Episode Number: 204

Episode 204- How Diania Paid off $30,000 of Debt, Quit Her Job & Achieved FI-Flexibility with Diania Merriam

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 How Diania Paid Off $30,000 Of Debt, Quit Her Job & Achieved FI-Flexibility With Diania Merriam

Jamila Souffrant 0:00

You're listening to the Journey to Launch podcast Paying off $30,000 of Debt, Quitting Her Job and Achieving Fi-Flexibility with Diania Merriam.

Intro 0:13

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.

Jamila Souffrant 0:37

Hey, hey, hey journeyers I'm back with another what I hope to be inspiring, motivating insightful episode for you as fuel on your journey to your goals I have on Diania Merriam. She is the founder of the EconoMe Conference also known as the "TED talks" of the FIRE movement. She's also the host of the popular podcast Optimal Finance Daily, where she narrates articles from the best personal finance blogs on the planet. And after getting out of $30,000 of debt in 11 months, she used her newfound financial freedom to negotiate a remote working arrangement with her employer took a two month sabbatical to walk 500 miles across northern Spain, and she launched her own business. So I'm really excited to share Diania's journey with you. Diania's story reminds me so much of myself and the fact that she was able to unlock and do so many things with her life by starting the journey. She's not completely financially independent just yet. She's well on her way. But she has so many other options in her life. And she's living out that right now. And that's the kind of stuff I want you guys to do in your life. Like even if you don't have the million $2 million in your bank, even if you're not financially independent, you can live a better life from today right now. So hopefully this will inspire you. Now, you'll hear Diania talk about the EconoMe Conference. In the episode, I do have two free tickets to give away to journeyers listening, so stick around to the end of the episode I'll share more about that. Just make sure you're following me on Instagram at journey to launch, I'll be announcing how you can win the free tickets there.

The Journey to Launch podcast is supported by First Republic bank, I just opened my checking account at First Republic and chose the ATM rebate checking account. With this account, I won't be charged ATM access fees, and I'll get a rebate of any fees charged by other US institutions, or most fees charged by institutions outside of the US so I get the best of both worlds personalized banking and easy access to my money. Does your bank really understand you and what you need? It might be time to discover the difference personalized banking can make by switching to First Republic bank. From day one, you'll be connected with a dedicated banker who will serve as your primary point of contact throughout your relationship with the bank. Mine is Linda and I email her whenever I have a question your banker will know you by name and will be by your side to understand and help you reach your goals. Just like Linda did for me you're dedicated First Republic banker can design solutions that support both your personal and business needs at any stage from finding the right loan to refinancing debt to buying a home and you can always call or contact your dedicated banker directly from first Republic's mobile app for anything that comes up along the way. Learn more at firstrepublic.com that's firstrepublic.com member FDIC Equal Housing lender.

If you want the episode Show Notes for this episode go to journeytolaunch.com or click the description of wherever you're listening to this episode. In the show notes you'll get the transcribed version of the conversation the links that we mentioned and so much more. Also whether you are in og journeyer or brand new to the podcast I've created a free jumpstart guide to help you on your financial freedom journey. It includes the top episodes so listen to stages to go through to reach financial freedom resources and so much more you can go to journeytolaunch.com/jumpstart to get your guide right now okay let's hop into the episode

Hey journeyers today in the rocket seat we are blasting off yes I'm going that corny with the brand yeah because I just the rocket whatever. We have Diania Merriam on the podcast, Diania, I can't wait for people to hear your story.

Diania Merriam 4:30

I am so excited to be here.

Jamila Souffrant 4:33

Because your journeys thus far and you're not done yet. I think well help people who are just starting or just on the path themselves. And because it all really shows you what happens when you just start what happens the amazing things and opportunities unfold for you. So I'd love to hop into first like financial independence. That's your jam. That's what you're on the path towards. But where did you first begin because you didn't always know everything you know now You were in debt at one point. So let's start back then.

Diania Merriam 5:02

Absolutely. So I would say in my 20s, I was completely financially illiterate. And, and really, I just wasn't paying attention. You know, like, I knew I had some debt. But I had this mindset that, oh, my debt doesn't matter. And I don't have to worry about savings or investments or retirement because I'm so young. And I'm going to be making millions one day. And I mean, that's great that I really believe in my own, you know, earning potential. That's fantastic. But it's a terrible financial plan. No one ever explained to me the power of compound interest and investing when you're young. So I found myself, you know, at 28, I got curious of like, what's what's going on with my finances, I know I have debt, but I didn't actually know how much debt I had. So I read a credit report, and I was 30 grand in debt, for like, no reason simply from not paying attention. So half of that debt was credit card debt from living outside my means. I mean, I was in New York City, I was party it up, I was going out everyday, you know, I definitely had my 20s, let's say. And then the other half of my debt was student loan debt, which doesn't sound that bad, right, like 15 grand in student loan debt. However, I got a full scholarship to college, a full academic scholarship, I took out loans for living expenses, because it was offered to me, I didn't need that, right. And so no one ever told me that, Oh, just because someone offers you this loan, you don't have to take it. And so, you know, I found myself in 30, grand of debt total. And, you know, I think that in my late 20s, I was approaching my 30th birthday, it's one of those very reflective birthdays. And I had been so focused on my career and climbing the ladder. And I realized that I didn't have all that much to show for it, especially when I figured out that I was 30 grand in debt. So I kind of got in my head that I really wanted to get out of debt. And a big reason for that is because I wanted to take this trip to Spain to go walk the Camino, which is a 500 mile trek across Spain, I wanted to go walk across the country. Isn't that obnoxious? And, and so I knew that I was going to need to get out of debt, to be able to save the money to be able to go on this trip, because I honestly thought I was going to have to quit my job to go on that trip. I didn't. I've never heard of anyone, or seen any examples of anyone like being granted a leave for something like that. So in my mind, like I gotta get out of this debt. This is there's a real sense of urgency around it. And so I started kind of searching for debt reduction calculators and that kind of thing. And I stumbled, or actually, a friend of mine sent me in mister money mustache article, I'm pretty sure it's the one that talks about her debts an emergency. and discovering that blog, I like to describe as a refreshing punch in the face, because it just made me realize how stupid I was being about my money, and just completely unaware. And so it created this sense of urgency and I did a complete 180 I started cooking every meal that I ate, I split my internet bill with the people who lived below me, I stopped going out and I made my apartment more fun than a bar. So I would have these like elaborate dinner parties where everyone else would bring the booze. And I figured out how to cook for eight people on $30. And it was so much fun. I mean, it was so much fun. I would host clothing exchanges, I didn't buy any clothing, me and my friends would just share all our clothing. And it was just a very creative time for me. And it helped me tap into this resourcefulness that I didn't even know that I had. But it also allowed me to get out of 30 grand in debt in 11 months. 30 grand of debt. Wow. 11 months squashed it right.

Jamila Souffrant 8:41

Yeah. So okay, a couple of questions here. So were you What was your career and what was that field?

Diania Merriam 8:48

So I work in brand extension and licensing. So if you think of things like Budweiser beer broths, or we've been Welch's fruit snacks, that's like the boom selling fruit snack. I know, it's like a $400 million business, right? It's the most popular fruit snack in the US. It's a licensed product. So what that means is that Welch's doesn't actually make it another company. If you turn the package over, it'll say manufactured by promotion and motion. That's the licensee. So they literally do all of the work. They develop the product, they sell the product, they market, the product, they do everything that you think Welch's is doing right. And then they pay a royalty back to Welch's to use the brand name. So I've built my career in representing brands like that. I work at one of the largest agencies in this industry. And I essentially sit in the middle and kind of facilitate those deals. And then as an agency, we manage those businesses day to day. I actually used to work for Muhammad Ali, which is this is the this painting behind me. It's one of the last things he signed, but he was really smart. When he was in his prime, I believe it was in the 80s. He trademarked his name, he trademarked his signature and he trademarked phrases like Float like a butterfly sting like a bee. And so he had this portfolio of intellectual property. That he could then license out and collect a royalty on. So that was one of my first jobs out of college is I managed about 70 partners that were licensing his name. And so I'm a huge Muhammad Ali fan. That's why he's hanging right here.

Jamila Souffrant 10:13

That is fascinating. Okay, now I have a million other questions. Okay. I'm sorry, I have to take a detour here. So this career, what was your major?

Intro 10:22

I majored in marketing. And the thing that was interesting to me is that licensing is a form of marketing, because it allows a brand to get into a category that's like extending their brand. It's also known as brand extension, right? And many times, brands will do that on their own. So like Lysol makes cleaning sprays, it makes a lot of sense for Lysol to make sponges. But for a lot of business reasons, Lysol didn't want to take on all of the risk to do it themselves. So we actually represented Reckitt Benckiser who owns the licensed Lysol brand and license that brand to a manufacturer of sponges. And so they still got to get on into the category but without taking on all the risks themselves. It's it's an ingenious business model. It's a multi billion dollar industry that most people don't know about.

Jamila Souffrant 11:08

Yeah. And that's why I asked about what you majored in. Because these are like the kind of fascinating careers that you know, when typically people think about something, it's like, a marketing that everyone does, or one knows about it, right? But there's these little segments within the space that seem very interesting. So I always just, like, urge people listening journeyers you know, maybe they're starting out, or they want to make a transition that these type of interesting careers are out there.

Diania Merriam 11:31

Oh, yeah,

Jamila Souffrant 11:32

definitely. Did you find out about it, right? Like, is there somewhere where you like some, you knew someone in the industry, you had a connection?

Diania Merriam 11:38

Well, this is kind of a funny story, how I got my first job in the industry. So I went to school in New Jersey, I went to Montclair State. And at the time, like, between my junior and senior year of college, I was selling water purification units in the city, like knocking door to door in New York City. It was like my first real job, like professional job and I had this idea that I was going to work full time during the day and go to school full time at night, and I just realized it wasn't gonna work. So going into my senior year of college, I wanted to find this new job, a new job. And I just went on, like the schools, you know, job listings, and there was a licensing agency, literally right around the block from my house where I was living in Montclair. And, you know, they had a listing that was very old. So I didn't think they were still hiring, but I thought, they're literally right there. Let me just go walk over there. So I threw in a suit, I printed out my resume. And I just walked in there. And they were so shocked that I would do that, that they gave me some some of their time. You know, I had an interview with a lovely woman who really liked me. And they explained what they did. I didn't even know what licensing was, I just knew it had something to do with marketing. And I was going to school for marketing. So they don't really talk about licensing in the business school I went to they talked, they there was like one day about franchising, which is a type of licensing, but they really didn't dive deep into this multibillion dollar business. And so I got to learn about what licensing it was. And she liked me, she wanted me to offer me a job. And she said, Well, our president is going to China tomorrow, she's going to be back in a couple of weeks. We'd love for you to come back for a second interview. Well, now at this point in my life, and I'm so naive, I would never do this now. But I just had never not gotten the job. I've worked in restaurants and stuff before. You know, I you just you get the job on the spot. What is the second interview thing? So I actually said to her, Well, if you wait a couple of weeks, I'm going to have another job by then. Like, if you're really that interested, why don't I just talk to her quickly now. So they agreed, and I got to talk to the president and then they hired me that day. So that was that was how I got that job. And that really is what set me on on this career path. It's it's just kind of a stroke of luck, I'd say.

Jamila Souffrant 13:48

Yeah, part luck. And then this is what they say, you know, they always ask business owners like what allows you to succeed or start and it's like, cuz I didn't know any better. It's like literally like being naive. And just like going after things and being bold. I love that part of your story honestly. And I hope it's these hidden careers and interesting things that I want more people to know about. So hopefully that sparks interest in someone listening. Now talking about changing up your lifestyle to be able to pay off the $30,000 in 11 months, how was that because it's something that happens for people is you know, they find out about, you know, financial independence or just getting better with their money. But not everyone in their life is on that same path. And so the change makes it harder. Like if all your friends like buy in, then it's easier. But if you're going to brunch every Sunday, you know, I know it's different with the pandemic, right, but like if you're doing things and everyone around you are doing things. How do you get people on board that maybe were not before?

Intro 14:39

Yeah, well, I will say that I definitely went out less. I was so excited about getting out of debt that I definitely cut back on going out but it didn't feel like deprivation because I replaced that with a lot of like personal development type stuff. So I was reading a lot. I was working out a lot I was cooking every meal I ate like I was just, I was devouring the mister money mustache blog. Like, it's not like I felt like I was missing out on anything because I was so interested in this topic that I was just devouring, you know, content about it. And then I was also being really creative with how I did use my time and money. So yes, like, I still wanted to hang out with my friends, but I would have them over for dinner. And I became like a really good cook. So they were all excited to come over. And what's interesting about having people over for dinner, and I still do it all the time, it's that it's so much cheaper. But it's also a lot more intimate, right? Like when you're out at a crowded bar, and it's loud, and like you're trying, you know, it's fun to go out. Sure. I mean, I did it a lot, right in my 20s, but there's just something to the intimacy of having someone over for dinner for cooking them a meal, they like, appreciate it so much more, you know, and, and they thought I was being so generous for cooking for them. But like, to me, they were being generous, and like making it really easy for me come to my house, you know, and the nights over, you have to travel all the way home in New York City, and I get to stay in my apartment. You know, like to me, I thought I was getting the better end of the deal. And I got to save money. So I don't know, I know a lot of people talk about deprivation and when they think about frugality, and how hard it is to cut back. But I just think that if you're able to tap into your creativity, and you're able to see what you're gaining versus what you're losing, it just makes the whole process a lot more exciting.

Jamila Souffrant 16:29

Yeah, and especially when you're you have a goal that you're going after. So I know you talked about this, and I talked about this, but like there's this balance that needs to occur on this journey, because it is pretty long, right? Like, you know, getting all the money you ever need to never work again, right, ultimately, but a lot of people like that is a marathon journey. And so within that, like you may decide when you were paying off debt that you were going to be really intense about that. And then okay, because you want to get to this goal to walk say that place again.

Diania Merriam 16:57

It's the Camino de Santiago

Jamila Souffrant 16:59

camino right. And so I feel like to like your reason sometimes push you further and faster. And for some people, maybe there Why isn't like motivating enough. So I would say find that for yourself, because that will motivate you.

Diania Merriam 17:12

I also think your motivation changes over time, right. And I have this concept that I'm playing around with that I call fi-flexibility. And it's really about prioritizing the journey, and being flexible as opportunities present themselves or as obstacles present themselves. Because you have you when you come up with your financial plan, to me, that is the direction that you're headed. And the purpose of that goal setting and that plan is to just chart your direction to help you figure out which way you're stepping. But if you're so rigidly holding on to it, I don't think you're able to adapt as things are inevitably going to come up. Right. And so your reasons for why are going to change. And I think that I really benefited from recognizing that the the tenacity and energy that I had, in those 11 months getting out of debt is not sustainable. For my whole journey to financial independence, I had to learn how to evolve in my relationship with money. In theory, I could put my head down and like just figure out ways to continue to reduce my expenses and increase my income. I could you know, I ended up with a 60 percent savings rate, I could have just spent most of my time saying how do I get it to 70. But after 60%, I just realized that I opened up bandwidth to ask bigger questions. Now I'm not asking myself, how do I make more money? Or how do I save more? I'm asking myself, how do I want to use my time? How do I want to contribute to the world? Having financial security opened up the ability for me to ask those big questions,

Jamila Souffrant 18:54

right. And you can reach levels of financial security while without having like financial independence like and that is that is my wish and goal for everyone. Because I know there's some people now who think okay, like financial independence is impossible. And while I do think it's a privilege path for many people, because there are some people who like they can't even think about like this. They're trying to just like put food on the table and pay their rent and I I get that right. And but I do think that in order to reach even to start financial independence, you have to get things in order first. And all those things help you pay off debt, help you save, and the financial freedom security that you get along the way is what it's all about.

Diania Merriam 19:33

Oh, yeah. I will say to that point. I don't think the prize of pursuing financial independence comes at the end. I think there are these like small prizes along the way that a lot of us choose to walk past because we're so focused on the big prize. So like for example, and just telling you with my story, this was five years ago that I got out of debt. Five years ago, I got out of debt, I walked the Camino I came back and I bought a house, you know, and I started a business where I took a big loss in the first year, a lot has happened in the past five years, however, you know, I have been able to find some financial security that I'm just now starting to emotionally embrace. So for example, I just realized yesterday that I am coast fi. So that means that if I don't contribute one more dollar to my retirement vehicles, I'm able to retire a traditional retirement age, that's a huge weight off my shoulder, right to know that, regardless of what other decisions, I make traditional retirement, I'm set for that. That feels very good. The other thing that, you know, I'm going through another transition right now that I didn't anticipate this a year ago, or when I when I came up with my plan to reach financial independence, which by the way, I'm about six years away. If I was staying on the track I was on two months ago, however, I have decided to leave my job. And the reason why I feel comfortable doing that is because I have what they like to call and am I allowed to curse on the podcast?

Jamila Souffrant 21:08

Well, you can just say the f

Diania Merriam 21:12

I have what, Okay, so when polite people call it peace out money, I like to call it f you money. Yeah. Okay. Okay.

Intro 21:20

So that means that I have, and it can be one to two years of your yearly expenses, liquid or in cash. So I have two years, you can have one to two years to consider yourself having like a f you money, it's, it's more of a safety net than just an emergency fund, right. And it's not invested in like a retirement vehicle where it might be difficult to draw to get it out. So I have about a year of cash in my savings account right now. And then I have another year of bi yearly expenses in an after tax brokerage that in theory, I could sell. And so I have two years of expenses, that opens up this option for me to walk away from my six figure salary. It's a hard decision to make, because I'm not financially independent. And I had anticipated that I would just work here for six more years, what six more years to be fi by 40. Sounds good to me. But things change, things change. And I think you know, you have to be able to adapt when obstacles cross your path. And I was faced with this decision of Am I going to use my FU money the way that it was designed. And I decided to take that opportunity. And so I'm going to spend the next year flirting with self employment, which I know I've heard your story and you took that leap as well, which is really exciting. And it's scary, you know, when you're used to being a W2 employee, and now you are working for yourself, it can be scary. But I've gotten to this place where I trust myself enough that I'm going to figure it out.

Jamila Souffrant 22:53

Yeah, and that's the thing, the skill sets that you you get. And again, I can see someone listening is like, Okay, that sounds great, you guys were able to quit your job, save up one to two years, like, come on. Like I'm just trying to get an emergency fund together. But I'm telling you the skill set it takes you to figure that budget out and stick to it for you for a month, two months, get that groove going. The skill set, it takes you to stick with an article or video about index funds or something that right now maybe you don't understand whatever concept, that skill set that brain muscle that you're building, this kind of like tenacity of figuring it out. It grows as you get on the journey. And these are the same skills that then allow you to see things totally different. Like you would not have seen the opportunities before that were in front of you. Same thing as you, Diania, like I had no clue when starting to Journey to Launch, like I didn't have this big goal of at first, that journey to launch would be the thing. But then I'm like, Wait a second, like I'm building a whole new kind of career path on the side, like what could this be, but I would have never known that right. And so I just encourage I always just try to put myself or someone listening who's not where we are, and really want to encourage you to think even though you can't see all the amazing things that will happen for you. Even if you're in debt right now. As soon as you start this, no matter how little the progress you feel you're making, it will open up more opportunities for you.

Intro 24:07

And I think it's so important to work on your mindset. If you have a scarcity mindset where you believe that, you know, oh, this story is great, Diania, but it's not possible for me. Well, if that's what you believe, then that's what's true. It isn't possible for you. I think it has to start with you believing that it is possible. And really shifting your mindset to an abundance mindset. And that takes a lot of hard work. You know, we are surrounded by messages that it is impossible to get ahead that it's impossible to build wealth that you need to spend money on X, Y and Z. It's not easy to fight your consumerist conditioning, it's really not. So I would encourage people to be patient with themselves to be compassionate towards themselves and to recognize that it's a process. So even if you're not there yet, just recognize that You're on your way, the fact that you're even listening to this podcast right now means that you're on your way.

Jamila Souffrant 25:05

Yeah, and even if some things are rooted in facts, right, like, and I always, you know, go back and forth with, obviously, there's a self responsibility part of this and what the most you can do. And I think also acknowledging that there are like systems in place systematically, that, you know, have prevented, you know, people of color, specifically black people from doing certain things, right, like, you know, the wealth gap, and all these things are real, but also understanding and why it's so important for me like, because I think representation matters. And so, while, you know, you may not relate to everyone's story, and everyone has a different starting point, you know, maybe you didn't get like a full ride, like, you know, and you have way more student loan debt that again, if you think, Okay, this person, like they didn't have to do with anything I dealt with, so what do I have to learn from them? I think for some people, breaking free of that, too, is important because like, same thing mister money mustache, I feel like he was the gateway for me to him and radical personal finance. I don't really listen to his podcast anymore. I don't really listen to a lot of podcasts anymore. But the other guy, madfientist, right, like, there are these people that like I technically, like on the surface have nothing in common with. But hearing them talk about this concept. I was like, Wait a second. And there may be some things I don't agree with how they speak or what they're doing now. But I'm like, I'm so glad I found that because then I was able to translate it in a way that works for me. So

Diania Merriam 26:25

totally. And I think that from other people's stories, I definitely got caught up in the beginning of like, trying to be mister money mustache, right? Like, I just like, like, really kind of put them up on a pedestal and thought, I gotta follow what what he's saying. But I just think personal finance is personal. And you're going to have to come to your own understanding of your own relationship with money. And just because I'm sharing more about my relationship with money and the choices that I made, they're not all going to apply to you. Like, I don't think that anyone can repeat anyone else's story. But I think we can be inspired by other people's story. And I think we can start to ask those questions will what's possible for us, because even if you can't reach financial independence by 40, 1st of all it's not a race and you're not in competition with anyone else, right. But I think we can all agree that you can do something to improve your financial situation, something anything.

Intro 27:22

And if it's even just working on your mindset at first within that is something I just think that I've had to learn to really kind of customize my, my relationship with money to apply to me like I don't like to ride bikes, sorry, mister money mustache, I'm not going to do that. Right? There are choices that I make that don't follow the traditional narrative of the fire movement. But that's okay. Because it's my decision. It's my life.

Jamila Souffrant 27:50

Yeah, yeah. And so some of the things that you've been able to do that definitely want to hone in on because I think it'd be really helpful is you were able to negotiate to move from New York City high cost of living where I'm still living on Brooklyn, right? to Cincinnati, right? Low Cost of living with your employer who traditionally did not like really allow that pre covid, you know, pre COVID, free to pandemic we're working from home is now more normal. But how did you do that? Because that I think, for some people will be useful to understand.

Intro 28:16

Yeah, so the way I went about that, you know, I'm a salesperson. And so it my performance is basically all comes down to the numbers. And I had a few years where I basically like doubled my sales each year, it was just really good. I was like, on fire, you know, and I was being compensated Well, for that, like, I was getting big jumps in my pay every year. And the my employer was very happy with me. So I knew I had leverage, I think that's like very important to recognize that when you are a very valued employee, and you understand that you have leverage now you can start to be start making those asks, I was also there for five years at the time. So I think that if it was like my first year there, they would have just said no, but they were like, invested in me by that point. And so, you know, I went to you know, we close the fiscal year, I had another great year. And I just said to them, what's more important to me than another raise is more time and freedom. You know, I'm having a very early midlife crisis. And I just need to like get out of New York, I just did not realize how much it's stressing me out. I really want to go to Cincinnati, and just try out another city. I've never been anywhere else aside from New York and New Jersey. Oh, and by the way, I'm also going to need two months off to go walk across Spain. And I think that they handled it really well because they recognize that, you know, they didn't want to lose me and I didn't want to leave. I wasn't saying I'm going to go quit and do this stuff. I'm saying I need to go do this for me. But I still really value working here. And so can we work out some kind of arrangement. And so I was able to move to Cincinnati and work remotely before it was the norm. And then when it comes to the sabbatical, you know, the way I framed it to them is, if I was pregnant right now, I would be taking three months off maternity leave, I don't want to birth a child, I want to birth a world adventure. And so I want two months off unpaid. And I wanted my job back, when I get back, and I am going, I ended up doing 10, I ended up doing 12 months of work in 10 months, that was actually one of my best years sales wise, because I felt the need to prove to them that I could take two months off and still like crush it at my job. And and that worked out really, really well. For me, I think that I had a great relationship with my boss, they believed in me, they, they really were invested in my own personal development. Because you know, the more interesting I am as a person, the better salesperson I am. And so it actually, I think I took a lot of time to show them why this was good for them, while also being good for me. And I think that helped a lot.

Jamila Souffrant 30:57

And we are now in a position. I mean, I know not every company is doing this, but there are a lot of companies now where you're working from home, you know, they're not going back to the office, maybe you know, it's indefinitely, maybe it's for you know, the another year, but you can potentially say it doesn't matter if I am, you know, in New York, you know, or in a high cost of living place, like I can move anywhere and still do the work. So it doesn't really matter.

Intro 31:18

Exactly. It's a much easier ask today than three years ago, when I asked it was pretty unconventional then but for a company today to not consider fully remote work. I mean, they're just behind the times, frankly, the other thing that I wanted to point out to the listeners is that I just read this book, it's so good. It's called, it's actually called "So good, they can't ignore you by Cal Newport. And when I read it, I thought wow, this is what I did is I built up my skills, and I became so valuable to them that I could then trade that equity almost for what what was even better than more money again, which is time freedom, autonomy. I mean, that's what really contributes to career satisfaction. So you know, to be to spend the younger part of your career, like paying your dues, and just investing in being indispensable to then be able to kind of cash that in for your, your reward for that is to be able to ask for autonomy and freedom. And and that's exactly how it worked for me.

Jamila Souffrant 32:26

Right now, do you think I feel like there are people listening who love their job, and they're already doing, like, they're so good already. And they can like, Okay, I got some wheels of training here. And then there are some people who are like, you know, doing just the bare minimum, they hate what they're doing. Like, they're just dreaming of leaving. And they're thinking fi, or, you know, sabbatical or early, this is the escape they need. And I think that is like a mindset thing, because I do believe that like, you know, I do believe some situations are just not good. Just not a safe situation, just not mentally, okay. But I also do believe that whatever you think if you think it's the outside and everyone else, you can take that with you. Even if as an entrepreneur, working for yourself, like you'll find someone else to be like, I can't stand my customer, I can't stand this contractor. So can we talk about the mindset also? Oh, yeah, accepting where you are, no matter if you think you don't like it, or if you don't like it to make the best of it, so you can leverage it and do more.

Intro 33:19

Exactly. And I would say that if you are pursuing fi, because you're miserable in your job, then you're still going to be miserable after you reach fi I and the reason for that is because circumstances attribute very small percentage to your overall happiness. So I had to ask myself very hard questions, even as I decided to quit my job. Am I dissatisfied where I am because of my own self? Right? Like, is it internal? Because if it's internal, I'm going to carry this around everywhere? Or am I looking to move on for other reasons. And those, you know, you kind of have to have a reckoning with yourself to say, like, what is actually happening here. But if you are miserable in your job, go find a new job. You know, like, I just don't think it's enough. I used to think, how am I going to find something else to do that's going to pay me as much as I'm making here. And I would like torture myself over? You know, should I leave? Should I stay? What should I do? And the reality is that, yes, we're all racing towards fi, depending on how fast you're going. But life is short. Life is too short for you to kill yourself to reach fi it just is if you're going to tack on more time to go do something that you like, I mean, that's what I'm doing. I was six years away. And now I have no idea where my income is gonna come from. Right. I could have set myself back Oh, years, 5/10 years. Who knows? But you know what, like, maybe I make more money than I that I ever thought I would. So I think it's boldly stepping into the unknown. And if you are miserable, then I think you got to work on yourself. That here's one of my favorite quotes "your level of success will rarely exceed your level of personal development because success is something you attract by the person you become." So you're not going to be successful, if you're miserable is what is what I read that to mean. And so invest in yourself, invest in your personal development, invest in your abundance mindset, and you will figure it out.

Jamila Souffrant 35:21

Yeah, and like you said, even with, like, going to find another job, even if that right now is not something, you know, depending on your industry, or just like your position right now, I think just preparing yourself looking at other options. If, you know, taking a sabbatical, unpaid or quitting is not you cannot do that right now. Because you're just starting your journey you haven't, you know, gotten through the stages, different levels that you need to that it's still, there's still opportunity to do work some groundwork for Okay, you know, like looking at other positions where maybe in your company and or hiring. So here's the thing to investing in yourself, right? Like maybe your resume needs to be updated, your LinkedIn profile like needs to be updated, looking at different types of industries that you may want to switch into. So all right, talk about possibly extending your fire path, or I'm shorting it, I feel the same way. Talk about what things you're going to focus on, because you just talked about leaving your job and you have the money like saved up, but what are you thinking you're going to do? What is the plan?

Intro 36:18

so I have about 10 streams of income that I want to explore. And so I'm giving myself this, this next year to kind of flirt with all of them. One of the kind of lowest hanging fruit is I host this podcast, optimal finance daily, that is a job I was hired to do that. The producers are amazing. And right now, they basically pay me to do seven hours of work a week, because they they do a lot of the production and backend stuff. And then they make my job really easy. So I'm actually talking to them of how can I take on more responsibility and increase my income with them. The other thing I'm looking to do is, you know, some consulting type opportunities in my licensing career, I've got 12 years of knowledge. And I've worked for the largest licensing agency in the world. So I think I have a lot to offer, and to be able to offer my knowledge on a consulting basis on a freelance basis on project based work, where I can charge by the hour and be really like clear about how I'm going to use my time and how I'm paid for that time, is very exciting for me, I'm also looking at other things like so for example, the EconoMe Conference is a business that I started a couple of years ago. And that's much more of a passion project than it is a source of income for me. But I made a pretty large investment to get it off the ground. So the event itself cost me about 60 grand, but I only had about 20 grand in ticket sales. So I took a huge 40 grands loss on that business that I'm actually hoping to recoup this year. So it's not I don't consider it a source of income. I consider it recouping my investment, but it still helps with cash flow for this year, because that's like more than a year of expenses for me if I'm able to recoup that. So definitely investing in continuing to spend a lot of time on the economy conference, even though it's not a source of income, it has become this springboard for me for other sources of income. So like, you know, I signed a bunch of sponsors for the next year. And now I'm talking about other work I could do with them, or freelance writing, I could do with them getting this podcast job was a direct result of because I have this history of building this event. And there were a lot of synergies between the show and what I do on my own business. So I think the other thing I really want to do is I want to build financial wellness workshops and sell them to corporations, because a lot of the corporations offer these workshops to help people understand their retirement packages and benefits. But they're facilitated by, you know, these banks that don't make them very fun. And so to be able to go in there and like shake it up. And and it's a it's almost like I get to do the EconoMe Conference every day and talk about money in in a very fun way. And also help out, you know, companies that want to make sure that their employees are educated on what the offering is. So I just have so many ideas, I could go on and on, because I've got 10 of them. But I won't bore you here because I'm still exploring all of them. And they all really kind of feed and build on each other. So I think it's going to be a really dynamic, exciting year of exploration. And you know, what, if it doesn't work out, I'll go get another full time job. I'm pretty well connected in my industry to have the assurances that there will be a job for me if I really wanted one.

Jamila Souffrant 39:33

Yeah. And so let's talk a little bit more about the economy conference. I know it's gonna be coming up again. So we'll talk about like, what it's all about, and you know why people should look into attending?

Diania Merriam 39:45

Sure. So the EconoMe Conference is also known as the TED talks of the fire movement. So one attendee because we did an after event survey after the first event and one attendee it described it as a party about money, which is exactly What I was going for. So it's very similar to how you think of TED Talks. But you know, we've got music, we've got lighting, we it's like a show, it's a performance. So it is as entertaining as it is informative. And really, it's designed to inspire you on your path to financial independence, whether you're just starting out whether you're like me, and you're well on your way, but you want to, like surround yourself with money nerds and continue to like fuel the fire. It's really designed to appeal to a very broad audience. So we have about nine speakers or nine speaker slots. We last year, we screened the documentary playing with fire, we had breakout sessions, we had a big after party, we have all these activities, like we're gonna do a kayaking excursion and an urban hike around Cincinnati. It's a two day event. And it again, it really is about surrounding yourself with community. If you are just interested in seeing the speeches, I'll give those to you for free, I've got a YouTube channel, you can go and watch all of the speeches from last year, if that's what you're interested in like,

I'll just give that to you. But if you're buying a ticket, you're buying a ticket for the experience. And what I'm actually selling you is a feeling to walk away feeling like your life is full of possibility. That is my intention around the EconoMe Conference. And it actually that got the idea for it. Because I attend another event called World Domination summit. And it's been going on for about 10 years mister money mustache spoke at it one year. That's how I found out about it. And I've gone to like the last three, I think this coming year is going to be my fourth time and they're ending it they're not gonna have it anymore. And it's it's ridiculously expensive. It's like $700 a ticket. But you know what, it's worth every penny. Because when I go I meet the most incredible creative, interesting people. And I just walk away feeling very expansive, feeling like my life's full of possibilities. And I just have so many ideas. I mean, the idea for the EconoMe Conference came to me while I was at World Domination summit, and I remember being with a friend there, and we went to his office that was nearby. And while I was waiting for my flight home, and we just spent the afternoon journaling, of everything we learned and everything that we wanted to come out of this amazing weekend. And I wrote 13 pages about this event that I wanted to create and what the vision was and why I was doing it and what were my motivations and why I was so excited about it. And I'll tell you, it was really, really hard to plan it. I spent 20 months planning the first event. And it was like one of the I thought walking across the country was hard that was like child's play, compared to try to build a conference. I'm not like you, I don't have a big audience. Nobody knows my name. And I was trying to get like 700 people in a room to trust me enough to put on an amazing show. And it went so well. It was like the best weekend of my life. It just it happened in March right before the apocalypse hit. So we really dodged a bullet that we could even still have it. But yeah, this is This to me is my passion project. This to me is my gift to the world is creating this event, even though it's a full time job, and I don't make any income on it. It is like there are so many non monetary benefits to doing this, I get to have conversations with you. Because I have something you know that I'm offering to the community. And there's just to me, it's like my baby, I don't have any human children. So I just love it. And I invite your audience to check it out, you can go to economeconference.com. The next event is scheduled for August 7 and eighth at the University of Cincinnati. Obviously, where we are in this Apocalypse, we don't know if we're going to be able to gather in large groups we are anticipating selling out. But if it doesn't happen on August 7 and eighth, then we will push it to the second weekend in November. So I rehab those dates held. And then if it doesn't happen the second weekend in November, it will be pushed to march 2022. So if you have any interest, I would I think this is going to come out during the early bird pricing, which is only available from March 7 to April 10. This is the lowest price the tickets will be offered at if you have any interest in coming, just buy a ticket because either it's going to be pushed off to one of those other two timeframes. Or if you really can't come in one of those two times frames, I will hold your ticket till 2023 for the next event or I'll refund it I mean, there's really no risk in buying a ticket now. But it does certainly help me to know that there is a demand, you know, and that the that the that I can start like shelling out money to my vendors and that kind of thing. Because I cannot take another 40 grand loss on this event without my income.

Jamila Souffrant 44:43

What I like about the event too, is because oftentimes in the fire space, financial independence, retire early space for some people, like you know, it's not like very monotone and it's not anymore. I definitely will say there's so many amazing voices and unique viewpoint diversity. It's there now. It's just More like bringing those people putting them on stage and giving them more spotlight. But this conference conference is very diverse. So you're not just hearing from like, white men talking about financial independence.

Intro 45:11

Yeah, it is not. I like to say it's not the white mansplaining conference, that's for sure. I am very proud of the fact that the majority of the speakers last year were women. And we are very committed to diversity. I don't like splashing everywhere that like, we're so committed to diversity, because in my mind, that's just the way things should be. You know, so I don't like, I'm not very heavy handed about that, and my marketing, but if you look at my speakers, Speaker lineup, it's pretty clear that it's diverse.

Jamila Souffrant 45:38

Well, and that's the thing. So you know, you don't have to be performed. A lot of these, like, people are being performative in a lot of areas just so they can, like prove their something. But if you've been walking the talk, like you already know, from my platform, from when I saw your speaker list, and I know, we know there was talking about me possibly doing it, then I was like, okay, like, this is the kind of conference this is kind of place I rather be than in some of the other honestly, places. So, so much. I think this was an amazing, amazing chat. What So one thing I want maybe for you to say to someone like listening right now, like they're like, Alright, Diania, this sounds amazing. Maybe they're already on board with reaching financial independence. Or maybe they're just like learning about it, this could be their first episode on learning about it or hearing about it, what would you say to that person about the next step they should take other than getting a ticket. What is like the next thing they can do, or they should work on like that will move them forward will move the needle?

Intro 46:33

I will say this, let your curiosity be bigger than your fear. Your mindset is so important. And even even me who is doing financially better over the last five years, I've just had to continually work on my mindset. And it's, it's just constantly evolving. I think that to me, is the most important part. Because, you know, your your thoughts lead to the words that you say to yourself and other people, when you say those words enough, they turn into beliefs. And in order for you to take really meaningful action, you have to believe it, right. And then that action, if you do it over and over and over again, you lead to habits, and it's your habits that create your reality. So it sounds a little woowoo to say like thoughts become things. But it's true. Because it goes it forces you to go through this process. It's really your habits that create your reality. But you've got to like use your thoughts to get to solidify those habits, habits. And that's really to me, money management, and getting out of debt and all of that it's all about prioritizing, saving and investing. It's about prioritizing it, being aware of it, putting it front and center in your life. And it's totally possible, but it starts in your head.

Jamila Souffrant 47:51

Yeah, I love that. All right. So tell everyone where they can find you. And again, talk more where they can get tickets for the EconoMe Conference.

Intro 47:58

Sure. So you can find me at economeconference.com, and economy is actually spelled with an M e at the end instead of an M y because I'm so clever. But make sure you spell it right economy or spell it wrong, rather. And then you can also listen to me on the Optimal Finance Daily podcast. This is a daily show, where I like to say that I serenade you with the sweet sounds of personal finance knowledge. It's an actual narration style podcast. So I'm reading to you from blog posts from a variety of personal finance bloggers, and then I offer you my own commentary on each article. And that happens every single day of the year, including weekends and holidays. And it happens in 10 minutes or less.

Jamila Souffrant 48:41

I love it.

Intro 48:42

Yeah. So we would encourage you to listen to that. And then as far as tickets to the EconoMe Conference, this is, you know, when we're recording this is a little early in the game, but my plan is to open up early bird pricing on March 7, because that's actually the one year anniversary of the first event. And then I'm going to close it down on April 10, because that's my birthday and I want ticket sales for my birthday. So during that month, I'm going to make 200 tickets available for an early bird price. And that's going to be 149, full price is going to be 199. So it is the value that you get for this ticket. It is incredibly low ticket price. Most people that came to the conference, the conference the first year were shocked that they got that much value for so little money. So if you are interested, I would encourage you to grab one of those 200 early bird tickets.

Jamila Souffrant 49:33

Awesome. Well, this was great. Thank you so much for coming on sharing more of your story and I hope it will be a light and benefit to everyone who heard it today.

Diania Merriam 49:40

Thank you so much.

Jamila Souffrant 49:45

Okay, I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Diania got some fuel for your journey, some practical tips for yourself as you are moving along the path. As I mentioned before, Diania is going to be allowing me to give you guys two free tickets to the Econo Me Conference. Now in the episode she mentioned that the economy conference was going to be taking place in August. Now it's been pushed back to November. So the dates now will be November 13, and 14th. And don't worry, there is actually another backup date in March 2022. So you can't go wrong with getting these tickets, you now can get early bird tickets. So early bird tickets are going on from now until April 10. The early bird price is super affordable. It's 149 for two days worth of amazing, amazing hawks connections in person with people who are also on the same journey as you so you can go to economeconference.com for those tickets at EC o n o m e conference calm and then if you want a chance to win two free tickets, make sure you're following me at journey to launch on my Instagram to hear how you can win those two free tickets. And then yes, you can still get tickets even after the earlybird after April 10 but they will be full price either way, this is going to be a full value for the price of these tickets.

Don't forget you can get the episode Show Notes for this episode by going to journeytolaunch.com or click the description of wherever you're listening to this and you can still grab your jumpstart guide for free to help you on your journey to financial freedom by going to journeytolaunch.com/jumpstart.

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 are not missing an episode. And if you're happening to listen to this in 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 at journey to launch on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And I love love love interacting with journeyers there. Three, support and check out 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

(This post may include some affiliate links)

Can you imagine negotiating a virtual work arrangement with your employer that allows you to move across the country & take a 2 month sabbatical? That’s exactly what this week’s guest Diania Merriam did. Diania was able to move from NYC to Cincinnati and travelled to Spain for 2 months while keeping her NYC job . 

On the podcast, Diania shares how she paid off $30,000 in debt in 11 months, and reached the milestone of Coast FI (financial independence). Diania brings a rich and bold energy this week that explains how she was able to achieve her success and talks about the conference she created, EconoMe which allows participants to come together and talk all things Financial Independence.

Diania reminds us that personal finance is personal and your journey is customizable. Tune in this week to hear more about what she calls fi-flexibility and how it can support you on your journey.

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • How Diania landed her first job post college
  • The definition of -FI- flexibility 
  • What is Coast FI & how to reach it
  • Why your mindset is so important on the journey 
  • More about the  EconoMe Conference + a lot more

I’m giving away 2 free tickets to the EconMe conference. All you have to do is follow me on IG @journeytolaunch and text #econ to (347) 252- 9025 or click here to be entered for your chance to win. Deadline to enter is 3/19. Winners will be announced on 3/24

There will be 200 Early bird tickets priced at $149 available March 7th – April 10th or until they sell out.

Full price tickets are available for $199, but Journey to Launch listeners get 10% off full price with discount code: JOURNEYTOLAUNCH

Check out the video interview below:


Episode 204- How Diania Paid off $30,000 of Debt, Quit Her Job & Achieved FI-Flexibility with Diania Merriam Share on X

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