how to teach other coaches like how to coach about money and you'll hear it you'll hear how she's so good at it. Through her words, through her tone, through her style. I mean, this was an amazing conversation. We went there in this conversation. We talked about money. We talked about living a sustainable life that you enjoy, how to become your own personal finance expert. I thought it was an enlightening conversation. I hope you do too.

Now let me just give you a little background I have to read Saundra's bio, just because it's that impressive. But Saundra Davis is a US Navy veteran financial coach, speaker, educator and consultant, who is nationally recognized and is an expert in the financial coaching field for her work in community based organizations that focus on asset building for the working poor. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Sage Financial Solutions, a San Francisco Bay Area based organization that develops comprehensive financial capability programs for low and moderate income communities. Now, I again can't wait for you to hear more of what Saundra has to say. You may have to listen to this more than once.

If you want the episode show notes for this episode, go to or you can click the description of wherever you're listening to this episode to get the full episode show notes. Now if you are a new listener to the podcast, an OG Journeyer, I've created a Jumpstart Guide to help you on your journey to financial freedom. It includes the top episodes to listen to, the stages to go through to reach financial freedom, resources to help you, and so much more. Get it for FREE by texting, "launch" to 33777. Text "launch" to 33777 or go to to get your guide for free right now. Okay, let's hop into the episode.

Welcome journeyers! I'm really excited, as I always am, to speak to today's special guest in the rocket seat. I'm going to start saying that now, Saundra. In the rocket seat today is Saundra Davis. Saundra, welcome to the podcast.

Saundra Davis 3:46

Thank you. It is so good to be here and I like that rocket seat thing. I'll take that.

Jamila Souffrant 3:51

Yeah, we're getting ready to blast off and I think our listeners journeyers are in for a real treat. Because Saundra, you've been in this game for such a long time, like personal finance, and helping communities that need it, learn about how to become financially empowered. And what I love most about you is not only do you help like communities like people, but you also help people like myself, learn how to coach and do better at my job, which is coming to the people where they are and helping them with their finances. So we're going to get into more of your background, but I'm happy that we finally got a chance because we've been trying to do this for a while now to sit down and chat.

Saundra Davis 4:30

Well, I'm glad we are to and I'm ready for it. I'm ready for it. I'm so proud of the work that you're doing. And you know, and aside from the guests that you have on, even just when you're doing your solo thing I like your solo jams too.

Jamila Souffrant 4:43

Thank you. I know I need to do more of those. I'm just like, every year I'm like, I'm gonna do more solo episodes, but I am guys I am a promise. So Saundra, tell people listening right now who don't know you like how long you been in the personal finance space in the work that you do.

Saundra Davis 4:58

Yeah, so It seems like so long, Jamila, I started in 2004. I actually went back to school and got my master's degree in personal financial planning in 2004. And this was after you know, and at that point, I was 40. Yeah, I was 44. So at that point, I had already made every money mistake possible, and some of them twice, right? And so I was on the heels of a very successful, nonprofit, organizational development consulting firm that I built, and I was exhausted. And I was done. I was just done. I didn't know what I was going to do. I took a year off. Hung out for a while, couldn't figure out really what I wanted. You know, and I think that happens a lot for people in that age, right? Because you go to that place of "Oh, I should be at a certain place at 40. I should already have done..." and I was feeling some of that. Not a lot of it, but enough of it to feel some angst you know? I tell people all the time my my partner is an investor. He's a trader and he does this for himself. And he taught me how to trade. And I learned that first actually I learned and I was so excited about doing Japanese candlesticks and all that, and I was doing all that stuff. But I was clear that I couldn't do it for a living. It just was not exciting to me. I couldn't sit there and watch the market, tick up and tick down. And I just, you know, I didn't have the stomach for it. And so he said, "Hey, so why don't you be a financial planner?" And so I went to a bookstore and I saw this book where the author said if you are going to hire a financial planner, hire a CFP, or better yet someone with a Master's degree in Financial Planning, so I got a Master's degree in Financial Planning.

Jamila Souffrant 6:36

Wow. And so you were also seems like had some experience but was short term trading like day trading through your partner.

Saundra Davis 6:43

Swing mostly. So okay, he was more of a day trader, I was more of a swing trader and and it was fine, you know, but I committed the cardinal sin, you know? I get attached to the stock. So, you know, I committed the cardinal sin, and so knowing that about myself and knowing that it was just never something that was going to work for me, because of the emotional aspect of it. And I guess now in hindsight, and actually, I've never really thought about it until you and I are having this conversation. When I look at where I am now, it makes perfect sense that I could not do that then, makes perfect sense. Everything you believe about money, and everything that you do about money, makes perfect sense if you understand your money beliefs.

Jamila Souffrant 7:28


Saundra Davis 7:29

Right? And so I am risk averse. I know I'm risk averse.

Jamila Souffrant 7:34

And so many things I love about what you just said. I want to try and hopefully get all the points out. You just talked about knowing thyself. And what happens is there are a lot of things that someone can choose to do to earn money. There's real estate. There's trading like swing trading, day trading. There is you know, starting a business, being an entrepreneur or doing something exciting. Like they're all these things shiny objects, and I I like actually talking about them on the show because I want to give people options. And sometimes people will be like, "Oh, that looks good. Oh, that seems that that's great." But the really the key is to understand who you are, like you said, like your money mindset, your money beliefs, and some of them, you can change, right? Like, you could be like, "You know what? I don't want to stay a prisoner to this belief. I can break out of that and become more risk taking whatever." Or some of it is just like, you know what, I'm comfortable here. And I need to find something that works for my personality. But I think it's so important to know thyself, and sometimes knowing thyself does mean taking risks and doing things to find out that youdon't like it.

Saundra Davis 8:36

And sometimes you have to take risk, right? And that happens a lot. But and I think that this is one of the things that I want to make sure that people hear is that I was at the stage where I couldn't do the traditional things that people think about. I couldn't do the safe thing. I could go and get a job. Hope that I'm earning enough to be able to put enough away to be able to retire at what people think of as the standard retirement age of 65 years old. So at 40, and even, you know, more drastically at 44, I knew that that wasn't going to work for me. I've had a successful business, I enjoyed the business. And while I was done doing that, I had to make a decision. And that meant actually taking on more risk. So I could have gone, you know, found a job somewhere I, you know, had my undergrad degree, I had a very robust, professional background. I could have gone and gotten a job and hope for the best. But the chances of me being able to put away enough money in 20 years to be able to retire at 65 was not likely at all. And so I knew at 44, I was not going to have enough to retire. And so I had to figure out what was I going to do? And so I had to invest in myself again. So at 44 literally, I took out a home equity line of credit. I got some loans, I got some scholarships, and I went and I did my master's degree. And it started me on a trajectory that ended up with me actually being one of the very first folks to do comprehensive financial planning specifically for people who were very low resource, very low net worth folks. And so I took a big risk. Now I am very risk averse. I'll tell you in a minute, if I go if I go to Vegas, number one, if I go to Vegas, I go to Vegas with $20 worth of quarters in my right pocket. Okay, I put those quarters in the machine and anything that comes out of the machine goes in my left pocket. When the right pocket is empty, I'm out. I'm out. I do not I don't care for risk. It's just not my personality. But I had to take the risk on me. And so there's this understanding that when you are thinking about an investment of your time, and your and your financial resources, you have to decide what does risk mean? And what does it mean to you? So for me, even though I'm a very risk averse person, and that's why swing trading was not a good fit for me, investing in my own business and knowing that I was going to make very, very little when I got broke into this field back in 2004. But now I'm living exactly the life that I want. You know, I live the life that most people think of in retirement.

Jamila Souffrant 11:19

Wow. And I love how you're talking about there's a difference in looking at risk. And the thing about it too, is while you're risk adverse, yet more things you can't control. So like you can't control the market, right? And you know yourself as someone who may be more emotional and will hold on to like a stock so you're just like, "Alright", but it sounds like you, because you had such an ability and you were entrepreneur before and you had a successful business that you took the risk on yourself because you believed in yourself. There are some people like that where like, I can bet on myself because I know if it's on me, like I'll make it work. But the other things that I can't control I'm more just afraid to do and I just think it's great for people to think about how they are in life business, um, investments in themselves. And if you can truly believe in yourself, then any risk, whether it's education, time that you put into yourself and what you need to do will be beneficial.

Saundra Davis 12:13

Right. And the thing is, if one thing doesn't work, I just do something else, you know? So it's not like had I gone a certain route, and that route didn't work or that route wasn't satisfying, that I couldn't do something else. And that's the benefit of taking that risk and making that investment in yourself. There's nothing and I tell people all the time I'm, I train a lot of young professionals, as you know, you know. I teach coaches, I train coaches. And I often hear people say, "Oh, I just wish I had done this earlier. I wasted so much time." And you know, I tell people, "Look, when I stand up in front of the room, whether it is 5 people, 500, 5,000, when I'm in front of the room, everything that I have ever been and everything that I've ever done, shows up in that moment, shows up in that moment, and so the very best and sometimes the worst of me, right? It's all there in that moment. And so I don't have any regrets that I didn't do this until my 40s." You know, 40 seems so old when you're 40. And so young when you're 60, right? And so just kind of understand that, wherever it is you are and whatever it is that you're trying to accomplish, what investment are you making in yourself? And even if you know, I've heard people say, "Oh, well, I got this degree, and I'm not really doing the thing." That's really not the point. What did you get from that experience that informs where you are now? What did you get from that time you spent that instructs where you want to go going forward, right? I learned as much about what I don't want, as what I do want. All of that matters. And you know, people might think, "Oh, well, how does this relate to money?" I'll tell you, I know a whole lot of people who do work that is considered similar to what I do and make a lot more money than I do and do not love their lives like I love mine. And so you got to decide what's most important, and where you want to end up, and what you're willing to do on the journey. I know and I knew when I changed careers, and I took out those loans, and I did all the stuff that I had to do to get that Master's degree, I was creating a life. I was going to have to work longer than 65 I will be working into my 70s but I also chose to do something that I love so much. I don't care how long I work. You know, I'll work until I don't want to.

Jamila Souffrant 14:33

Yeah. And I think that is what everyone really deep down is striving for. So this financial independence term and retiring early. Most people like when they say it, like it's I know when I speak for myself is that I wanted to retire from my job that didn't love but I want to work, whatever that means, you know, and you work can be mean a lot of things and be a lot of things. And so I think like you said the goal is the journey itself. And the fabric of your life experiences create the person you are today. And so I'm curious to know so before you end up until 44, how are you with your finances? You had a business and it seemed like it was successful when you had your business, you weren't even saving for retirement or any of that.

Saundra Davis 15:18

I took care of everybody, but me. I took care of everybody but me, the folks who work for me, my employees, I took care of everybody, my family, everybody, but me. Did I mention everybody? And so, I am a product of a generation, that if one of us makes it in our families, we look out for everybody else. You know, I was fortunate that you know, when I say our families, I mean kind of an extended family as well. You know, my brothers are successful, they're doing their thing. They live in lives that they love as well. But one of the things that my mom did not have was education. To financial security, she was a maid when I was a little girl. So by the time I was 15, I was contributing to the household because I had to join the Navy at 17, got out broke with a son, you know, and so I really didn't learn anything about money until I was in my 40s. I made good money, but I also either spent and not really on extravagant things. I you know, it wasn't really that it was just, I shared what I had with whoever needed it, you know, both in my family and outside of my family. And so I never really knew that whole concept of putting myself first. You know, I never knew that that was a thing. And although after I got out of the Navy, I did know that there was this, you know, when I was civil servant, they had this plan, this retirement plan. I didn't know what that meant. They told me the day I left civil service. They said, "Hey, you know, you have this account. And you have a couple of options. You can roll it over. You can leave it where it is, or you can take it out." Guess what I did? I was 25 Guess what? Did girl I took it out. I partied like it was my birthday I but I didn't know you know, I was 25 years old. I didn't understand that that was money for future Saundra. I didn't understand that that money when I was 25 was for Saundra at 65. I didn't know that I didn't know her, right? I didn't know 65 year old Saundra. And so it was very difficult to think about her. When I knew that I had my mom. I knew that I had my son. I knew that I was a single woman trying to survive in San Francisco. And so, you know, I did what I knew to do at that space and time in my life. And you know, I made every mistake possible. And it really wasn't until I did my masters in personal finance that I really learned something differently.

Jamila Souffrant 17:50

Yeah, so I know there are journeyers listening and are in the situation that you were coming up right? Before you got your degree and did personal finance, that are supporting a lot of people in their family, because culturally, that's what you do. And that's expectation and they want to, but it's at almost a detriment to what's happening for them. What advice do you give them? Because, you know, depending on personality, too, right? Like, I remember telling someone, someone who was a new mom, like, "Your time now, like, tell people No." and they're like, "Jamilla, that's because you're you and you can tell people no easily, but in my culture in my family, like, that doesn't fly. " And so I'm wondering if there's some advice or now that you have your perspective, if you would have done what you would have done differently first, and to help maybe someone right now who's just like, wow, like, like, I'm helping everyone else and I want to, but it's really, I'm afraid about my future, like, what should they do right now?

Saundra Davis 18:46

Yeah, yeah. So number one, I think it's really important, culturally, you know, in the black community, that's what I do. That's what we do. You know, and so, my job was to look out for my mom and I looked out for my mom till the day she was no longer here physically, and so I have no regrets about that. What I did learn after learning about money, which is like I said, why I did this personal finance degree. And I did it, number one, because I needed to know how to be better with money. And then my family needed to know how to be better with money. And then every person I knew, particularly in the black community, I wanted to understand how people who had wealth, knew how to acquire, build it and transfer it. And so I was obviously old enough at that point, my son was, you know, 20 or so. My mom was 60 or so. And so, I wanted to make sure that I wasn't repeating what I had learned from my mom. I had already made a lot of mistakes for myself and was then making those same mistakes with my son. So I had the benefit of this generational experience of distressing financial experience. And so rather than just say no, what I did was I started to talk to my family about money differently. And I explained that look, I don't want us to always be in financial distress one generation after the next. And so in order to do that, I have to set some financial goals. And in order to meet those financial goals, I have to set some financial boundaries. This is what I can do. And this is what I can no longer do, right? And so granted, I'm not telling you that that was easy. I'm not telling you that they received it well. You know, I can remember my mom saying,"Well, sweetheart, can you send me on a trip?" She want to go on a trip to Alaska. I'll never forget. "Can you send me on a trip?" I said,"No, I can't. But what I can do, what I can do is show you how to break it down so that you can save for that trip yourself." And so I helped her do a budget, I helped her set up how much it took. I think it ended up she had to save like $25 bucks a week to be able to do the thing that she wanted to do. And so then I, you know, that's actually when I learned how to coach, right? Because my mama was my first client. So what things do you have to do? What adjustments would you have to make, to be able to spend $25 less to put it on this trip? And she said, "Oh, well, I could do this, that and the other." She came up with whatever thing was, might have been going out to dinner after church, one Sunday, a month, right? And so I said, "Okay, so think about how important this trip to Alaska is. Tell me what's important to you about that trip". And she said, "Oh, you know, I'll be able to relax, I'm going to hang out with the other old ladies in the church. And we're going to do, we're going to eat all day, because on these cruises, they get they feed them all day long. And they're going to do all those things." I said, "Okay. So when you look at what you have to give up, and what you're going to get, which one of those things is more important to you?" And she said, "Oh, definitely going on the trip" and said, "Okay, so what do you need to do?" And so she learned, I mean, so so not only did I set a boundary that I held, and I didn't always. I don't want you to think like once I learned, oh, this, you know, that's not how it works, you know? But in that moment, I did something that was helpful for her. It was helpful for me. And it reinforced something that I was then trying to learn to pass down in my family.

Yeah, so you empowered the people around you through your education and knowledge.

Yeah, yeah. And, and it was difficult, you know? Because there used to me just opening the wallet. And when I decided to stop opening the wallet and say, "This is what I'm willing to do. And this is what I can help you learn to do." And so I don't, you know, I know a lot of people say, you know, just say no, and you don't have to do it. You know, I tend to take a kinder, gentler approach to family and money because I know that for black folks, particularly, we have a lot of wounds around money. You know, we have a lot of pain around money. And I think it's important that we don't hurt each other more. I think it's important that we hold each other with kindness and compassion. Because I mean, I've had the family members call me because the electricity was cut off again. I can either shame, blame and abuse them, or I can say, "Okay, look, how do you avoid this again? What needs to happen for you?" And I can spend that kind of time, you know, and so now you don't get to have my money without, you know, my coaching, right? And so and I tell other people, like, I get a lot of people that call me and say, "Oh, I want to send so and so I want to send my daughter, my son, my cousin to you, they keep coming to me for money." And I said, "well, so here's the thing. I'm more than willing to talk to people in their family members. But when I'm talking to that family member, it is not to try to get them to think how you think it's trying to help them understand. How do you think about money in your life? And where is that helping you? And where is it harming you? And so how do we shift that?" Because once that shift starts to happen now when they're coming to you for help, it's really more about forward progress rather than fixing you know, a misstep.

Jamila Souffrant 24:14

Yeah. And that's one of the things you talk about often is just becoming your own financial expert. And that's part of the empowering part is that you show someone like, look, while I may be leading or a little steps ahead of you, you are your expert. And in helping someone uncover that, in your experience, right, what are some of the things that have prevented people from making the changes right? So someone could, you know, listen to you and say, well, yes, the Alaska trip for that trip in the future is important. And me cutting out or having to sacrifice to do this differently today. I can do but what prevents people from maybe sticking with it or starting because I think people have the thought that they want to do it and then you know, things get a little icky once they start.

Saundra Davis 24:56

This is the distinction between coaching and any other intervention, right? Coaching is unlike education, counseling, planning, therapy, coaching is not the same as any of those other financial interventions. And what makes this approach different is that you're supporting that client in not only knowing what's most important, and gathering up their internal motivation. So I don't use the term that I empower other people, I help people find their own power. So if I say, "Jamila, I'm going to empower you. " What am I saying about where your power is right now? I don't empower people. I support people in finding their power. And then once they make that decision, that they have a goal that they want to achieve, how do they either maintain their motivation? Or come back and get it when they've lost it, right? And so for my mom, sure, it's easy until Sunday comes and all of the sisters are saying, "Hey, let's go out to blob blob restaurant right?" So yeah, Alaska is not on her mind in that moment. What's on her mind in that moment is getting that need met of this sisterhood. So what's important about that? What are you feeding? And so often we shame and blame and abuse people. And that's actually the opposite of help you right? So when we say, "Well, you know, you just need to do you know, what's the slogan, just do it," you know, those kinds of things. That's not helpful. That's not helpful for behavior change. Now, are there some people who you can say,"Hey, you know what, you need to do this, this, this and this," and they take it and run sure. But more often than not, people are not inclined, we're humans are not built that way. And if you think about it, our evolution, if you will, is counter to saving. You know, we were hunters and gatherers, we hunt. We eat what we got, and then we migrate and move on to the next place. So saving is actually a burden in that. And our brains still hold parts of that, and the brain science will do tell you those things. But the thing I'll say now is that when people have something that they want, what is going to make it sticky for them? So let's use my mom's example. So okay, it's Sunday. Church is over. We all been there, everybody's hungry, cuz we Pentecostal, so we've been in church all day. Right? And so everybody's hungry wants to go out? What can you do in that moment? So my job as coach is not just to say, "oh, okay, you're excited about this, these are the steps you're going to take and to leave you to your own devices, right?" Because if that if it were that easy, they would have done it already. So what's going to make it sticky? What are the things that you could do? And so then together, we brainstorm what's possible. Of the things that are possible which one of these things do you want to do? And then if you find that you're having trouble sticking to that, what else could you do? So we've got not only a plan A but we've got a plan B too. And then that way we can make decisions about what happens when things don't go as you desire. And sometimes, I mean, think about it, think about a time that you had every intention of going home and have cooking dinner, and doing all the things that you know, keep you within your budget. And then some part of your day says, "You know what? Not today, right?" In that moment, how do you choose? Do you choose the thing that is most satisfying in that moment? Or the thing that aligns with the goal? And I would contend that the healthiest way to look at it is, if in that moment, you need something that is different than what aligns to your goal. What are you willing to adjust? What can you adjust? So it might mean, Okay, you know what, today? I'm grabbing food, I'm going home. I'm not you know, so the self care you needed in that moment was that. Okay, so now, I chose this today. So next week, I have to choose something different. Tomorrow, I have to choose something different. So giving yourself the freedom and the latitude to say, okay, 90% of the time, I'm going to stick to this thing. I need 10% to be flexible. So if you know that your personality and it is mine, I mean, look, if I do 80/20, I'm good. If I do 80/20, I'm good, right? Because I'm not that person. I'm not disciplined in that way, nor do I care to be, nor do I care to be. And so I think that that it gets back to, you know, how you just aptly said it, know thyself. And if you know that, you know, I was talking to a woman, a neighbor here, and she says, "You know, Saundra, I listened to you on some show that you were on and I picked up all the documents, and then I just put them to the side." And I said, "Okay, so tell me what happened with that." She says, "You know, I just think feel so bad, you know, because I should be in a better place than I am right now. And she says you know. So I started looking back at all those times that I was buying coffee and a morning bun every day, you know, I was buying a coffee and a morning bun every day, and I was just wasting it because at the end of the day, a cup of coffee still sitting on my desk, so I'm buying the coffee, not even drinking it." I said, "Okay, so what were you really buying?" And she stopped. And she said, "I was buying the courage to go into my office." And I said, "Okay, so that is what you needed in that moment to do that thing. What are you willing to do differently today?" And that's really the point. That's why I tell people you know, and, you know, I kind of pulled this in, everybody's turned into a hashtag. Now, the no shame zone because it's so important to not abuse ourselves for the things that we shoulda, woulda, coulda done. It doesn't help.

Jamila Souffrant 31:02

Oh my gosh, I listening to you say that so many light bulbs went off because we do what we can in the moments that we're experiencing them. And yes, things can be done better what? And mistakes, but there really are no mistakes, like you said. And I know that resonated, it resonated with me like the people who maybe are buying things maybe outside of their budget that they can afford, because they're trying to cope with the life, right? That they're not happy with like that that's their coping mechanism. Like that. And, and that is something that a lot of people do. And if that's what it takes for you to survive the day in the moment, especially during these times, oh my gosh, can we talk about how stressful a lot of what's happening on so many fronts is for people and it's not to say like, "Here's your permission, just to like continue to like dig, dig a hole for yourself." But it's like, no need to shame and feel bad to the point where you can't make a change if that's what you want to do.

Saundra Davis 32:00

Right, right. And that's what I tell people around and even myself, I put a lot of money into making my patio more pleasant. Because I'm home. You know, I'm a home for a period of time that I have never been at home at one time before. I have been home for going on four months now. And I needed to be able to have a place that was safe and outside that was pleasant for me. And so, now, I have to make adjustments now, right? I have to spend less now, because I chose to do that in May, you know? I guess the thing I want to say, Jamilla, about that is that when you are finding that you're doing something that is contrary to what you would like to be doing, start first with, what are you trying to satisfy? What are you trying to satisfy? And if you can get to that if you can get to well, you know, I, you know, I shop online, because I'm proud that I can do this for myself. It could be I mean, there's no telling what it could be. Everybody has a different motivation for what they do. And once you find yours, you can determine if you want to continue that way. Or if you want to find another way to satisfy that need. So with the sister with a cup of coffee every day, it's like "Okay, so how else could you satisfy or build that courage? What else could you do?" I could pick up the phone and talk to a girlfriend I could. I could do some mantras. I could do a meditation I could do it. So once she started thinking about the other ways to satisfy what she was really buying, then now she has the power to choose. And I tell people once you know your why you can really find the will, which will clarify your way, right? And so when you when you can do that, the first thing is really understanding what's most important here. And when you think about what's most important, sometimes it's just , "Look, I felt I deserved it, you know? I've been working hard. I wanted the thing. I feel like I deserve the thing. I'm getting the thing." Okay, that's fine. And when you say yes to one thing, you're saying no to something else. So when you say yes, what are you saying no to? And if you're okay with saying no to that thing, then the decision is yours. I mean, the decision is yours anyway. But now you're making a mindful decision. Right? You're not making an impulsive decision. You're making a decision that's based on satisfying something a need a want, whatever it is, that you have, and you made a choice. And so how, where do you put that? Where do you put that for yourself? Do you then spend days,months, years regretting it? Or do you say, "Hey, I wanted that at that time, I did that thing and now, this is what I have to do, to continue to thrive and to continue to build the lifestyle that I want." So it's not like okay, now this is my punishment. You know, it's now, "Okay, I wanted that I did it. Now, I also want this thing. So what do I have to do to get there?" So whether that's debt free, whether that's homeownership, whether that's FIRE the retirement early, which, you know, I know a lot of people in my age group and a lot of professional financial planners are anti that movement, I have to say, in my mind, the worst case scenario of FIRE is that young people will realize that so much of what is satisfying is the contributions that we make to the world. And it's not either or. You can be retired and make amazing contributions to the world. So, you know, if you do something that gets you able to retire early, and you choose that route, as long as here's the rub, as long as you make sure you maintain enough of a connection to what you want as a career, that should you have to go back, your you have not made yourself obsolete. Don't make yourself obsolete.

Jamila Souffrant 36:17

Yeah. And it's almost like people who are able to reach a level of financial independence and retire "early," the skill set, the determination that it takes for someone to do that, like earlier than the standard age of retirement 65. You think that that's a powerful person, which is why most people that I find that have retired earlier reach financial independence, like they're making more money than when they were kind of in their working years for someone else, because the skill sets and things that they've accomplished and the person they've become has allowed them to do that. And I want to like step back, because I know you do a lot of work with communities, who have long been locked out of like, the financial instruments, you know, communities of color and black people in this country to have levels of freedom that we're talking about. So, I want to discuss a bit more about how achievable financial independence is for the average person for you know, the average like black person listening. And not as just discouragement by any means, because I'm all about like, "Listen, if you think you can do something like go after it, no matter what your background, no matter who you are. " But sometimes I worry that, you know, I know that there's a blind spot, hence why I came into the space to share my story, because I was like, I know more people need to hear this from someone like me. But there's a blind spot I think, not only in the financial independence space, but in the personal finance space. Sometimes I think that the people who are listening to this episode or to this podcast or come to you for advice, are already at a privilege level. Now I'm not talking about like the white standard male privilege. I'm just talking about privilege to like have access to internet and to know that this is an option and that the people who really need the help, who are in poverty, the working class poor, don't are not able to access this yet, or don't have the...Can we talk about don't have the capacity to think about, and the luxury to think about maybe some of this stuff, because they're just trying to put food on the table. And so it's all bottled up, like I have so many questions around this, but one is the personal finance space, like, are we really reaching the people who need the help like with our content? And you know, with what I'm doing, or is it more like you reach who you can and then go back to help people who maybe are not at this level yet?

Saundra Davis 38:32

So I would say yes and no, you all are reaching folks, the influencers, the edutainment, the financial bloggers, and all the things that you all are doing. Yes, you're reaching folks who have felt left out of what they call traditional, which I hate, traditional financial planning. The rub for me is that you're often reaching them with tips and bits and pieces of information. The problem with that is that everybody, irrespective of your income and wealth needs a comprehensive financial plan. Every single person who is walking on this earth needs a comprehensive plan, because here's the thing. We have a financial life cycle. And there are some very standard things that happen in those life cycles. And we have to prepare differently for each one of those scenarios, each one of those situations. And the downside is when we only focus on one aspect, I hear a lot of people say, "Oh, well, what investment should I do? Or, you know, what should I do about my rollover IRA?" That's not a that's not a just give me the answer conversation. That's okay. So when you think about your total financial picture, where does this roll, where does this IRA or this 401k where does this fit in? How much emergency money do you have set aside? How many options do you have to continue to build your retirement? So I think yes, you all are absolutely reaching folks who otherwise would not have this information, even with the privilege of as you as you so aptly say, access to the internet, even knowing this is a thing, right? Even knowing that this is a thing is privileged, right. And there's an entire group of people who don't either have access. And as you also mentioned, the bandwidth. And this is why scarcity, that book, Scarcity is such a big deal because our mental capacity to use the prefrontal cortex for executive functioning executive thinking is hindered when we're just trying to stay alive, right? So whatever that trauma is, you know, driving, cooking, walking while black, any of those things I mean, so that's why when people make comments, like like, "Oh, you know, you know if they only if they would just and if they would just stop." About poor people that shaming and blaming and all this stuff that happens even in the communities where they're supposed to be healthy, in the nonprofit sector where they're supposed to be this compassionate care, there's still the abuse. The emotional abuse, with "Why aren't you doing better?" Somehow the problems of the racial and the income and wealth gap is your fault as an individual, right? And so all of that stuff exists. So the thing that that I would say is that the influencers, the the bloggers, all of that, those of you who do like what you do, of making sure that there are people of all all along the professional spectrum, who talk about estate planning, who talk about investing, who talk about tax, who talk about career, as long as you all are filling it out with experts who go deep in each of those fields, then you're going to be able to offer something that then here's the thing. You never know who the folks you reach, who they are reaching. So I wouldn't minimize the impact that you all can have. I think that this is huge to be able to get on a podcast when you're cooking or driving to work or taking a walk or whatever, and to be able to hear some of the folks that you bring on, right? And then the key is, how do you share it with the people who you care about. And so as far as folks who don't have access, that's a lot of work to do. That's a lot of work we still have yet to do. And most of us who are in the nonprofit sector, that's where we focus a lot of our time. So all of the coaches I train, 90% of those coaches for doing work with low and moderate income clients or the working poor. And so that's why I keep my foot in that space. You know, I trained financial planners who are working with high net worth individuals. I'm probably one of the few folks in this field, who work with people all along the income spectrum from homeless to houses all over the world. So it's really important to be able to do that. But it is a specific skill set you know? Because if I'm talking to you about budgeting, and you're trying to get a roof over your head, I'm not helping you. I'm not helping you. And actually, I'm even harming you, because now you're feeling the shame. So I do think that, you know, there's absolutely value in what influencers can bring, what financial content providers can bring. I think where I get a little worried, is with the idea of the tip, the tips, because I think tips can be dangerous. I think the tips can also cause people to think that they know more than they know. And, and I think that tips with context is really important. And I try to hang out with those of you who do more of that, you know, I tend to stay away from the idea of, you know, I'm going to drop this one thing in on you that changes your financial direction. I just don't think that that's true. I do think though, we have to be bold. You know, we have to be bold and saying, look, no matter what limitations you have had, like you said, if you think it, you can do it now, as a financial expert, and I am. I know a lot. I know more financial stuff that I will ever use. But that doesn't mean a thing, if I can't reach you where you are. And I think that's what you all do magically, right? I can't do what I do, and no financial expert can, if you can't reach the folks you're trying to reach. So I think that you know, and I talk a lot about the financial continuum that goes from, you know, education, to counseling and coaching and planning and even to therapy. And I think that what is important is that the role that that you all play in that continuum, is that you invite people into something that they have been left out of before.

Jamila Souffrant 44:58

Yeah, and you let them them know about the other places. It's not like this is and I always say that this is not your one stop shop, right? Like I it's like I provide you a buffet of ideas, thoughts, experts, my journey, but there's deeper work that needs to be done. And the other thing I want to mention about financial independence. So when I started this journey, and I was listening to all these other podcasts and blogs, but that was definitely a blind spot. It was like financial independence or bust. That's the goal. And that's it. And I was just like, "Well, you know, I know a lot of people depending on their starting point, while I want to encourage them to reach for that, I call it a moon goal of financial independence, realistically, first, start the starting point for some people, like you're ignoring so many other factors about what it takes to reach that goal." And so I do think it's really important that it's not just like, oh, make more, spend less, and save and invest and there you go. There's, there's so many like steps within those things. And it's not just the steps in action, it's the mindset. It's the habits. It's like, you listen to this podcast, you turn it off, and then it's the real world, right? Like, in your real environment, and you're just like, "oh", like you're not as motivated anymore. So all those things like lead into, like someone's journey and what they're experiencing and how it impacts what they do.

Saundra Davis 46:18

Yeah, so I do think it's certainly achievable. I think. I think there's also the understanding, and I guess this is me and my coaching perspective, right, you mentioned that, you know, for you fire was I want to be able to retire from the job that I hate. And so what I would offer is that, what coaching is about is, what are you moving toward? Rather than what you're going away from, right? And so when you think about and I know not necessarily for you personally, because I know that you've done a lot of work in this space already. But for people who have not, rather than focus on, "well, I know I don't want that." It's okay to know that, I'm not saying don't know that. But what you want to construct is that this is what I want my life to look like, right? And when you when you frame it that way, it is a lot easier to make choices that align with that. And then the milestones and the timeline, a financial goal without a date and a dollar amount is a wish. I don't care how you cut it. Right? So, yes, you might have that moon goal right of fire and retirement or retiring early. And what are the milestones you can put in place as you go? So that you can celebrate the successes along the way, and be able to really know if the road that you're on is the road that's going to be satisfying for you. And I think one of the main things that people don't realize when we're younger, and I know I surely didn't, is that life's different, at 50+. It's different and what you need is different. What you want is different. And your ability to you know, there's a reason that you hear so much more about millennials than you do boomers, right? Because the world begins to kind of treat us differently on the tail end of our lives when we have lived more years then we're going to live. And so when you're looking at all of those things, you want to think about not just your 35 year old self or your 40 year old self for retirement, what is your 80 year old self, right? What is your 70 year old self gonna need? What is your 65 year old self gonna need? And so when you're thinking about financial independence, what does it mean for those decades as well? Not just the, I want to be able to have now. Well, I will say and my partner used to say this all the time, our world is completely backwards. What we should be doing is giving y'all a front loading y'all with a bunch of money when you're young. So you can go out and have all of the experiences and then come back to work when you're 45. You know a lot more, you've experienced a lot more, you've got a lot more to contribute to the workforce. So go out and play till you're 45 and then go to work.

Jamila Souffrant 48:58

Oh my gosh, I love that. I love that theory.

Saundra Davis 49:00

Yeah, I mean, it would be just a much better world. Y'all could make all your babies, you could do all of those things. Just hang out, live your life, grow, learn, build communities, make families, and then 45, your kids are grown, and come on back to work.

Jamila Souffrant 49:18

I'd never heard of that. Like, and I've never heard of it that way. And I actually think that would be brilliant.

Saundra Davis 49:23

It kinda woud, it kinda would. It would solve a lot of problems.

Jamila Souffrant 49:26

Oh my gosh, now I have some things to think about. So I don't know if this is too heavy of a question to end on, but I know you work and you're very aware as you know, money. It's not just like, finance is as much political as it there are so many parts to the individual and their money like that are stemming from systematic issues, political issues or policies in place. And I came across something and I'm just like, I'm almost afraid to go deeper. Because what it might mean for what I think about financial independence in the system, but that we promote right like that people of color, black people have more economic access and freedom. And there's this idea though, that the system in general, though, like capitalism, in general, it's hard to change it from within, you know? So my thing is like, let's individually have more options, and then collectively, we'll have more options. And then we can make change, right? Like that, to me is like financial independence. Like you want to make sure you're good. So you can make sure your family is good. And then you make sure your community is good. But then you're operating in a system that's already messed up, right? That's not really built for you to succeed. So what are your ideas on that? Are we trying to make something work that was never made for us to work in?

Saundra Davis 50:49

Yeah. So so you bring up important points and in your wisdom, and I do think it is that. I do think it is that in your wisdom, you pointed out some of the most important aspects right? We are in a system that was not designed for us, never made space for us. Our role in this system was as a commodity. So we are talking about how do we go from being property to owning property? How do we go from being the generators of wealth for others, to generating wealth for ourselves and we have to understand, there are systemic issues that are not going to be fixed in a year you know? And this is the thing Jamila that I'm grappling with right now as we go through the what what 2020 has meant for us. I am 60 years old this year. I have been having this conversation since I was 17 years old. So think about that for a minute. The decades of having this same conversation. And the rub is, we don't really have a choice, because it's not like we're going to pick up and go back to the continent, and it's going to be better there. Colonization was detrimental to Africans in the Diaspora and on the Continent. And so we don't have any choice than to make this work. The only way this will work, the only way it's going to change is if we own our own individual choices, our family, and collective and rebuild our communities, right? The hard part is, there's enough dangled in front of us to think, "oh, if we just get educated, if we just do this we'll be accepted and entered into this other realm" that I don't believe in my lifetime. Now, let me say, I think you young folks are kicking butt right now. So I think that y'all can do something differently than what we were able to do in the 60-70s, right? But the thing you will will have to watch out for is what happened for us in the 80s. And what happened from my generation in the 80s, you either made it, you got to BMW move to the suburbs, right? Or you ended up in the crack epidemic, right? And sure, there's a lot of stuff that happened in between. But those things were designed. Those were designed. Getting a few of us through the glass ceiling, getting a few of us through the cracks, that's by design. The only way this is going to change is if we have our own wherewithal to build our own communities, keep those black dollars circulating in the black community, and the ability to defend our wealth. And that's going to be a tough one. You know, I know you hear about I know you've learned about Black Wall Street and all of those other things. This has to be a different solution. Because we see what happened with that. And I would love to say that I think it's different now but I just I just don't I'm sorry that I can't say something that is more inspiring than that. I don't think that there is any desire whatsoever for a system of white supremacy to give that up. It looks better than it has looked in my lifetime. I hope that you all hold on to your joy. Don't let anybody steal your joy. Have your joy in the fight. Take care of yourselves in the fight, hold your babies, take care of your mamas, take care of your family, do all of that and have your joy in the midst of the fight. Because the fight will continue, right? It's going to continue. There's no other way. And you don't want to put your joy on hold, waiting for some happily ever after. There ain't no Prince Charming in this story. We are going to have to have this battle. We're going to have to have it head on. We're going to have to continue to have it, because little bits of, "Oh we're gonna put $112 billion into the..." Sorry. If you look at what slavery and enslavement of Africans in this country built, and the amount of money that it built, I'm sorry, your one billion ain't going to get it. And so we are going to have to continue until Africans in the Diaspora and particularly Africans in this country, have equity, have equity and it does have to start with us. Because we can't make that system recognize the need for change, if we don't do it first for ourselves. But it's not I mean, some people say, you know, and you know, you've heard me say, You're not gonna individually close the wealth gap, you're not going to individually close the income gap. There's nothing you and I are going to do as two black women, that's going to change that system. But we do have to change what we do. We have to change what we think and we have to change how we behave with each other around money.

Jamila Souffrant 55:55

Powerful. Thank you so much, Saundra, that was amazing. Wow. So okay, please let everyone know where they can find out more about your work and what you do.

Saundra Davis 56:03

Wonderful. Thank you. So my organization is Sage Financial Solutions. We train financial coaches. And I'm actually right now working on an initiative to get more black people, particularly black me. There's a lot of black women in our coaching program. But I'd love to see more black men. Our website is I'm on IG as sage. money, And also on Facebook and Twitter as Sage Money, so people can follow me there. As you can see, I don't pull any punches. You get to a certain stage in life where you say what you got to say, you know, I tell people all the time, I don't know how many years I'm going to be around. So I got to say everything I got to say now. Oh, but I think you're I just want to say, I think you're doing an amazing job. And I'm so proud of you. And I just really encourage you to continue to take good care of yourself. Take good care of those young folks that you are so graciously raising to be wonderful human beings in the world and keep doing what you do. It's a wonderful thing to see.

Jamila Souffrant 57:04

Okay, Journeyers, I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Saundra. You can tell that she is passionate about her work, especially in the community and building assets for us, you know, the people who need it the most, you know? And if you're listening to this and you feel inspired to really get your finances in order, maybe you've been delaying it, maybe you're inspired, but you haven't done anything just yet. I hope that this conversation helps you see that one is never too late to get started. And two, that you can become the master of your own money. And I love that what I do, if I'm doing it the right way, is that not that I am telling you what to do. I'm not giving you any power with your money. You have the power within you already. You have it! It's just understanding how to tap into it and reach it and use it. And so I hope, as I always do, that this content helps you figure that out. I hope that I can continue to give you the tools, the education, the resources, the motivation to get it done because you deserve it. You deserve everything that you're dreaming of.

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It’s never too late to start your financial journey. At 44 years old, Saundra Davis took a risk and went back to school for a master’s degree in personal financial planning. Today, she is a living legend in the personal finance space. She has taught so many coaches in the financial industry. It’s an honor to have her on The Journey to Launch Podcast and to share this conversation with you. 

Saundra is the Founder and Executive Director of Sage Financial Solutions, a San Francisco Bay Area-based organization that develops comprehensive financial capability programs for low and moderate-income communities. She is passionate about her work with community-based organizations that focus on asset building for the working poor.

In this conversation, we are getting real about how to change your money behaviors, how to set financial goals and boundaries plus so much more.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • How to know when to take risks and invest in yourself
  • Techniques to help you talk to your family about money
  • The importance of setting financial goals and boundaries
  • Ways to coach people so they can find their own power 
  • Methods to change your financial behaviors, and more

I'm listening to Episode 169 of the #journeytolaunch podcast, Become Your Own Money Expert & Build A Financial Life True To Your Values & Desires w/ Saundra Davis! Click To Tweet

Other related blog posts/links mentioned in this episode:

Connect with Saundra:

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One Response

  1. Thank you for hosting this podcast with Saundra Davis. Her honesty and candor about the state of our current situation as African Americans is dead on.
    As an aspiring Financial Planner, she brings wisdom that I appreciate. I look forward to opportunity to become one of her Coaching Students.

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