Jamila Souffrant 0:00
You're listening to the Journey To Launch Podcast, Reaching Financial Independence And Saving And Investing $750,000 After Divorce And Overcoming Childhood Trauma With Dr. Lakisha Simmons.
T-minus 10 seconds. 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 0:45
Hey, hey, hey Journeyers Welcome to the Journey To Launch Podcast. Now, if you weren't sure if you're in the right place, you are, because you pressed play. Hello, you're here with me now! And you are now a Journeyer! If you're brand new to the show, and to Journey To Launch, a Journeyer is someone who is on the path with me and millions... I'd like to think millions, maybe 1,000s of others who are on the path to journey to financial freedom. So you're a Journeyer now. You're not alone. And I'm so excited to bring you this conversation with Dr. Lakisha Simmons. Dr. Lakisha Simmons is a first generation college student, tenured professor of analytics, and author of 'The Unlikely AchieveHer,' and she's financially independent. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Business Information System from Tennessee State University, an MBA from the University of Phoenix, and a Doctorate of Philosophy degree in Management Information Systems from the University of Mississippi. When she received tenure in 2017, she was one of only 51 female African American Information Systems Business School professors in the US to do that. She's overcome many obstacles that we'll talk about in this episode, from childhood trauma to divorce. But she has forged on and has been featured in Business Insider, People Magazine, and so on. She saved and invested an extreme amount of money $750,000 after a divorce and we talk about all the things. How she was able to move on and pick up her life and keep going after something like a divorce and reached financial independence and quit her job at the age of 41. So I really can't wait for you to hear this episode with Dr. Lakisha.
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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 An OG Journeyer or are 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 to 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 Welcome to the Journey To Launch Podcast. I have who I think is a self proclaimed Journeyer. She said she's been listening to this podcast and following Journey To Launch and our past. we're destined to meet, because we have so much in common and she's doing some great work in this space. She's financially independent. Her story is amazing. And I can't wait for you to hear it. So welcome to the podcast, Dr. Lakisha Simmons.
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 4:40
Thank you so much. Yes, As they say, I'm a long time listener, first time caller.
Jamila Souffrant 4:47
I love it. And so, I mean, there are so many places we can start with your story. I think for people who don't know who you are, can you talk about just what you were able to accomplish? Like the headline. I know you gotten a lot of like press about what you've been able to do. And then we'll work backwards about how you did it.
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 5:05
Absolutely. So, I am probably most well known for being the single mom who saved and invested $750,000 in four years. So, that's the headline. And most people have seen me. But of course, there's always a story behind the headline, Right? So we'll dig into that today.
Jamila Souffrant 5:24
Yes, yeah. So let's take it back. I mean, you didn't always have all this money and money know-how. What first got you started on your financial independence journey? Because as I understand it, now, you are financially independent?
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 5:38
Yes, I am, and I actually retired May 31st from my position as an Associate Professor of Business Analytics at a small, private college here in Nashville. So yeah, my story actually begins when my mother was just 16 years old. And she had me at 17. And life was really tough for us. And if you know anything, if anyone out there can relate about growing up and having just enough and being so appreciative of what you did have, and just growing up with a very humble beginning, then you can definitely relate to my story. I started working. I had my first job at 14. And it was important for me to really, for every penny that came in, I appreciated from the beginning, because that's just how we grew up. So my story kind of fast forwards where I was able to go to college, my mom dropped out, my dad, he he did graduate from high school and was able to go to the Marines. He went into the armed forces to try to make a better life for us, but it was it was just too tough and other family members ended up taking care of me and I kind of moved around a lot growing up. So when I was able to go to college, man that changed my entire life, seriously. And that put me on a path where then I could take control. Now I can, I'm in complete control of my future, and I'm going to take every opportunity I can. And that's what I did. And so college, went to college had student loans, I know throwing a lot at you, but I had student loans, but I graduated, paid those off. And eventually it was important for me to become financially independent.
Jamila Souffrant 7:26
Okay, so there's...we have so many similarities, like in our story. Like the single, well, my mom was a single mom, but she also had me young, and in her teenage years, which I know your mom now and you know, we know our hardest, like, how did they do it back then? So challenging, but when you went to school, let's start there. When you went to college, did you know what you were getting your degree in? Or was it just like, by any means necessary? As long as I'm in school and getting a degree?
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 7:54
Oh, this is so funny. When I tell people this, they laugh. I picked what is the major that I can go get a degree in four years and make the most money. At the time, that was computer science. So I said, "Well, I guess I'm going to major in computer science," because that was 1998 when I went to college and the whole remember y2k, the whole year 2000 and "Are the computer is going to crash, because the clock's is going to try strike 2000? What's going to happen?" So there were so many computer jobs. And so that's what I did. I, I just, it was all about the money. But what I later realized, after getting a bachelor's, a masters and a PhD in technology, I realized that even though I'm really good at that, I'm really great at math, obviously, that really wasn't where my passion was. My passion really always was in teaching.
Jamila Souffrant 8:46
Hmm. Which is interesting. And I had the same experience. I was like, "Well, what can make me a lot of money?" I was like, "Oh, Business Management," which is such a general degree, but that was my major. And what I did, and you know, I took the route of, and I think this is probably from my background is, I want to make as much money as I can, and I will figure out the rest, like I will make things happen from there.
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 9:07
Jamila Souffrant 9:08
So, throughout this time, so how many years.... did you go consecutively to these degrees, or did you stop and take breaks?
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 9:16
Yeah, pretty much went straight through. I had a little bit of a break. So I graduated in 2002 with my Bachelor's, and while I was working, I pursued my MBA. And then in 2007, I started pursuing my PhD. So I worked in corporate. Caterpillar Fnancial, financial services, of course, for six or seven years, and then I pursued my PhD full time in 2007.
Jamila Souffrant 9:45
What was your endgame, like going through school? Like what is it that you ultimately wanted to do?
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 9:50
Ultimately, I wanted to be happy. I had some very dark times growing up. Like I said, my mom... life was just too much for her and she. I ended up living with some aunts, some uncles, grandmother at a period of time. And so I just really wanted to be happy. So I was on a mission to figure out what's going to make me happiest and most fulfilled. And I figured money would changed that. And obviously now we know, it's not money that makes anybody happy, but it's more of the ability to do something that you love and not have to worry about money. And so that was really my endgame with going, pursuing the PhD thinking, Okay, I'll make more money. And I'll have summers off, because I really valued my time. And so having summers off breaks, when I knew I wanted to be a mom. And at some point, I'm going to have children, I don't want to be working every weekend and having to log in and be on a pager system, because I'm in corporate, and I'm in an IT department. So that was really my endgame. It wasn't even about becoming financially independent at that point.
Jamila Souffrant 10:58
So how were you with your money, or how were you aware of financial independence and retire early movement at those stages? Because I didn't discover this movement intentionally until I was in my early 30s. I didn't know this existed. So when was it that you found out about, "Wait a second, I could retire and save money in this way that can allow me to be financially independent?"
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 11:21
Exactly. So, I was living the dream. I had my PhD. I was married. I had two small children, but unfortunately, I wasn't, behind the scenes, I wasn't really living the dream. So on paper, everything looked great. I had the big house, 4,000 square foot... or 3,000 something square foot house, nice cars, trips, you know, two boys, married, everything looked great. But on the inside, it wasn't that great. And my husband and I, we ended up going through a separation and eventually a divorce. So when he moved out during the separation, all the bills fell on me. And so I needed to sustain that huge house, and that... all the bills and everything that had been racked up, because I was still living in the house with the children, because I wanted to keep them at their family home at that time. Well, I soon realized that I was starting to live paycheck to paycheck, because I had the one income. And if anybody has had the rug pulled from under them, and that way, where you had two incomes, and then all of a sudden you have one, you can relate. You know, it's like, "Whoa, okay, I gotta cut back immediately. Like, I have to make some changes now." And so that's what I did. And I looked at my budget, line by line, and the biggest expense there was just like, like the elephant in the room was the mortgage. It was $2,410 a month. That's enormous for Nashville, back in 2017. That was a lot of money for me and two boys. So long story short, I decided that I had to sell the house. And so while I was looking up what to do with proceeds, once you sell a house, I come along and find the FIRE movement, because I knew that I wanted to invest the money, and I also wanted to retire early. And when I say retire, retire early, I was thinking 50/55. I wasn't thinking 40 at that time, but I stumbled upon FIRE. And I was like, Wow, my eyes had been open. And everything had been revealed to me in that moment that, "Wow, I've been exposed to something I never even knew was a possibility for me, I need to do this!" I never want to be financially insecure again. Ever. That's how it all started in 2017 going through a divorce.
Jamila Souffrant 13:40
Wow. So I want to go back to selling the house, because that is, for most people, the biggest expense. Like the mortgage or rent, and yeah, it could be.... I don't even want to say quick or easy, because I don't think these, those big decisions. It's not the same as like not going to get your coffee every day. This is like literally moving from somewhere where you call home, that you may love, nd you have small kids. So, I'm sure there was like you said you wanted to not disrupt their lives and not think that because maybe daddy and you are not together you can't live the same, right? So I want to get back to the emotional part of you, because in the beginning, it seemed like you, you were not thinking about that. You wanted to keep it. But what allowed you to make that move, because I know there's people listening right now, and they know that's something they should do. The house they cannot afford, but they just can't emotionally and mentally let go of it.
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 14:31
You know, I had to think about the end game, as you call it. I had to think about where do I... what's gonna be best in the long run? Right now, yeah, I'm in the house, the children are coming home to their playroom and their big backyard, but I'm miserable and I'm living paycheck to paycheck. That's not going to be sustainable. If Mama's not happy, eventually their children are not going to be happy either. I can't put on a facade for them. We've got to live in our truth, and we've got to we're going through this together, we really are. And so I made the decision. And I took them with me, we went looking for apartments, because I said, "Okay, if I'm gonna do this, we got to strip it all the way down. Where is the smallest, safest apartment? least expensive. It's still nice now, but not, you know, over the top, that I can find for me and our boys. So we can start fresh so we can rebuild emotionally, and bond because we need time to bond." And so I found a nice little two bedroom apartment downtown. That was shaved $1,000 off my housing expense, not including electricity went way down. And you know, the other services, I didn't have to pay for garbage anymore. I didn't to pay for lawn care anymore. So all of that gave me room emotionally to heal. And to bond with the children. And it worked out so much better for us.
Jamila Souffrant 16:03
How...just curious how old were they at the time?
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 16:06
Oh, let's see. 2017, So, six and three.
Jamila Souffrant 16:16
Okay, so they were pretty young. Yeah.
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 16:18
Yeah, they were young. They were young.
Jamila Souffrant 16:20
So now you move. And, and the other thing people may be thinking about... I think about this too. Is like the disruption. It's like, also the physical movement, moving. It's like, the packing up all those things, the cost of moving people may right now think, well, it's very expensive to do all those things. And I don't you know, like, but just any insight on that?
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 16:39
Yes. I called goodwill. And I said, "Come get it all." I'm not kidding. We kept our clothes, which I drastically reduced, because I had this huge walk in closet in this house that we have built into the house, okay? And no. No more. We stripped down to just what we needed. And although I got rid of so many purses, shoes, I mean, they had to come and get the dining room table, because the apartment had just a little nook, and which it had a bar actually didn't even have a nook. It just had a bar in the kitchen. And so we were sitting to the island that was connected to the sink. And that's where we would eat. And I, just call Goodwill and let them come get all the stuff and start over. Start over from scratch. I'm serious. Because we think that, "Oh well, we have this and we have that." Actually, this is funny, I need to say this. I was talking to my children about potentially moving to Mexico, because you know, as we're financially independent, and I am remarried, I want to say that, and my husband, he's really, really close to financial independence as well. So we're thinking about moving. And I asked my son, I said, "Would you want to move to Mexico?" And we're watching all these YouTubes. And he says, "Yeah, but how we're going to move all of our stuff?" I said, "Honey, this stuff is gonna stay here."
Jamila Souffrant 18:00
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 18:01
He's been there before, and he knows that, "Okay, it's just, it's just things, but we'll be at the beach every day. And we'll have different experiences and different life." And I think when you start teaching your children about values and that life is an experience, and let's spend time together, and let's laugh, and let's have fun. And let's just watch movies together and go for walks and ride bikes. That's really all your children want, is your time.
Jamila Souffrant 18:25
Mmmm. Wow. Okay, so, you now move to this new apartment, and you're saving $1,000 a month. But what else did you learn when you found the FIRE movement, which by the way stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early. When you found this, sold the house... What were you doing financiallt now to be able to, I think you said, pay off or save $750,000 and reach financial independence?
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 18:48
Okay, so this is the good stuff. So immediately, like I said, I had this Google spreadsheet, and I, from the top down, every line item, how can I cut it? So the biggest one was taxes next, right? So how can I reduce that? Well, based on everything I was reading in the FIRE Movement, because I just read every single blog and was listening to every podcast I could. Everyone says max out your tax deferred retirement accounts. I had not been doing that. I had been listening to a financial planner that had said, "Whoo 10%! Yeah, you're doing great at 10%! And that was just not gonna cut it. So I maxed out my... I had a 403b and a 457b. You know, people know about that. If you don't please, please, if you're an educator.
Jamila Souffrant 19:36
We'll talk, we'll talk a little bit about that.
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 19:38
Alright, so, 457b, 403b, max those out. Then the Roth IRA, which I had not been contributing to at all. So I opened a Roth IRA at Vanguard, and I immediately started maxing that out as well. And to find that money, I basically said, "I've got to do it." But of course, the very first month, I wasn't maxing all that out, but that was my goal. So I started, "Okay, let me up this to 20%. Okay." or now, "How much am I half of what the max is?" And each month I'll find more ways to sell something, to reduce a bill, like my mobile phone bill. Stop shopping at Publix, and nothing against Publix. Nothing against Publix. I still go there at times when, I, you know they have a great seafood department. But for my basic food, I'm at Aldi. 100% Aldi. And I just found ways to cut my expenses. Every single thing I was spending, "Do I do I value this? Do I really, really need about this? Can make it at home?" And they helped me reduce so much. And again, the biggest expense was the housing. My car was paid for. I'd already paid off student loans when I was still working in corporate. So it was just reducing, maxing out those tax deferred accounts, and then, which we all love in the FIRE Movement, side hustles!
Jamila Souffrant 20:58
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 20:59
So, I got those side hustles in place, opened that brokerage account, and started going in.
Jamila Souffrant 21:07
Well, okay, so let's step back a little bit, because I do want to just define for people because, you know, you working... my husband's a teacher, so when we found the FIRE Movement, and we started to intentionally save and invest, and I found out, one, like you, "Wait a second...we can max out!" Like, we weren't maxing out anything, our retirement accounts, and so because he was a teacher, he had access to a 457 plan, as you mentioned, and a 402b. So he had two pre-tax retirement plans he could contribute the max to which, at the moment, I think was $18,000. So, $18,000 each in those accounts he could put away before the tax man could get his share. And then I had a 401k. So these are all pre-tax retirement accounts. And I do want to say that, you know, our income allowed us to max these out. So that was... you know, I know some people are not even like at the stage where they even make enough to even think about maxing anything out. But, every little bit does count. And so I do want to just say that. And then now you're saying like a Roth IRA, which is the after tax retirement account that you can contribute to. So you started to take the $1,000 and more. So the $1,000 that you're saving from your mortgage that you don't have, plus all the other things you're cutting to put towards that. What did you do with the proceeds from the house?
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 22:22
Yes. So that's what I use to open the brokerage account. So... it was about 30, somewhere between $30,000 and $35,000 in proceeds from the house. So, which, is a nice lump sum, but it's surely not even half that $750k. It's the power of compound interest. And so you hit the nail on the head when you said every little bit counts. I cannot stress that enough, because people always say, "How did you do it? It's not possible. It's not... there's no way." It... yes, you're right, me alone. There's no way but with the power of compound interest, people not understanding that we were on an amazing, amazing ride with the stock market the past few years. I mean, what was it 2018, 31% gains in the stock market? Tell me that, where else you're gonna get 31% on your money, people?
Jamila Souffrant 23:10
Well, so, do you know how much of that $750,000 was what you contributed and how much was gained from the market?
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 23:17
You know what, I never calculated that.
Jamila Souffrant 23:19
That would be a nice number, because it does show people you know, because let's just say... I don't, we don't know the numbers, guys, but let's just say up to $750k becomes... and how long, how long were you saving and investing to get to that $750k? What is that time spent?
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 23:31
In 2017, when I started, I had $125k, and... let's see, what, I had a traditional IRA from, rolled over from Caterpillar days, and from my first academic job, they had been investing in my... 4-0, I had a 403 b there as well. So those things have rolled over. And so I had that when I started. So it started with $125k. Then I had the $30,000 from my... or 30, between $30,000 and $35,000 proceeds, all that went directly in the brokerage account. And then I started maxing out pretty soon. The.... I had the, so that was about $19,000 I guess each.
Jamila Souffrant 24:15
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 24:15
So that's about $40,000 a year. And then my side hustles. Right? So I wrote a book in 2018. And speaking engagements, paid speaking engagements, because of course, I'm a professor. So that gives me an opportunity to speak at organizations. So all that money, I would, just every time I would get that money, it would just go in. On top of the extra money from my salary that was left over that, because I cut my expenses. So I wasn't just spending it all anymore like I used to do. I was actually investing it. Yeah.
Jamila Souffrant 24:22
Right. Yeah. No, I mean, that's amazing. So from 2015, you started with $125k, but to, let's say 2021, are you counting that as, the, so I mean, we, we don't know the exact numbers, but like If we were at like... I just want people to realize like that is mostly growth, it's mostly growth in the market. A lot of it is what you put in, but a lot of it is growth.
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 25:09
Yes. If you go and look up the gains, and I should just notice, but I don't, because I don't look at it every day, but, but if you look over the years, even in COVID, 2020 people, they always surprise when I asked them, "Do you think the stock market went up? Or went down in 2020?" and they go, "Oh, it all went down, it went down." No it didn't. We had 15% gains in 2020. 2020 with 15% gains! So just think about, like I said, I think it was 2018 or 2019, we had 31% gains. 31% is significant, people.
Jamila Souffrant 25:46
Yeah, that means your dollar is earning a 31 cents additionally. Right. So.
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 25:51
That's almost half. That's a lot! That's a lot. So, every little bit counts on everything. Oh, you know, putting a couple $100 here, a couple $100 a month won't matter. Yes, it will. Over time, it matters.
Jamila Souffrant 26:06
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Here's the other thing, I think what happens is we talk about, "Oh, the gains and like, well, I missed it." Like, but all you have to do is just start and just stay. Be a long term investor. Stay in there and you will, you will pick it up too. Even if there's some dips, you will pick up the gains too over time.
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 27:47
You will. Don't think you've missed it. You've not missed it. Keep, keep going keep. You know, make sure you have an emergency fund that's always important. And that you can cover your expenses. But then, I always tell people, just start. Once you start, you will be surprised... and I work with so many women. And it just getting them to start, even if that's their 401k at work, because so many people are putting 0% into their 401k. Or, they tell me "Oh, I'm doing good because I, I contribute to my companies match." But if the match is 3%, and you're only putting in three more percent, that's still just 6%, which is great. That's better than zero. But come on. I know you can do it, just each month, even if you add one more percent per month, it makes such a difference in the long run so much so that I actually opened accounts for my children.
Jamila Souffrant 28:41
Hmm, okay, and we're gonna get to that, because I know we have a lot of people who are interested in how to how to make sure their kids are financially secure, too. But going back, what was your position on debt? Did you have debt at that time? How did you manage that?
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 28:55
So, because of how I grew up, I never wanted to have debt. So I had just a small amount of credit card when we separated. And I paid that off... maybe $5,000 credit card. And so, and I don't consider that a lot, compared to some people tell me why I've six figures in student loans. So I don't consider $5,000 in credit card a lot of money. Compared to I know what people are going through. I had about $30,000 in student loans from between undergrad and grad. But I paid that off when I was working in in... you know, while I was working early on. I never carried that for long because debt is just something that keeps me up at night. So I'm not a person who can have that. I can't. I can't do that. That was my, my perspective on that.
Jamila Souffrant 29:44
Okay. So with that now you are saving and investing all this money over time. Were there moments throughout that, that you decided that your vision had changed, or you wanted to spend more in certain areas, because what I find is that even for me, you know, I was on this hyper saving and investing strategy while I had my job. Then I quit to do this full time, and we had to back off on saving and investing. And then with that, you know, it was just like... I.... we're back to saving and investing, but I also want to spend money on certain things. It's like, you know, I don't want to do financial independence a super frugal way. So for you, how are you enjoying your life now? What are you spending on that feels good? Are you super frugal? Or how does that work?
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 30:28
Oh, this is such a good question. Okay, so I was like, you, always hyper focused on FIRE. And every way I could save. I mean, I was cooking and freezing meals. I was, you know, what... but I enjoy cooking, so that wasn't a big deal for me. I never felt deprived, okay? I just found substitutes for things that I liked, okay? So that saved me a lot of money doing that. I was shopping around for everything. Car Insurance. You I mean, whatever it was. If I had to buy it, can I make it? Can I make it? Or do I have to buy it? And so that was a frugal lifestyle for me, but then again, look at how I grew up. I grew up not having much. I grew up with my grandmother making everything, okay? so that wasn't that hard for me. Now, and so I was so focused on financial independence this year, I actually got sick. And when I got got sick, yeah, it was, it was, pretty bad, to be honest. And after that... I rea--, everything came back more, even more clear into focus that you have one life to live. And we really need to do what we need to do to enjoy our life with the people that we love. And I had been saving all this money all this time. Saving and investing it, and my husband now says, "I think you need to go ahead and retire, because you just need to focus on your happiness. That's what you say you always wanted." Which, which I am happy about, I've been happy. But some of the things just with my job. And some of the stress that I had there and different things is trying to you know, with the children through COVID, to homeschooling them and working at the same time, for all that time, I just had so much. Too many balls in the air, should I say and it was time. So, when I did go ahead and FIRE, because I couldn't do it. He encouraged me you can do it, you've done it, you've saved and invested. And you you can take care of what you need to take care of. Well, once I did that, it was so hard to spend money, because I knew I wasn't getting a paycheck. And I was... I didn't want my nest egg, which obviously was more than $750,000. I mean, that's like a whole story, right? But, but it was so hard to spend the money. It was so hard. I didn't want to spend it. And he, my husband said, "Why you have all this money and you don't want to, you know, it's gonna keep growing. You know that, right?" Yeah, it is. And so now, here's here's what I spend money on to answer your question. It actually is the same things. It's what I value. What do I value? I value trips, which obviously, we can do very little of with the COVID. We have to do it in a very safe way. But I can travel with the children at times that are off peak. We don't have to just do it on weekends. And so we do that. I still love to cook, so I still cook a lot. If we go out to eat is for a really, really special occasion. We may put on some nice clothes, and have a really, really nice brunch, all of us. We have a blended family. So it's three boys and the husband we. you know, but my husband, he's such a gentleman. He always pays for the food anyway, so I don't really ever have to do that. But, but you know, I just spending. I still shop Amazon. You know? I'm actually an Amazon influencer now, which is so funny to me that that's my life. And so now I'm actually making money. That's something else to talk about. That when you FIRE. But ultimately, I just had to depend on my faith and say God is has brought me this far. And I know that I've done the work and I have the faith God is going to provide. And that's exactly what has happened. And honestly, I haven't had to sell any of my equities at all to live, because all of these other opportunities have come up. My book, I have a book that I sell, 'The Unlikely AchieveHer,' and I still do speaking engagements that I have been doing. I've been asked to write for other outlets, and they pay me to write. And it's just like, "Wow! Who would have ever thought that I would FIRE thinking okay, so use my money and then actually, I haven't had to use it yet!" So that's great.
Jamila Souffrant 34:42
This, this, is a very I think point, like we should just focus on just for a little bit, because you know, we talked about we talk about the vision and dream a lot of financial independence, retire early, and then it's just like what what happens when you get to the point where you do actually have enough and you can quit your job and do what you want and then it becomes, okay, But the questions which are valid, are how do you get that money? Because you can either FIRE, and I know, I know, someone who does this. Purple who's on the podcast, I have to get her from A Purple Life. But she, like doesn't work. And, I think she does certain things, but for her, she's not like side hustling from what I understand. And if she did, she can, I'm not the FIRE police here. I don't care, like if you're making more money, but some people are like, "I'm going to live strictly off of my investments," and then some people, I think the way I looked at it, like you probably did is like, "Well, if I, I don't wanna have to touch my investments, it's great if I can have income coming from other places," and I think that's like the question for a lot of people is that, "Okay, we're saving and investing all this money. So let's say I reach independence in 10 years, but what do I do once I do that?" I think people struggle with, one actually spending the money that they save, even though that it was for that reason. And, but what's really cool is I find so many people like you who take the leap, quit even before. I didn't have, I didn't reach my FIRE number, like, so it sounds like you reach your number for yourself and your kids outside of your husband. And for me, we weren't, we didn't reach that. I reached something called Coast Financial Independence. Meaning, yeah, like if I never invested again, like, as a unit, as a family, because I look at as all of us together, we would, by the time we were standard retirement have enough to retire. Like if we never invested again, but we still needed income. So I find that for me, I, I FIREd or quit my job before I had that security. But I am now, ramping up to making more money than I did before, when I had my job. And it's it just feels like people who do end up taking this leap. End up, because of what they were able to do while they were on the journey, like the skill sets, they gain, the confidence, the you being resourceful, you will be surprised how much more money there is out there for you and how, not easy it comes, but sometimes easier and more joy because you like it that you have.
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 36:59
Exactly. That was the most surprising thing for me, because you're right. So my husband and I, we were both remarried, and we married in our 40s remarried. So we already have these separate lives that we already had. So we just decided how we would split, you know, the household requirements, and go from there. That's just the easiest thing for us to do. And so I did have what I needed to take care of me and the boys and our expenses and my expenses and things I want to do and you know, pursue, but I did not expect these other opportunities to come that, that have come. And it's not and I don't go looking for them. That's that's the thing. I'm not going soliciting side jobs to do. But if it comes my way as an opportunity, I analyze it, "Is this something that's flexible, that I can do on my own time, when I feel like doing it?" If you give me something that you want to pay me $500 to do, or $1,000? to do... how much time do I have to do it? Can you give me the whole month, because then I can decide what day of the month I do it. As long as it's that way, then great. That way, I still have the freedom and, and I can do it on my own time. And that works for me.
Jamila Souffrant 38:22
Yeah, that's great. And I'd love to also... the fact that you guys are kind of doing things separate, because of your past experiences, I also think is important, because based on what has happened for you, I think couples think, "Oh, we need to do this together, or we need to combine everything." And that might not work for everybody, which is fine. But did you find that you when you met or he discovered what you were doing, because you said that he'sb he's almost to FIRE too, that it inspired him? Like when he saw like what you were doing to read to do that?
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 38:56
Yeah. It did inspire him. When we first started dating, he knew I was frugal, and he knew I cooked a lot and I would just offer him to come over. I said, "Well, I can cook dinner for us. Maybe you can pick up a movie, or whatever." We can, you know, but I don't I love to cook. So that's not an issue for me. And so we really didn't spend a whole lot of money. We would go travel and maybe I would get the plane tickets, and then he would take care of everything else. The hotel, the food, everything while we were there, you know, because I don't mind treating him as well. And, you know, I'm a, I'm his partner, but I don't do 50/50. We always laugh about this. No, no, we're not doing 50/50, because I'm not doing that. But, but I do like to treat him and to be, you know, his partner and things. So he knew that, but I did not tell him that I was planning to retire early, because I just didn't know how people would take that. I don't want people that, "Well you're just hoarding your money," or this or that I just didn't want to have the discussion about it. But in, it was last year in 2020. Kind of earlier in the year, maybe in the summer, maybe May/June. We were out to eat, and I looked at my accounts, and I was like, "Oh my gosh, I cannot believe that my accounts are really going up." Because you know, there was certain point after COVID, after March, everything dropped in, and it was starting to go back up, and I just dumped even more money in. When the stock market went down, I had all this money saved, just way more emergency fund than I needed, way more, and so I just took half of that and invested in the stock market, and it paid off. But it was at that point that I told him that I have such and such amount of money. And he was like, "That's great. That's really good." And he was just really caught off guard. And I was like, "I don't know, what does this mean?" He's like, "No, I think this, this really, really good." He had a process it. He's like, "I don't know, anyone who has that much money invested. That's..." He's like, "I just need a minute to really understand this." Because in our community, we're, you know, we don't have, we don't have know a lot of people who invest money, let alone that have that much invested. And so yeah, it did inspire him. He's like, "Can you help me with my money?" And I was like, "Sure." So when we did get married, we got married very end of last year. You know, we, he has his budget, and he knows what he's doing. And, but we don't tell each other what to do what our money. It's his money, my money, our money. And we decide what we need to do for our household and take care of our children, our blended family, and it works for us. So every... I will say this, everyone needs to do what works for them, you and your partner, have the discussion, come to an agreement on what works for you. Don't say, "Well, my mother said that, you know, we should put all of our money together." And my daddy said, "Yeah, I'm a woman, I should always my money is my money." And you know, have your own rules. Have your own rules for your family.
Jamila Souffrant 41:44
Right, right. And I love that you also approached financial independence is a journey from both sides. So I like to say that, you know, you can increase your income, maximize that through your main job, and then side hustles, and then your expenses, meaning you are limiting your expenses, you're cutting back where you want to for the things that don't bring you value. When it comes to, I know your house was the biggest expense that you like, cut, but, and food was another one. So I guess we're kind of covered there, maybe. But what about on the income side? I love that you talked about the side hustles. So for someone right now, who is still working, and they're like, "All right,Dr. Lakisha, I want to, you know, you're inspiring me to like, find that extra $100 to invest." You know what happens? Because even when I just said $100. Some people are just like, "Well, it's only $100," which we talked about it before, but it's just like, they may think, well, I'm gonna spend all this like time to get into a side hustle that only gives me $100? How can they, one, discover what that side hustle could be? And two, reframe what $100 means to their journey to financial independence?
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 42:44
Yes, this is so important. This is critical, because, when you, I don't want you to just go get another job. What I want you to do is think about what is unique about me? what is what is so unique and special about me? And truly, truly think about that. What is it that I'm uniquely positioned to provide in this world? What is my gift? Maybe you have a gift of writing, maybe you have a gift of speaking. Maybe you have a gift of caring for others? What is that gift and find a way to monetize that. So that's why I say, don't just say, "Oh, I'll just drive Uber on the weekends," and then you hate it. Don't do that. Do, because you can create income based on your gifts. And it's gonna be way more profitable if you do it that way. But that's a question that everybody needs to answer on their own. In this gig economy, think about it, we hear about the great resignation. That's because people are creating their own income. They found their gifts and they said, "Well, I could do this better than when I was working in a cubicle for someone else." So you have to also find that. What is it is so unique and start that business. Don't be afraid. Take a leap. Get the education. With the internet, there's hardly anything we can't learn with the internet. How to do, so. Yeah, start that business.
Jamila Souffrant 44:07
And you can find other people doing what it is that you want to do, right? Like I didn't know that I had such a gift for podcasting or interviewing, you know, until like, it led me there. So sometimes, you know, you'll start something and it will lead you as you follow the breadcrumbs in life and the nudges that will allow you to discover your passion, and then you can make money from it, but you have to start doing something. You have to start.
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 44:31
Exactly. You have to start doing something. Whether that's, maybe you start creating courses for LinkedIn. LinkedIn learning needs content, right? There's... I mean, there's so many.... just step outside of the box and think. Look around you.Look at the gig economy. Look at Fiverr. Is there something... maybe you're really great. My son is finishing his book, and we hired a person to format the book on Fiverr. And that's somebody's gig. Somebody loves it. Maybe you love design, maybe you love fliers. And you can just sign up as a, you know, contributor there. So just think about what is it that you can do. Etsy is another one. I have an Etsy shop. I don't have to do anything there. They're downloadables. People go looking for their planner for their child that's in virtual school. They download the planner. I never have to do anything, but collect the commission each month. It's already there. So think, think, think along those lines.
Jamila Souffrant 45:29
Yes, yes. Now, I do want to touch upon your higher saving and thinking about investing for your kids, because I know that always comes up for parents who want to make sure that they can give their kids a head start. So what are you doing with them?
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 45:41
Yes. So of course, early on, when the first one was a baby, everyone told us to get the college 529 account. And I did and then we never contributed to it. So once I got divorce, I said I really need to put away for their future, but everything that I have learned about FIRE and creating your own income and investments, I thought that maybe the 529 was maybe too restrictive for what my children may need by the time they're 18. So I decided to do the UTMA accounts. It's basically a brokerage account for minors. So I invest the money for them, but it's totally in their name. I can't even take the money out. It has to be them. It has to be for their, their benefit. It's their money. And so holidays when they get money, or birthdays, you know, grandmothers give a lot of money to kids for their birthdays this year. I don't know if you noticed that. Because they're given like $100 bills now. I'm like you don't have that kind of money. Where did you even get $100? Right. Are you gonna ask me for that $100 next month. But so we thought we money that way. They do chores. They have lemonade stands. I told you my son wrote a book. It's about to be published here shortly. And so proceeds from all those things we put into the, I think it's called uniform miners account. I don't know you UTMA. And so we just invest that way, and that way I can invest in the index funds, which is what I'm a big proponent of. ETFs, and index funds, and just set it and forget it. Set it and forget it. And it's been growing. It's been growing and even, and that's that $100 a month, so I tried to do $100. And when I FIRED I stopped contributing to theirs. But now that I found in other ways to create income, the Amazon influencer has been really good to me. And some of the other things that I just write, do freelance writing. I blog anyway, on my website, lakishasimmons.com. I already blog, so someone asked me to write a guest blog for them, and they'll pay me, it's like a no brainer. So I've been finding ways to create the income. So I'm back to contributing to their money again.
Jamila Souffrant 47:55
Yes, I love that. And, and I would like to add, just because I know sometimes parents are kind of conflicted or split. Like they want to do these, this for their kids, because they want them to be okay. But I always say like, make sure you're fine first. Like the best thing you can give your children is that they don't have to worry about you when they're launching into their own life. And they don't have to worry about paying for mom and dad. But I think with you know, Lakisha you, it's like you were already financially stable. And so you're able to do this. And so don't feel bad. If you can't do this for your kids yet. Like, I would rather you focus on yourself. Make sure you're in a great position. And then you know, you can get them started and teach them about money so that then when they get of age, they know and understand how it works in the world.
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 48:39
Exactly. Just as they tell us when we get on the airplane, you have to put your mask on first. How are you going to take care of someone else and you are struggling yourself? That's why I sold the house. How am I going to take care of the boys if I'm paycheck to paycheck, right? So yeah, definitely take care of what you need. Have your emergency fund. Make sure you're on your path, your journey and let your children know there's an expectation my children now that mommy is not paying for their college. I'm sorry. I hope I don't get hate mail about that. But the reason why I say that is because I want them to have work ethic. And I want them and that's why they're already creating things. When I tell you that my seven year old wanted to have lemonade stands this summer. And I took him to Kroger. He already had some money and he fronted the money for the lemonade. And he thought snacks would be a good idea. And then his brothers, they also wanted to do it. So we all went and got the snacks and we made the signs out of some Amazon boxes and set up a table and they sat out there and that heat on Saturdays, and they sold lemonade nd they made money. And my son that is writing the book. He wrote a book on divorce-- children of divorce, right? So Oh, yeah, of what it feels like to be a child who goes through a divorce. He wanted to write it for other children who are going through it. How to cope with it. And so, there I'm teaching them to create income. And that's what, that's why I say, "Mommy's not paying for your college. So you're gonna have to pay for your college." Right? And they know. And so they're always thinking of ways to create income. Not in a obsessive way, but just in a new, it's just a new way of thinking a new responsible way.
Jamila Souffrant 50:17
And how do you get them to think about when they get the income what to do with it? Do you have to tell them? Do you you say that you have to save some of it? Or you let them decide what to do with it?
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 50:25
Yes. So we, I basically tell them, "You're going to save this amount." For just for the practice of it. So my son, I'm not sure, I don't remember what he got some money from. He did something recently. Because they'll say, "Well, can I, can I clean the car to make $5?" Or can I do this, it can be chores that they already are responsible for they dishes, taking out trash, All that. I don't get money for chores. I know you guys are probably thinking this woman here.
Jamila Souffrant 50:52
No, I agree with that.
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 50:53
I do not pay for chores.
Jamila Souffrant 50:55
I agree with that.
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 50:56
Yeah, everybody has to contribute to the household. We all have to. Mommy doesn't get paid to do the chores around. I don't get paid to do that. Neither do you. So we all contribute. But when they do get the extra money. And so my youngest son, he has some money for something he did. And then, because they helped me with the business too. They go to the post office with me. They know how to package up the books. They know how to put the labels on there. They know how to do all that. And so when they helped me with things like that, I pay them. And he said, "Well, I have enough money in my cash register," So like watchbox used as his cash register. He said, "I really want to buy this toy it's $10." I said, "Well, I don't think you need another toy right now. Do you think you need another toy right now?" He's like, "Yeah, but I want it." I was like, "Yeah, but I don't think you really want it." So I just kind of push back, because it's his money. I want him to make the decision that, "You know what, you're right. I think I'm gonna wait and get something bigger or get something different later."
Jamila Souffrant 51:49
Right. I love that. And it sounds like, um, you get, since they're working in the business, they can get Roth IRAs. You can open Roth IRAs for them too.
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 51:55
You know what I was thinking about that. I was.... oh, I don't, you know, I just kind of pay 'em. But I'm wondering, once CJ's book is published? I think probably he get we can start his Roth IRA.
Jamila Souffrant 52:07
Yes, we probably need to do a whole nother episode about this. But there is a way if your kids are legitimately working for you, you can pay them and then use that money and contribute on their behalf in a Roth IRA, which is even more powerful, because it's you saving on taxes when it comes out. So something we can all look into Dr. Lakisha Simmons. I mean, you were so inspiring. It was so amazing to get to chat with you. I want you to tell everyone where they can find out more about you and follow your work. And then one thing that you want someone to take away from your story and do once they listen to this.
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 52:40
Yes! Well, you can reach out to me at lakishasimmons.com. And I just love hearing from people. I love hearing your stories. I love hearing your, you know your journey to FIRE, or where you are in the process. So you can reach out to me there. You can grab my book on Amazon, The Unlikely AchieveHer. But what I want people really to take away and what I, what I really love doing now is just sharing my story and hopefully that it does inspire someone else. I never thought I was an inspiration, right? Because it's my life. And it's my story. But what I find is that when we do share our stories, and that's why I want you to contact me to share your story, because it does help us all grow. Because at the core, we're all human beings. And we all need each other. We're all in this together. And we just have to be here for each other and inspire each other. So think about what it is you value in life and go after that.
Jamila Souffrant 53:36
Love it. Love it. Thank you once again, Dr. Lakisha, for coming on the show. It was a pleasure.
Dr. Lakisha Simmons 53:41
Jamila Souffrant 53:47
I really hope you enjoyed that conversation with Dr. Lakisha Simmons. I believe you got a lot of actionable tips here and inspiration for you to reach your own goals. I just love how she broke down knowing when it was time to sell the house and making that big switch and how much money that saved her, because we all know how expensive housing can be and our attachment to where we live. And you know, yeah, if it was so easy, many people can maybe just pick up and move or sell their property. But we know it's not that easy. It takes a big mindset shift. So I love that she went through what that meant for her. And I hope that that can help someone here too. And I hope it gives encouragement to anyone who has had childhood trauma. At this point. I don't know anyone who hasn't, at some level. Has went through a divorce. And that this inspires you that it's never over. It's never over. And so I hope you enjoyed this episode. Now share this with me on your social media. I'm @journeytolaunch all over. I mostly hang out on Instagram, but I love when you take screenshots that you're listening. Take that screenshot, share it on your social media. Let me know what you thought of the episode and then share it with someone who needs hear this. That is also helpful. This is how we grow the podcast. Share this information. Share the episode with someone you love or someone who can benefit from this. And also make sure you are subscribed or following the podcast, it's free. That means you won't miss an episode when it drops. Wherever you listen to this right now, if it's an Apple podcast, that purple app, you can say follow and then you'll never miss an episode. Or wherever you're listening to this, press subscribe and you'll keep seeing all the episodes. Every Wednesday drop automatically on your phone or device wherever you listen.
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