Sylvia-Woods_journey-to-launch

Episode Number: 283

Episode 283- Sylvia’s Journey To Paying Off 6 Figures of Law School Debt & Becoming Financially Independent REWIND

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Show notes

Sylvia Hall 0:02

rental real estate to me is just a good way to be able to extract more cash with less money. Let's say you can buy a house for $100,000 and rent it out for $1,000 a month. That is basically a 12% cash on cash return, not including expenses. But it just gives you a better way to get better returns than your money would traditionally get every year in the stock market and it gives you a little bit more control over it.

Intro 0:34

Minus 10 seconds. Welcome to the journey to launch podcast with your host jameelah. So frogs as a money expert who rocks her talk, she helps brave juniors like you get out of debt, save, invest and build real Whoa. Join her on the journey to launch to financial freedom. 321

Jamila Souffrant 1:03

Hey, hey, hey, Journeyers Welcome to the journey to launch podcast, I am sharing with you another oldie but goodie episode that I released way back in the day. This was episode originally episode 47 with Silvia. And so if you're an OG journeyer, who has been listening from the beginning, then you may remember this episode, but if you're totally new, then you're gonna love hearing sylius story. She was actually one of my favorite interviews that I've done. I mean, again, I've done so many great interviews, but I really do love talking to people who are literally in the middle of the journey, or even towards the end, but they don't have a book, they don't have a blog. They're just people living their lives, doing things extraordinary and even, you know, ordinary things that have extraordinary results. I feel like those are the most impactful for hopefully you listening because you listening right now you know, you maybe you're not a blogger, or you don't have a course or you're you're not you don't have a book that you're writing, but you you want, you want your life to change, you want financial freedom. And so what better way to get inspired or learn about that from someone who's just like you're doing something. And so Silvia originally came on the podcast, and she talked about paying off six figures of law school debt, becoming financially independent, but also she talked about a very real side of this journey, which is having to incorporate taking care of her family. So even extending when she was quitting and retiring early, so that she can take care of her family members, which I thought that's super relatable and something that a lot of us go through. And we also talk about just how she even though she was a lawyer to help pay off her debt she used to deliver pizza, you know, after work and on the side. So I hope you enjoy this episode, I need to find Silvia so I can do an update episode on her because I feel like so much much that changed for her since she last came on. But I hope you enjoy this episode. In the meantime, let's dig in.

If you want the episode show notes for this episode, go to journey to launch.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 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 journey to launch.com/jumpstart to get your guide right now. Okay, let's hop into the episode.

Hey, journeyers, I am excited to have Silvia Hall on the podcast. Hi, Sylvia, how are you?

Sylvia Hall 3:47

Good. Great to be here.

Jamila Souffrant 3:49

And I wanted you on the podcast. Because really, you are pursuing financial independence. You have such a relatable story on how you discovered it. And what prompted you to get on this journey that I think will connect and resonate with a lot of listeners. And so I wanted to give you the platform to talk about your journey.

Sylvia Hall 4:10

All right, well, I am about three years away from retirement now. I technically hit my number already. But due to my family and how they love coming up with random expenses. I'm working an extra three years just to build a little bit of a cushion. My journey initially started with six figures in debt at law school degree and a hurricane. And after kind of starting over and realizing that I didn't want to be in debt anymore. My initial goal is to get out of debt and then gradually realize that well okay, I've got enough money to see if I don't have to work anymore. And so it kind of started from the decision to go to law school ended up in debt and then just working hard to get out of debt and keeping that going after I got rid of that that that I wanted to get rid of, and then just kind of realized that the numbers worked. And I could walk away for good.

Jamila Souffrant 5:07

And you mentioned so many points I want to get into in our conversation. One was the family aspect of it. Cuz I want to understand that dynamic more. And I had a feeling of what you meant. But I think that a lot of people probably can relate to possibly outside family, you know, I don't know if it's, you call it a burden or family obligations, which affect your journey. If you have people who are dependent on you, or you realize that you may need to help more people outside of your immediate family, it's going to take a little bit longer than to read some of your goals. So that was one. And I love that you said you started with six figures in debt, a law degree in a hurricane. It sounds like a subtitle to a book. But let's talk about that. So you are a lawyer. You mentioned that just now you have a law degree. And because of that you graduated with tons of debt. Can you just got back to that point in your life where you're in law school, you have this debt? And then what caused you to realize like, wait a second, I have to get out of this. Yeah, so

Sylvia Hall 6:03

I was one of those people who majored in every conceivable thing that didn't lead to a job. And so my solution was to go to law school, and I loved it. I love all the friends that I made there, I'm still in touch with them. But there was a complete disconnect between filling out the forms for loans, and then what that meant as far as paying those loans back. And so I graduated from law school, this was way back in oh, five. So I graduated from law school. And then I got the letter in the mail that basically said, you've got a six month grace period. And then after that, we expect you to start paying us back, and then just doing the numbers on what that meant. And I signed up for a pretty lengthy repayment period. And so that was the first time when, in my life's journey, I didn't have the automatic next steps. So there was no next degree to get it was just you're working, and then all of a sudden, you're paying back this debt. And it just felt like such a burden that I was going to be carrying for decades. And so at that point, I decided, okay, first goal is to get rid of this debt, full disclosure, I still have my federal debt, because that's at 1.6% Fixed rate interest, but I got rid of all of my private loans. And so that became goal number one.

Jamila Souffrant 7:23

And now so you also went to undergrad at Spelman, right? Correct. Yes. But you didn't have any loans there. Did you just get scholarships?

Sylvia Hall 7:32

Yeah, I got scholarships. And then I just kind of worked on the side. I've always had side jobs, nothing too major. So that was more just fun, but came out of undergrad with no debt didn't realize the gift that that was and promptly proceeded to turn that around by going to law school.

Jamila Souffrant 7:51

And so you ended up in law school at Tulane in New Orleans. Yes. So talk a little bit about that. So you went to law school, you graduated with the tons of debt, and now six figures worth of debt. And then the hurricane happened?

Sylvia Hall 8:06

Hurricane happen. So I took the bar in July of 2005. Basically, I started my first real full time job after law school about one week before the hurricane hit, I basically depleted my savings to take the bar and pay for the bar exam and rent and everything while I was taking the bar because I didn't work at that time, went back to work. And then Hurricane Katrina hit. I had basically a weekend's worth of clothes. I evacuated to Houston thinking I was just going to be right back in New Orleans and continue working. And then the levees broke. And my job. They called me and basically said, we'd love to keep you on, you still have a job. But the building is shut down for the next six months. So come back in six months, we'd love to have you. And the problem with that is that I was completely broke already six figures in debt from law school, and I had rent that I had to pay for an apartment in New Orleans. And that same weekend, my landlord basically called and said, I'll let you out of your lease, but you've got to get everything out this weekend. And so I had my little heat 90 Civic that I still drive, my dog, I threw everything that I could into the car and everything else literally had to be thrown away. The city was a ghost town there were no u hauls. There were none in Houston either were evacuated to and so I literally had to throw everything away and there's nothing like watching everything that you paid money for going to the dumpster to make you realize, Okay, number one things aren't all that important. And number two, having a good financial backbone so that this hurricane situation didn't completely up in my life was the next goal. And so, I relocated to Houston, I worked as a legal secretary for six months, then made it back to New Orleans. And then number one goal was to get out of debt. And so I was working as a lawyer by day True story, I was working for Domino's Pizza by night, and on the weekends, cut down on my grocery bill quite a bit. And that money from Domino's was purely to put towards my debt. And so it started out as 100% towards debt. And then when I decided that I didn't want to dodge hurricanes every year, it also became a fun to save money for my eventual move to Seattle.

Jamila Souffrant 10:36

Now, it sounds like that hurricane, that forcing of you to get rid of so much, really probably jolted you into this simplistic life, like where you realize that you didn't need as much as you had to survive, right?

Sylvia Hall 10:50

It really did. It really did. I kind of became an accidental minimalist to the point that I was really big into the tiny house movement, and I was was really gung ho about getting my little tiny house of 200 square feet. But when I realized there was no indoor plumbing, that kind of put the kibosh on that. But I did end up getting a condo in foreclosure here in Seattle that nobody else wants it. It's only 400 square feet. So it was double the size of everything I was looking at, and way too small for everyone else. So it ended up helping in other ways, too.

Jamila Souffrant 11:24

And I don't want to gloss over this point of your story where you said you were working full time as a lawyer, but still delivered Domino's Pizza on the weekends for extra money.

Sylvia Hall 11:33

Yes, nights and weekends. So I would go home change from my suit into my little Domino's get up and then just deliver pizzas until the store closed. And it was actually a really fun job. You meet a lot of interesting people. Some of them I actually worked with as an attorney, so that those are always interesting front door conversations.

Jamila Souffrant 11:54

Oh, you mean like you would deliver a pizza to like a fellow attorney? They'd be like, What are you doing here, Sylvia?

Sylvia Hall 12:01

Yes, so that happened about three times. But yeah, it was really, really quite interesting. And it didn't seem crazy. At the time, all my friends were telling me that I was crazy. But to me, my goal was to get out of debt. A lot of the tips were paid in cash, don't tell the IRS, but it was just a good way to get money on a daily basis, and have a job that didn't really require you to take it home with you since I had enough of that as an attorney. And it was before Uber and my car would never be uber approved. So that was my side gig way to make some extra money.

Jamila Souffrant 12:37

At that point, how much that did you have? So you're out of law school, now you're working as a lawyer, you're doing Domino's Pizza, what was your debt amount at that point,

Sylvia Hall 12:46

I started out with just over 100,000 in debt. That was the first time that I had seen a number that large in terms of someone saying you owe this to me. And what I had to do, just to keep from completely panicking was to break that down into small chunks. And so even though the total number was a lot, I broke that out between private and federal loans. And then for the private loans, you had to reapply each year, I was able to break that into smaller chunks. And so what I did was just wrote down each loan that was kind of a painful process, but I wrote down each loan, and then the corresponding interest rate to each loan. And then I just had a plan of attack in the bite size chunks of the loans. Because when I just looked at the total number, I would literally walk down the street and see a homeless person and say, wow, they have a higher net worth than I do. It was just a very mind changing experience to see that much debt associated with my name.

Jamila Souffrant 13:46

So you broke things out into smaller chunks. So it seemed it made things more digestible for you to take on. Absolutely, yes. I'm curious, like the dominos job. How much would you say that contributed, like how much you made from that that helped towards paying off that debt, I was able to make

Unknown Speaker 14:04

a pretty good clip. And since I volunteered for the shifts that no one else wanted. So I did the Friday and Saturday night shifts to close, I was able to make a good $500 a week doing that job. And so that was $2,000 a month that I put towards that.

Jamila Souffrant 14:22

Wow, okay,

Sylvia Hall 14:23

it was the Friday and Saturday night shifts that were the big ones. What I tried to do is to make sure that I earned more money at Domino's that I spent during the day, not including rent. And so that was my way to just keep a check on what I was paying, and what was going out and what was coming in. And I've never been good at budgeting or discipline. So the internet and just sort of automation really helped me out. And so what would happen was I would have my paycheck deposited into my bank account, and then I would leave myself a certain amount have discretionary spending each month, I tried to keep it in the 200 to $300 range per month. And then at the time, I didn't have enough money to invest in Vanguard because their funds required $3,000 to start. So I started at T Rowe Price, because they didn't have minimum amounts at the time. And so I started my Roth IRA. And I also just started, just sort of a side savings account that all my money was automatically transferred to those accounts with the exception of that discretionary spending amount. And so I obviously never want to do a budget of like this amount, this amount, that amount. But I always tried to tell myself, okay, this is your fun money, everything else needs to have a purpose.

Jamila Souffrant 15:45

So it seems like after you made sure all the bills were paid, you just broke things out into bigger buckets. And I think that's actually helpful for people listening who really have tried budget. So I mean, I'm a budget fan, especially for those starting out just so they can be clear about where they're spending. But I also think you have to be realistic, and it's not for everyone. So I liked that you were able to figure out a plan and a system that works for you. But the main thing I'm hearing is that you have to stick to it, right. So it's just like you had these buckets, but you automatically transfer things into the accounts that were important to you, which were the investing and saving. So while paying off debt, you were still investing?

Sylvia Hall 16:25

Yes, my journey also started with just the library. So the personal finance section became my second home, I can still read, I think it's like 332 Oh, 24 for the number in the system, and I read everything I could get my hands on. And I came to the realization when you're starting out with the 100,000 in debt, and you see the estimated timeframe for paying that off, was forever. And so to me, it was like if I don't just start investing while I have the debt, I won't be investing anytime soon. And so I just forced myself to also invest. And I told myself that if I can burn a decent rate of return, then it makes sense to go ahead and invest even though I had six figures

Jamila Souffrant 17:09

of debt. At the time now you're a lawyer, were you making a lot of money? Were you at the six figure mark, when you were still working at Domino's, or you had to work up to that?

Sylvia Hall 17:18

Not even close. I wasn't even making half of six figures at the time. So I just found an apartment, got a roommate, everything was split in half. That's the other thing they don't tell you before you go to law school, you have these dreams of big time law firms. I worked for a small insurance defense firm. Love everyone on that job. But yeah, not rolling in the dough at all. Then I had the six figures of debt. Hence the Java had Domino's?

Jamila Souffrant 17:46

Well, I think that's a great misconception to talk about. Because people do assume if you are a lawyer or doctor like you immediately come out and up. I don't know about doctors yet. But it seems like with lawyers, that's not a given six figure income. You have to work up to that or be in a certain type of legal field to get that amount of money.

Sylvia Hall 18:04

Yeah, honestly, I wouldn't want that type of job anyway, everyone I know who's been at the really big law firms where you make a lot of money, the stress isn't worth it to me. I mean, I know the paycheck is nice, but I value quality of life a little bit more, not knocking anyone who's got that job, because those jobs take a lot of work to get. But in the end, they'd rather have a little bit more quality

Jamila Souffrant 18:27

of life. And now you have your own law firm, which we'll talk about later. But knowing what you know now about the law and the debt you got in and would you do it all over again, would you still pursue your law degree at the price you paid?

Sylvia Hall 18:41

I think I would have taken some time off in between undergrad and law school to really figure out if I want it to practice law. I was more intent on going to law school just to have a next step. I hadn't really thought about what the practice of law was like and what type of law wanted to practice. So I think I did it backwards and just sort of forced myself into law school and took the job that was available. It ended up working out. But if I could go back, I would have had a little bit better of a game plan as far as what post law school life looked like.

Jamila Souffrant 19:13

Okay, and then I'm assuming you didn't have much credit card debt in this time, because you seem very disciplined. So it was really just your student loans that you were working to pay off.

Sylvia Hall 19:22

Just student loans. I think I'd applied for a credit card. I think it was at a baseball game to get a free beach towel or something and that the guy had a credit limit of $500. So no credit card debt at the time. So that was good. So everything was basically student loan debt.

Jamila Souffrant 19:39

I know you moved from New Orleans to Seattle. So at what point after graduating, did you do that?

Sylvia Hall 19:45

I graduated from law school and oh five moved to Seattle in oh eight. And it's kind of a funny story. I knew how long I needed my money to last and I didn't have a job at all. When I moved to Seattle, so I looked on Craigslist rented a room in a house. So it was just me and my dog, the stuff I could fit in my little 90 Civic and rented a room and a house on Craigslist. The guy rented a room from was really, really nice. But the story of hi mom and dad, I'm moving in with the guy I've never met sight unseen. This is my new address, it prompted them to get on a plane and come out to Seattle, to make sure that I was still okay. Yeah, so budget was on my mind, rented a room in a house in Seattle, found a job about a month later, and everything kind of worked from there.

Jamila Souffrant 20:36

What prompted the move? Why Seattle, and you didn't have a job? So what were you expecting to do?

Sylvia Hall 20:42

Well, there are a couple of other hurricanes that were threatening New Orleans. And I just knew that I didn't want to play hurricane roulette year in and year out, love the city love the people. But I just knew that sort of hurricane dodging wasn't for me, I picked a city in a state that didn't have any state income tax where I thought the economy and the city was doing well. And that was important, because I felt like if the city had a thriving economy, it will be easier to find a job. And so all the states with no state income tax that were also hurricane prone. So that was Florida and Texas, I ruled out. And Seattle was sort of the last city standing. That's how I picked Seattle and just got in the car and drove up and things fortunately worked out. But I got here in I want to say it was May of 2008. And then the economy promptly fell apart. So I was really lucky to get the job when I did. And I worked that same job until I started my own law firm in January of last year,

Jamila Souffrant 21:45

you were in New Orleans working, paying off debt. So when you moved to Seattle, how much debt did you have at that point?

Sylvia Hall 21:52

Let's see I been taking 2000 a month, basically towards that for three years, is about how it added up. So I was able to put a significant dent in most of my private loans, I still had my federal loans, which I'll keep forever, because they're at 1.6% interest. So I think when I moved to Seattle, I think I had about 20,000 and private loans left. And the federal loans, since they were so cheap, in terms of the interest rate, I still have those,

Jamila Souffrant 22:25

right. And that's because you know that you can earn more investing that money instead of paying off the debt, so you're comfortable with just keeping it

Sylvia Hall 22:32

right. And if something were to happen to me if I became disabled, or there are all sorts of things you could do for federal loans, like Income Based Repayment, or deferment or forbearance, that you don't have those same options with private loans. And so I figured I was willing to take the risk with the federal loans, whereas that wasn't the case with the private loans. And also,

Jamila Souffrant 22:53

what I'm hearing with your story is that I'm gonna get personal, I'm assuming that at that time, maybe you were single, that time and this time, okay, because one of the things I think that holds people back from making decisions like this, which would help their finances, whether that's move, or live in one room of a house and deliver pizzas on the weekend, is that if you're in a relationship where you have kids, it's a harder decision to make because you're more tethered to something or someone. So it seems like the flexibility just being single in that way allowed you to really go after what you wanted, and really just be selfish in a good way for yourself, which is awesome.

Sylvia Hall 23:31

Absolutely. So it allowed me to not take anyone elses anything into consideration and just figure out what made the most sense. It's funny when I do date, guys, it becomes pretty clear early on, into frugality to a certain degree. And so fancy restaurants kind of turn into picnics. There are all sorts of ways to date frugally. But I do think that being single, or not even necessarily just being single, but not having kids, because that changes the time that you have to be in a certain place drastically. But even if you're in a relationship if both people are on the same wavelength, and both people can kind of figure out okay, this is our time to be together. Let's make sure that that time is sacred, and then work around that I think it can still work. But I do think that being single really helped me not take any options off the table.

Jamila Souffrant 24:28

And then when we talk in the bigger scope of just financial independence, so now you're about three years out from your target goal. What is your idea of financial independence? Because I know we're going to talk about your investments, like what you're investing and how you're doing it. What does that mean to you?

Sylvia Hall 24:44

To me, it means not having to do anything at any particular time. Right now, what I plan to do as soon as I walk away is just kind of Airbnb it around the world. Really try to learn different languages. Get in Merced in different cultures, that's the plan, I understand that that could get a lot older than I think it will, I think I'll be able to do that for a pretty long time. But I've talked to several people who have done it who have gotten burned out. But my plan is to travel for 10 months out of the year, and then be home to visit family and friends, basically, the last two months of the year. And then just to pick another city and kind of rinse and repeat. That's the plan. We'll see how it goes.

Jamila Souffrant 25:29

Right? You have your own law firm. Now, what do you practice? Or what did your law firms specialize in?

Sylvia Hall 25:35

I do general insurance, defense. And then I also do family law and immigration law on a pro bono basis.

Jamila Souffrant 25:42

All right, so you're working now for yourself, which I'm assuming gives you some flexibility. So sometimes that's the next step in the financial independence journey, because, for example, there are people who now are working for someone and they don't like that they rather at least work for themselves, even if the hours are the same, but it's at least they're controlling their time and what they take on. So you now have that flexibility or that control because it's your own business, but for you is not necessarily about the flexibility of it's really about not having to work for that paycheck anymore. Seems like right,

Sylvia Hall 26:16

it was kind of a two part thing. One part was the flexibility. I do love the flexibility. But the other part was just the ability to tap investments in a different way. So being self employed allowed me to open up a self directed solo 401 K, it also means that you can contribute more to your 401 K each year. So when I was an employee, the most that you could put in was 18,000 a year, I think now it's 18. Five. But as a solo practitioner, I'm allowed to put in 20% of everything that I make with the limit of I think it's 54,000, or something like that, that you could put in per year. Not quite there. But it just opened up a lot more space to get into a lot more tax deferred investment space. And I'm looking to buy an apartment complex, a small complex, back home with my 401k. And I wouldn't have had the ability to do that as an employee.

Jamila Souffrant 27:18

And let's talk about what you're investing in. So now you don't have any private loans. So you're not as focused on debt anymore. You got that out the way? Where are you investing your money.

Sylvia Hall 27:27

Right now, the bulk of everything is at Vanguard, and just a simple three fund portfolio. That's pretty vanilla. But since it's in a self directed 401 K, I'm looking into getting more into real estate, my condo here in Seattle will be a rental of got a rental house in the Nashville area. And I'm looking to buy the apartment complex back in St. Louis, we'll see how that goes. But just looking at the numbers, if you follow a 4%, safe withdrawal rate, rental real estate, to me is just a good way to be able to extract more cash with less money. Let's say you can buy a house for $100,000 and rent it out for $1,000 a month. That is basically a 12% cash on cash return not including expenses. But it just gives you a better way to get better returns than your money would traditionally get every year in the stock market. And it gives you a little bit more control over it. So real estate, to me is a shortcut to getting better returns than you would necessarily get with just the 4% safe withdrawal rate.

Jamila Souffrant 28:43

And one of the interesting things that you're doing with your self directed 401k is you're actually buying real estate as the asset from that retirement account, which I didn't know you could actually do. So can you talk a little bit about that process?

Sylvia Hall 28:56

Sure. So when you are an employee, you generally have your whatever retirement platform is offered by your employer. And that's typically some combination of cash stocks and bonds and mutual funds or ETFs, or something along that line. That's not the total universe of what you can invest in, according to the IRS, instead of having stocks and bonds. So like for me, I'm a big s&p 500 or total stock market index person, but instead of going with an s&p 500 Index Fund, you can go with an apartment building. And so you're not limited to just what you think of is traditional retirement investment vehicles. I think outside of collectibles and actual raw land. I think you can actually hold just about anything as an asset with your retirement accounts. And for people who are really focused on saving and who have had access to an employer's 401k You can over the years accumulate a lot of money in that, instead of having that invested in stocks and bonds, where you kind of cross your fingers and hope that the market doesn't go down. When you have a solo self directed 401 K, instead of having that money in stocks and bonds, you can go out and buy real estate with that money, instead of your traditional stocks and bonds, and then the rent that you get from that property goes back into your 401k.

Jamila Souffrant 30:26

Are there any resources you can recommend to listeners who want to learn more about that, or whether it's a podcast or blog or book that you've read? Yeah,

Sylvia Hall 30:33

there are, if you go to bigger pockets and just put in self directed 401 K, you can also do it with an IRA. But there are some rules about mortgages that make it more appealing to do it with the 401k. But I would say bigger pockets is one that's got a lot of resources. If you go to the forums and just put in IRA, you'll get a lot of posts, and you'll be connected to people who specialize in bigger pockets.

Jamila Souffrant 31:01

By the way, it's like a popular podcasts and blogs if in case anyone listening hasn't heard of it. So I'll link that in the show notes for sure. And actually have a question just in terms of if you comparing that to investing in a REIT, what are your opinions on the actual investing in an actual property versus like a REIT through your 401k? To me,

Sylvia Hall 31:21

a REIT is good if you just want exposure to real estate as a method of diversification. But REITs aren't really good in terms of having control over what that we is investing in. So REITs are a good way to get exposure to real estate and a non hands on way. The actual real estate is a better way of having complete control over the property. Being able to control the returns on paper, of course, a roof can need repair or what have you. But we'd have actual real estate, you just have more control over your returns, the property, the tenants, etc.

Jamila Souffrant 32:01

And read by the way, just for anyone who's not heard that term before, it's real estate investment trusts. So it's like investing in companies that own or finance, income producing real estate or property sectors. I want to go back to something you mentioned in the beginning of the interview about you actually reach your number. So technically, if you wanted to probably quit today, and just like start traveling, you could but there are some family things that you're realizing that you know, I need to save some more. Do you want to expand on that? Because I actually think a lot of people can relate to having that kind of pressure from outside people or family on this journey.

Sylvia Hall 32:37

Yeah, sure. I feel like I'm lucky and have a great family. But they're just really good for coming up with really expensive issues at random times. So anything from car repairs, where there's always an attempt to be paid back, but you just never know if you will be. And for me, I never count. Anytime I give money to something I never expect to get anything in return. And to me that just eliminates any potential hostility or bad blood. But my parents are getting up in age, my mom is retired. And that kind of helped her navigate through retirement, but they're just soon going to be in a position where they don't have any money coming in. And so anything that's a big expense, might require them to need some help. And I've got a couple of younger brothers who like to get into car accidents and things like that. So I just tried to help out where I can. And I'm doing a better job of saying no, but to me, part of why I want it to save and part of early retirement does involve a certain aspect of being able to help out my family. And so instead of saying, Nope, you're on your own, I just built that into the equation. But more so for my parents because they're getting up there. And so far, so good. There hasn't been anything major so far. But I just know as they both get older, and both are retired than anything like I was able through travel hacking to send my parents to France for my dad's 70th birthday. I just like doing little things like that, because I've been fortunate enough to have great parents been fortunate enough to never have really wanted for anything in a serious way as growing up. And so it's just my desire to be able to make things comfortable for them. And not have that be a financial burden to me and not have them feel like they are a financial burden. So these next three years are just to have a little bit of a cushion in the trip to France, I think cost me about 100 bucks all together, thanks to travel hacking, but just little things like that, that I want to be able to do and help out with.

Jamila Souffrant 34:52

Well, I'm just like listening. I'm like, Wow, you are a good daughter. I mean, like even a sister to really bake into your plans. And it's unfortunate because I feel like a lot of the older generations, our parents and grandparents aren't well equipped for what happens after they stopped working, some of them can't even stop working. And so obviously, it affects you, because you don't want to see people you love, especially when you know that they provided for you and helped you along, be destitute or put out of anything. So you do want to help. But are there ways in which you're talking to your parents now about how they can get more on track? Or do you feel like it's kind of too late? Like, what is the plan? Can you sustain them in retirement and yourself in retirement going forward? How does that work? For

Sylvia Hall 35:38

the most part, they're pretty good, and they're older. So they're now both collecting Social Security, my mom was fortunate enough to work for a company in which they had an actual pension. My dad does not work for a company that has a pension. And I think what happened in my parents generation is they really thought that you work for a company, you get Social Security, you're good. And along the way, Social Security just isn't enough to sustain the type of lifestyle that you're used to. And so my mom is good, because she's got a small pension. And I've shown her how to really understand money, understand where her money is, I had to convince her not to get an annuity. And all of a sudden, there are people who will say, free dinner if you let me pitch this idea to you. So I think my mom's in a place where she kind of understands everything. My dad's retirement plan, honestly, is to just work forever. And I'm like, that's not really an option. At least that's not an option you plan for. So we'll see what happens when it comes to him. But he knows and he's taking steps in the right direction. But his plan really is to work forever. And so for me, the way I look at it is one, rental income in retirement is basically the parent fund. And so that's kind of my overall plan. And as long as nothing exceeds that should be okay. Because for my parents, for the most part, they are on basically fixed income, like my mom with everything that she has, she gets a certain amount per month. And that's usually fine. It's just that if there's some sort of Fluke incident, like a car accident, where all of a sudden, you got to pay a deductible to get your car fixed. So I'm not really enabling people to make bad decisions or anything like that. So I don't want that to be the image that comes out. But a lot of my family, they don't have access to high amounts of short term cash. And that cash is needed to get you over the hump. So when my brother's in a car accident, and he's got like a $1,000 deductible, and he needs the car to get to work, things like that, where it's a lot of money, but at the same time, if it's not paid, then there are all sorts of other collateral incidents that happen. So it's few and far between as far as the actual incidents, but I know that there will be incidents, I think my dad might be a little bit of of a lost cause in terms of coming up with a real long term plan, because he's just been of the mindset that he's going to work forever, since as long as I can remember. But the two of them together should be okay. And to the extent that they're not, that's where I'll just kind of chip in and help out.

Jamila Souffrant 38:35

I'm actually curious as you're talking, you've done so well for yourself, education wise, professionally wise. And then, just now with your finances? Do you hold back on how much you talk about your money with your family? And maybe friends if they're not on the same level? Because you don't want to give them that perception of Oh, Sylvia is rich, you know, Sylvia has the money to help me or are you sharing with them kind of like what you're learning along the way? A little

Sylvia Hall 39:02

bit of both, because I never really think of myself in terms of being rich. To me, it's, I don't really make more money than most people, I just am able to spend less money than most people. So my condo here was cheaper than my apartment before I had it. And I haven't had cable, I've got the same car I've had since high school. I'm just able to not spend money. And I think I was able to take advantage of the bull run from basically 2008 through now. So the investments did well. And like I said, I always take my discretionary spending of now of up to $300 a month. So that's all I spend and so everything else just gets automatically sucked into investments. So I've never felt like I had a lot of money. It's just that over the years of doing that those amounts in investments have grown My friends, they know me and they know my mindset. So they always joke. Basically, every restaurant in Seattle is ridiculously expensive to me. And so I tried to host people and have everyone just bring over a bottle of wine and whip up a little dish. And we all just hang out here or somewhere else to prevent paying a lot of money for things. But with my friends, if they're interested, and they put out feelers about being interested in what I'm doing, or about saving money, then I will absolutely give them all the information they want. If I know that they're not interested, then I'll just keep that part separate. And when I'm with them, I try not to be the cheap person. So if you're going to go out, go out, don't be the person saying, I just had the salad in the water, you make money for a reason. And so I firmly believe that you should have fun and you should enjoy your money. It's just that it should be in moderation to me. So I guess it depends on the friend. I know, I've got friends who spend everything they make, and they're fine with that. And so the hair on the back of my neck stands up a little bit, but I am completely straight faced about it. But if friends are interested in okay, what are you doing? How is it that you think your retirement three years? Oh, absolutely. You just tell them?

Jamila Souffrant 41:23

Your story is definitely I think, an inspirational one. And what I really, really like about it is that despite like the title of lawyer and what people perceive it to be, and you you know, you could be living a totally like different lifestyle is that you're driving your car from high school, right? Still, yes. And you still delivered pizza from Domino's Pizza on the weekends as when you were working a full time law job, you know, like you really take intentional steps and you take those sacrifices. So anyone listening that thinks, you know what, I can't do it? Because when do I have the time and of course, if you have a family and kids and there's more restrictions on your time, but I just feel like I get so inspired by hearing stories of people like you who are doing above and beyond. Like, you could just be like chillin out sleeping, saying you're tired, but you're not doing that you're like hustling and staying true to yourself in terms of not doing the whole lifestyle inflation and spending money. I just think that's just so inspiring for anyone listening who's thinking like, How can I do this to like, what can you apply to your life? What can you change? How can you push yourself? Do you really want it, you really wanted to get out of debt. So you did anything and everything to get there, and you really want to retire early. So you're doing everything to get there. But it also sounds like you still enjoy your life. It's not like you're miserable. And, again, the balance also needs to come into play.

Sylvia Hall 42:47

Yeah, absolutely. I firmly believe that everyone should have a floor in terms of quality of life, that they are not going below for money, because at the end of the day, money is just a means to an end, you shouldn't have a life that you don't enjoy, just for the sake of money. I think that's taking it a little bit too far. So I think everyone should, really on this journey still have a good quality of life is they're trying to work towards whatever goal. And I will just say just start, people might automatically turn off if they hear the word lawyer, don't, cuz I wasn't making more than anybody else at any other jobs, except I had six figures of debt. So I would just say what I did just start, start by taking a snapshot of where you are. And that means counting, honestly, for all of your debt, all of your income, with no exaggeration of Oh, next year, I think I'll get this rate No, just start with where you are, and what your debt is. Or if you don't have debt, whatever your goal is, and just come up with a one month plan a one year plan a five year plan, just break it down into amounts that help it make sense to you. And so for me, I had to do that with my debt. But since I was in a ridiculous amount of debt, I had to break that up into chunks. And even though over $100,000 worth of debt made me want to just kind of curl up in a ball. I could say okay, what about this first 2000? Can I get a job that allows me to get $2,000 a month to put towards that? Okay, and if I can take that 2000 A month from the debt, not from my day job, then I can allocate everything else from my day job to savings. And that can be Domino's Pizza, which it was for me. It could be Uber, if you've got a car that would pass the Uber test that can be selling things on Etsy that can be babysitting. I mean, everybody has skills everyone has a certain amount of time. All it requires is determining whether or not you want to apply your skills to your extra time to make extra money and if the answer is yes, There's something out there for just about anybody.

Jamila Souffrant 45:03

Perfect, perfect kind of to end on. I wanted to ask you one more question. So you said you read a lot of books a lot from the library, which is a great choice because you saving money, What books would you recommend to anyone who wants to start getting more into this and what resources

Sylvia Hall 45:19

on a more philosophical end, I would say, Your money or your life, just to kind of put into perspective, what money is good for and what it's not good for? In terms of actual application, I liked all the David Bach books, so like the Automatic Millionaire. And that's what really helped me start automating systems because like I said, I'm horrible at budgeting. So if you could just say, every month, this amount is automatically sucked out without me having to do anything great, because it saves me from myself. So I would say just about anything from David Bach, your money or your life. Suze Orman had a book that I really liked, I think it was young, fabulous and broke. And just kind of walk around that section. For me, it was the library. So once you hit the personal finance section, just kind of walk around and see if a title jumps out at you. There are a lot of blogs that can help as well. But basically just start, you might not even have a specific goal. But the goal will kind of become clearer as you start the journey. So just start.

Jamila Souffrant 46:26

Excellent, excellent advice. And you're not a blogger, you're not a podcaster, you're not really online, like it took forever to kind of like find you and track you down. So I don't know how anyone can really get in touch with you. But if someone wanted to learn more, could they?

Sylvia Hall 46:42

I'm not really online. I don't really think of myself as someone with enough information or good enough story for a blog or a podcast to me. I like to think of myself sort of like the McDonald's of personal finance help where I'm not the high end anything. But if you just want a cup of coffee and talk, I'm around for that your story

Jamila Souffrant 47:07

is amazing. And totally could be a blog or podcast, but that's probably not your speed. Totally okay. But you gave him so much great information. I mean, I'm sure people will have more questions. Perhaps we can have a follow up conversation at some point. Yeah, absolutely. All right. So yeah, this was so amazing. Thank you so much for joining us and sharing your journey and your knowledge. I enjoyed that conversation.

Sylvia Hall 47:30

I'm glad to have participated. Thanks for having me.

Jamila Souffrant 47:35

All right. derniers. I hope you enjoyed that rewind episode with Silvia, where she talked about becoming debt free and financially independent. If you enjoyed this episode, don't forget to take a screenshot. Tag me at journey to launch on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. And also best place the best way to share this content is with someone that you love someone that you want to be on this journey with you just send them this episode link, and I'll see you next week. Don't forget, you can get the episode show notes for this episode by going to journey to launch.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 journey to launch.com/jumpstart.

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Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Sylvia accrued six-figures of debt from law school and her life was greatly impacted by Hurricane Katrina while living in Louisiana. With discipline, determination, and the help of financial books such as Your Money or Your Life, Sylvia made the decision to take control of her personal finances. She took on a side-gig as a pizza delivery driver to bring in an extra $2,000 a month and adopted a frugal lifestyle to aggressively tackle her debt. Today, Sylvia has paid down a majority of her student loan debt, owns her own law firm, and is about 3 years away from Financial Independence.

In this episode we discuss:

  • Sylvia’s story of how she accrued six-figures in debt
  • How she used a side-gig and a plan to pay off her student loans
  • How she managed her finances and saved without an actual budget
  • Why she continued to invest with a significant amount of debt
  • Her big move to Seattle
  • Her plans after retirement
  • Her current investments
  • The difference between a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) and actual real estate investment
  • How her family has affected her decisions on the journey to financial independence
I'm listening to Episode 47 of the #journeytolaunch podcast, Sylvia's Journey To Paying Off 6 Figures of Law School Debt & Becoming Financially Independent w/ Sylvia Hall Click To Tweet Sylvia Hall became debt free by working as a lawyer by day and working at Dominos as a delivery driver by night. Click To Tweet You should have fun and enjoy money but it should be in moderation. Click To Tweet Becoming debt free and financially independent takes determining whether or not you want to apply your skills to your extra time to make extra money. Click To Tweet

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