Life After Debt, Achieving Financial Freedom & Quitting Law For Full-Time Entrepreneurship With Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez

Episode Number: 295

Episode 295- Life After Debt, Achieving Financial Freedom & Quitting Law For Full-Time Entrepreneurship With Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez

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Life After Debt, Achieving Financial Freedom & Quitting Law For Full-Time Entrepreneurship With Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez

Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez 0:03

There's very practical things that happen. And that has to change when you're making a shift like this. And you have to talk about that with your partner, like very clearly like, so what is my portion of the retina going to be? What are my financial obligations going to be? How are we going to handle certain expenses that come up? You know, if one of us wants to take an expensive trip, so you need to have that conversation, and I actually think you need to have it before you make the move.

Intro 0:32

T-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 in three two one.

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Intro 1:21

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 so 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.

Jamila Souffrant 2:04

Hey journeyers Welcome to this week's episode of the journey to launch podcast this week we have another special guest known as Cindy Zuniga Sanchez. She's also been on the podcast before Episode 149, where she shared her amazing debt payoff story paying off $215,000 of debt. She is a money coach speaker, founder of zero based budget coaching, and is the author of a brand new book, which should be out by the time this episode is airing called overcoming debt, achieving financial freedom eight pillars to build wealth. So welcome back to the podcast, Cindy.

Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez 2:40

Hi, Jamila. Thank you. Thank you for having me. It's great to be here again.

Jamila Souffrant 2:44

Yeah, so much has changed since you came on back in let me see if I can. I think the year was Oh, back in the day. What was it like? 2000? I'm pulling it up now.

Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez 2:53

I think it was early 2020. May 28.

Jamila Souffrant 2:55

You think so? Okay, probably I can't get the date. But it was episode 159. And since then a lot has changed for you on that original episode. You talked about paying off debt. Now. Your last name was just Zuniga and now we is hyphenated. It has Sanchez at the end. I'll let you give updates like what what has happened for you since the last time and then we'll dig into your story just a little bit.

Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez 3:22

Oh my gosh, yeah. So last time I was here I had just finished paying off my law school debt of, you know, over $200,000. And, you know, that was really where I was was this focus of, oh my gosh, I'm debt free. I'm free, because I'm free of the debt. Amazing. Feeling good about that. But what really was ahead was, well, what are you going to do now? You know, like, what does the money journey kind of look like now. And also, I since got married to you know, when I paid off my debt, I did it completely, you know, on my own no financial help from parents or my partner or anything like that. And that was always a little bit of a point of pride for me personally, not that you have to do this journey on your own or you shouldn't accept help from anyone not like not nothing like that at all. But I don't know I think maybe it's also like as a daughter of immigrants, you know, I was raised to be like, very independent and everything. So it was like very much a point of pride of like, Ah, yes, I was able to do this. But you know, I'm happy to talk about later about how I am very much not operating in this kind of silo of independence of my own because I am married now. And with that comes a lot of changes. But yeah, and also since then, I've also left my job as a commercial litigation attorney. That's that's a huge shift that's happened in my personal life and my career. And you know, a lot of it has just been kind of embracing the journey that life has kind of provided for me is accepting it and and doing the best I said I can with like, a lot of enthusiasm and also gratitude, honestly,

Jamila Souffrant 5:05

so much has changed. You know, it almost feels like life after debt. What does that look like? You know, and I know, leaving your job getting married, all these big life changes impacted, probably everything for your finances to, again, Cindy has an amazing debt payoff story. I think we should probably just mention this before we get into the current situation. But you were you mentioned it already, but you worked in law. And you did have a good sized salary. Right? So we talked about in the first episode, like you worked really hard, you worked to get the salary that you got, but then you had a huge debt amount and student loan debt to pay off. Now, let's talk about though leaving your job. Let's first big thing. How did you make that decision? Because walking away from you know, I don't know if you're sure how much you made, but walking away from probably multiple six figures. Yes. How did you make that decision?

Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez 5:56

Yeah, so you know, just like 30 seconds on my backstory, you know, I graduated law school in 2015, with over $200,000 of debt. But I did also come upon this six figure salary, my starting salary at my law firm was $160,000 a year this was back in 2015. I was 26 years old, as the daughter of immigrants from a low income community in the Bronx, I had never seen this kind of money in my life. So it was a lie. And it was a lie. In all respects. It was a big salary. But it was also a huge debt number that I had to learn how to tackle. And, you know, it took me a few years, four years to be exact, to actually conquer that debt. But then once I did, once I did conquer the debt, I shifted towards investing that was like my next big thing I had already started investing while I was paying off debt, I'm definitely not one of those, like, you can't invest while paying off debt, you just need to pay off debt. You know, I like more of a balanced approach, though, I will be very frank and saying that most of my attention was on my debt, of course. But after I did that, I you know, I paid off my debt December 2019. And I thought that I was gonna Jimmy Lai thought I was gonna live a fabulous life of travel and luxury and doing all the things and then the pandemic was like, not going to happen, the pandemic sort of like, like, literally, like the month after I paid off my debt. And here in New York City, where I'm from and where I was living at the time, you know, everything shut down. And so I was like, Okay, guess I'm not going to be living my big, fabulous life. Well, what's there to do really just kind of like hoard money like, you save or invest. I mean, there wasn't much options. Aside from those two things, really, you know, I shifted gears and I said, Okay, I'm going to invest very aggressively. But I also started saving a little bit more in my emergency fund more than I typically recommend. You know, I usually like to recommend something like three to six months of emergency funds, but with everything that was going on with with the pandemic, with salary cuts, that people were experiencing job loss, I told myself, I need a 12 month emergency fund, like, I need 12 months of cash on hand, just in case my law firm decides to like lay me off or something happens. And so I did that, and I started saving towards my 12 month emergency fund 2020 Though, of course, a really difficult year. For many of us, there was a lot of loss in all respects, a big gain for me was that I got engaged and I got married. And so part of the journey for in that year was making sure that we had money to cashflow our wedding, right, we didn't want to go into any kind of debt. We had a pretty small wedding, especially by New York City standards, both budget wise and by number of guests. And then when 2021 started, I had no intention of leaving my job. Still, I still just had this kind of like stack of cash that I was building. Very quickly into the new year, I started realizing that I couldn't do it all. And I think that's something that as a woman is very difficult to admit, I could not be the stellar associate that I wanted to be for at my law firm, and the stellar entrepreneur that could give her all to these upcoming speaking engagements and to her coaching students and to her brand partnerships. I couldn't do everything. And it was really hard for me to admit and it was really hard for me to come to terms with but when I finally did, I was at a crossroads of you need to choose like you need to pick and it was hard for me because I love my firm. I love my colleagues. I love the work that I was doing. Was it challenging? Heck yes. Did I have really late night? Absolutely. But I'd be lying if I said that it was a super easy decision to make. It wasn't, it was more of I was at a crossroads of like, Okay, do I stay at my firm and shut down my business? Because that's what I will have to do at this point, that's where I am? Or do I just say goodbye to law, at least for now, and pour my energy into my business. And I chose my business, you know, I chose, I chose myself, I decided to bet on myself. And a lot of it, you know, to be very honest with you was because I had that cash cushion. And I renamed this cash cushion. You know, I kind of kept some of it in my, in my true emergency fund. But then I converted another part of the other part of it into what I call my sabbatical fund. And I basically gave myself like a one year runway to see if I can make this work. I was like, Alright, so you've got one year to see if you can pull this off. And if not, girl go back to practicing law because the same it. But yeah, honestly, I just decided to bet on myself.

Jamila Souffrant 11:08

I love that betting on yourself. And when you were making that decision to leave your job at the time for your business. So I definitely relate to you in so many ways, you know my story. And for anyone who doesn't know, I came across or came upon similar forks in the road, a fork in the road, as Cindy and I felt like for me, it was I was pregnant with my third kid, like when I decided that I wanted to actually leave corporate America earlier than I expected. But again, same thing business, I didn't love my job as much as you do. But I, you know, the stable job. And you know, the people who I work were fine, they were cool. But I had a crazy commute, then I was pregnant with my third kid. And you know, by then, like I had a 14 year old and then this business that was going on the side now, Transparency is key here because I don't think I wouldn't have been able to quit, or do what I did without this cushion of cash to help sustain us for when the business wasn't earning money. But for you, how was your business running at the time because my business when I decided to quit was not making much money. I think I had made like, I think it was under 10,000. Like for the year like the year that I quit. But I saw the potential like I knew what what could be possible. So for you, what did you see? Or how was your business doing for you to be like, I'm gonna let this go this multiple six figure salary go to hop into this.

Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez 12:29

Yeah, well, you know, I love transparency. And I love that part about you and your podcast, Jamila. And so I will get very transparent. So in 2019, which was my first year of being in business, the year that I've set up my LLC, my trademark, all the all the stuff I made about $20,000. And this is revenue. So I want to be very clear, like a lot of times people say like, oh, I made this ninja No, no, my business made that. But I also had a ton of like expenses, right? I had to like sign up for these like subscription services. And, you know, Holstein and I had to pay legal fees. Because I had to like set up my LLC, I had to set up my trademark. A lot of times people ask me like, Oh, Cindy, why didn't you do that you're an attorney. But I am not that kind of attorney. That's not the work that I do. Right. So my business revenue to be very clear revenue was 20,000. I think it was probably like 19,000 in that first year. My second year it doubled. So it went from about 19 to 40. So in 2020, my business brought in 40,000. Now, again, I had not touched any of the money that my business had brought in, it was like everything that came in was dedicated to some type of an expense, like legal fees, or admin or or hiring like people for like one off projects, like, you know, it was I don't have like a team or I still don't have a team. I need a team. But I don't have that yet. You know, I'm not there yet. So that was 2019 2020. You know, to recap, you know, 2019 was about 20k 2020 was about 40k 2021, which was the year that I left my job. At the time that I left in May, my business had brought in probably like about 30,000 No, like 20,000. And I had just been in talks with partnerships that were going to bring in, like about that same amount of money. And I saw really quickly this has potential, but the thing for me was that I was actually turning opportunities away, because I couldn't take them on right like that first quarter of the year. I quite physically could not take on certain opportunities. And I already saw that I had brought in probably like 2025 30k And I was like, I can do this. Like I can do this. I can grow I know I can do this. And so you know when I left and see that was a scary thing, though. Like a lot of times when people leave their businesses already paying them at that point I had yeah had to give myself even a dollars worth of either pay or owner's draw none of that, like I had not given myself anything. So that was like a little a little nerve wracking. To be honest with you, I was like, how am I gonna make this work? How am I gonna pay myself? Yeah.

Jamila Souffrant 15:20

But it's the vision or at least you, you know that if you had more time, the potential was there that you could scale?

Unknown Speaker 15:29

Yes, yes, I saw the potential. And I thought, you know, if I, if I leave my law firm job, I can accept more of these opportunities that I'm interested in, I can bring in more revenue, and hopefully fingers crossed, I can pay myself a little something like I can draw something from my business. And then maybe next year, I can do even more. And so you know, that's kind of like, it was really the vision that I was betting on. It wasn't necessarily like, this was like, tried and true. I was running my business was consistently making like 5k every month or 10k, like, No, not at all.

Jamila Souffrant 16:10

But you also did the work to have back systems to help you things were not running the way you thought they would, which is the emergency fund or your sabbatical Fund, which is so important that if you're going to take a risk, like the way we did, meaning you're going to leave a business or leave a secure job, you know, quote, unquote, as secure as it can be, to do your own thing. But that own thing does not make you a lot of money. You know, we had a lot of backstops in place, we had our fu fund or sabbatical fund. I know for me, I kind of my partner as a backup honestly, that was helpful to have at least someone else in the household that would bring in some money, like, you know, it wasn't covering everything, but at least it would cover something. And so it's just important to think about all the ways in which you can think through about worst case scenarios if they happen, like how can you provide for yourself? And the other thing is, I know in my head, I was okay with going back to work. I didn't want to have to, but I'm okay with it. If I have to, well, that's

Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez 17:07

the thing. It's like, you know, okay, worst case scenario, what happens? Well, you go back to the career that you had, like that you have, it's still it's I will, that is one thing that I'm so grateful for is no one can ever take my law degree away from me. You know, I know I was a good lawyer, I know, I had good relationships. And I know that I can build on that if I ever do want to go back. And something that actually surprises a lot of people when I tell them is that I actually do want to go back to practicing law at some point, you know, now, do I want to go back to the same capacity? Like what I was doing before? Probably not. But I do think that, you know, I think we're so pressured to live life in a linear just one way, check the boxes kind of way. And I, I think life can be more dynamic than that. I think it's okay, to try different things to go back to certain loves to finish on, you know, unfinished tasks that you may have had, you know, when I was when I was practicing, as an attorney, I did a lot of pro bono work for immigration cases, you know, where I took on immigration clients for free. And it was through my law firm that I was able to do that work. And there's, I think there's still a lot of unfinished work that I want to be able to do. Now. Will I do that right away right now? No, because right now, I'm in a period of growing my business, and I'm okay with that. But maybe in a couple years, my business will kind of run on autopilot where I can go back to doing that kind of work, right? And who knows, you know, I'm just I'm kind of just open to it all.

Jamila Souffrant 18:45

So you had the income to support paying off all that debt in four years, then you started aggressively investing. So income and having money in coming in? I know, for me, I was used to that. So even though I had prepared financially, and had all these backstops in my head for like, what could happen when I'm not receiving a paycheck? I will say it was still sobering to see like my savings account, like my fu money go down every month, you know. So let's talk a little bit about what that feels like. Because even though we're talking about, okay, you have your money, like, technically, you'll be okay. Emotionally, though, when you start, it can feel just daunting or demoralizing. If you've always been saving and seeing the account go up to see your account decrease. So talk about if that happened for you, and what that

Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez 19:28

felt like, yeah, it definitely happened for me. And it's happened for me actually more this year in 2022. Because I've spent most of my time this year except for like, now in q4, I spend most of my time writing my book. And so while I'm writing my book, I can't say yes. So the partnership opportunities that I would have liked to or all the speaking engagements that you know, wanted to hire me I had to turn down a lot of work because I was like, 10 toes down on to ground fully immerse in my book really since I would say fall of last year. And so I would say that experience more of the seen the savings go down like See, see my sabbatical fund decrease and and pretty quickly I might add, because life is really expensive, especially right now. You know, it has been like pretty difficult, like, I'm not gonna lie and say like, oh, yeah, I'm totally fine. I'm totally financially secure. No, absolutely not. Right? Because when you're kind of having to put pause on a lot of the work that makes you money, you know, to do this thing that has been like on your heart and you know, you want to accomplish like, for me, in my case, right in my book. Yeah, it is a little difficult, right to have to, you know, see that happen. And I think that it does go back to our struggling with our money mindsets, you know, I think we're human. I think as much as we'd love to say look, I do money coaching, right? I've been in this space for a good amount of time now and no matter how much I preach it I'm so human you know I'm not gonna lie and say that this the dramatic decrease in the stock market for the past little really this whole year has been all roses and daisies, right it hasn't and and it's all nerve racking. So I think that for me what's helped me really take calm and and keep perspective is keep my mind on well, why am I doing this? What am I doing this for? What are the opportunities that still lie ahead. And also, the fact Cindy that you don't have debt is huge. I cannot I cannot overstate how impactful not having any debt has been for me specifically in this moment. Now look, I'm not at all saying that you have to be debt free, you know, if you want to become an entrepreneur or anything like that, but I'm also I'm also from the Bronx, Jamila Sama, keep it real, not having debt, and having some reserves through an emergency fund. And if you fund a sabbatical phone, whatever it is, it does help with peace of mind. It really, really does. And that has helped me even though of course, my sabbatical fund has decreased. But now I've been able to pay myself a little bit for my business. Not a lot at all. I mean, you cannot compare what I pay myself and my business compared to what I got as an attorney like It's like apples and oranges. But there is also something quite nice to see that I have been able to pay myself a little something right, like I can cover my rent, I can cover groceries, right? I can cover expenses like that. And also that I created this, right? Like I'm paying myself from something that I created that that also feels really good.

Jamila Souffrant 22:50

Yeah, it's like the homemade or the handmade thing, being just as even more sentimental, like the sentimental value that you did this, or your child gave it to you versus like you just buying it, it just feels different. The other thing I know, that helped me is that I like seeing things in numbers. So you know, we like to go all doomsday in our head about like, oh, the numbers going down, what if I never get another time again, and like, I like I can go there, like, I'll be on the streets, my family will be on the streets like what's gonna happen, but But what I did was, so when I was making the decision to leave my job, and I had this spreadsheet, I talked about this before, the spreadsheet that created and I said, let me see the scenarios of let's say, I do quit my job, journey to launch makes no money that I'm able to then invest like I can't invest any more. And let's just say it's like three to four years of not being able to invest in our retirement account or investment account. So everything we've been doing saving and investing all this money comes to a halt, and it stops for four years or whatever amount of time. And then because we can't sustain this lifestyle, I go back to work or I find income sources somewhere else. What does that how does that impact our financial independence journey? So perhaps I'm not retiring early anymore, maybe it's the standard age, but how much money now, if we stop investing for a period of time, and because all our income is going to be used to survive and live? Versus now we started investing again, in the future, what does our portfolio look like? And then so I did, like best case scenario. So what if during this launch makes all the money and we can max out all the accounts? But what if it doesn't nothing. And so when I saw that, even if I had to take a four or five year break from investing, and both of us investing, because at the time, my husband wasn't even able to invest it there, we needed all the income to support our expenses. We still were okay. You know, we weren't as good as we would have been if we were able to keep investing, but it showed that reality and mathematically, we like standard retirement age, we'd be fine and we're doing we'd be doing better than a lot of people you know, who haven't done anything. So I think that's helpful too, is to actually do the numbers and see where you end up. And if you can live with the worst case scenario, then it's a risk potentially You can take,

Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez 25:00

yeah, I love that. And I love I love that you that you do that. I too am a fan of numbers and just being objective because I think we can get let our emotions kind of like get in the way of things. And it's like no, no, just run the numbers like, what does that actually look like? For me a big part of running my numbers is knowing well, how much do you need to survive? Like realistically? Like, how much do you need to be able to cover your rent, your groceries, your transportation, etc? You know, for me, I also helped provide financially for my parents, you know, so how much do you usually give them every month? Add that to your number. So just objectively seeing what is the minimum amount I need to survive every single month? Okay, am I bringing in at least that much? If yes, then you're doing okay. Like, keep at it, you know, just keep adding? am I investing the way that I was investing back in 2020? No, like, nowhere near am I investing that amount, okay, I, in 2020, I like maxed out my 401k I don't even have a 401k right now, you know, I was investing separately, you know, in my regular brokerage, like non retirement accounts. And I was able to do that work. But I also think it all goes back to laying the foundation, you need to do the work to lay the foundation for you, whatever that looks like. Like we all have different situations, we all have different scenarios, we all have different debt amounts, investing, you know, whether we have a partner or whatever it may be, we all have different different situations. So I think that the best thing no matter what, whether you are a new entrepreneur, or you're someone that's maybe even just toying with the idea is established, whatever financial foundation will make you comfortable to be in these kinds of scenarios. So for me, one big thing was kind of like hitting what is it called, like Coast fire, I think that's where you, like, basically, you have enough invested in your retirement accounts that if you don't ever invest like $1, again, at the traditional age of retirement, like you will be okay. I hit that, like, you know, I hit whatever that was. And so I was like, Okay, let's say I don't invest in my retirement account for the next like, couple of years. Not ideal. We love retirement accounts. And we love taking advantage of the taxes, you know, all of that, right? The tax advantage, retirement accounts, but you know, what life also happens? And so if I am not able to do that, like Cindy, are you going to be okay? And so that's kind of like when I kept things like into perspective, it was like, yeah, like, it's not too bad, just just keep going.

Jamila Souffrant 27:48

Did you know, I broke up the path to financial independence into what I call five journeyer stages. That's right, there are five stages that you have to travel through to reach complete financial independence. While you know your stage, you know what to focus on and how to move on to the next stage, I created a free one minute quiz. To help you determine what stage you're in at you take the quick quiz, you'll know where you are on your financial independence journey, the main thing you should focus on Plus, you'll get a curated list of 10 journey to launch podcast episodes to listen to, that will help you for your specific stage, go to journey to launch.com/my stage right now to take the free quiz, that journey to launch.com/my stage.

Jamila Souffrant 28:39

So you just talked about supporting family members, that you still support your parents. So what is that like? Right? So I imagine, you know, for some people listening as it was for me, and maybe for you, like you're into this world, like you are, you're learning, especially when you first started, like you're learning about all these concepts, these strategies, and it's exciting. And then you have people in your real life like they're not as they're not as intuitive, they're not as concerned and it's just not a priority for them. And or they don't have the foundation right to do that. They may be a little older, like family members. And so you're having to juggle your personal journey of doing and wanting to accomplish all the things. And then you have other people that you love and care about, or you want to also be able to do things with, and they're not necessarily on the same path. How was it like talking to your parents? What about your your parents about leaving your job, right? Because I'm sure they were very happy that their daughter was a lawyer. And they were like, Oh, I'm actually leaving right now to do my own thing. Like, how was that conversation and then even with your husband and other people around you about changing course in this way and talking about money and if they're not as interested or into it as you are?

Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez 29:45

Yeah, so I think for so for my parents. I was really scared to tell them at first because even though my parents are very loving and understanding, I mean, you know, it's no secret that I was making a lot of money as a lawyer right like that. And that that matters. It does like we might say like, oh, well, it's not a big deal. No, no, no, it is a big deal. It is a big deal, especially for an immigrant family. And it's, it is a big deal. So for me, I think that a big part of, of telling my parents was also sharing the vision to write it was sharing very clearly and very openly, I am very grateful to have a very transparent type of relationship with my parents, where my parents always knew how much money I was making, like, I was very open about that with them. And I told them what I wanted to do, I told them what I wanted to accomplish. And they were, they saw that, and at the end of the day, they just wanted me to be happy, you know, they wanted me to be happy, they wanted me to be okay. And I kind of also I did reassure them that like, things weren't going to change in terms of like, the health that I can provide. Because that, for me, has always been a priority. You know, for me, giving to my parents, and being able to provide in that way has always been the first line item in my budget. You know, I'm a big, big budgeter. I mean, it's, it's in my name, right? zero based budget, like, that's what I do, I love budgeting. And so my first line item in my budget is my parents, you know, because that is how important they are to me and my finances. And so for me, you know, thankfully, when my parents, they were super understanding, super supportive, and although, you know, it wasn't, I'm not gonna say it was like, the easiest thing in the world, it wasn't, you know, because I'm really asking them to have like, a ton of faith in me. And let's not ignore the fact that like, law school is really expensive, you know, like, I spent hundreds of 1000s on a career that right now is basically asking them to understand that I was going to take a pause from, it's a lot of that. But I also think that with the pandemic, I think my parents saw how short like life is, and how unhappy a lot of people are, with whatever situation they may be in, whether it's familial, or career wise, or whatever it may be. And so they were just like, we just want our daughter to be happy. And so I'm really, really grateful to have had their support like that, as far as my husband. I mean, he's like, one of my biggest supporters, you know, he, he still is, even in the moments where I still, can I still go through these moments, where I'm like, this isn't gonna work out, you know, I don't know what I'm doing. He is still the one that's like, no, you've got this, like, you're gonna be okay. And he also kind of is like the reality check. But for us, you know, something that obviously impacted in our family finances was that, you know, before I was, I was making significantly more right income as an attorney. And so I was putting more towards the rent, you know, and it's like, there's very practical things that happen. And that has to change when you're making a shift like this. And you have to talk about that with your partner, like, very clearly, like, so what is my portion of the rent now going to be? What are my financial obligations going to be? How are we going to handle certain expenses that come up? You know, if one of us wants to take an expensive trip, like, how are we going to, so you need to have that conversation? And I actually think you need to have it before you make the move. Right? Like, like, before you make that move, you know, whether you're married, or you're with someone that you consider to be kind of like your life partner, please have that conversation. And I would say that again, you know, now, you know, my, my husband makes a lot more than I do, you know, especially like being a pretty still new business owner. And so there are certain things that I've had to kind of like, you know, have a conversation about when it comes to certain expenses. And it's still it's still evolving, right, because I'm still, unlike him that he has like a regular salary job, I have a business that is still, quite frankly, unpredictable. And it is a lot to manage. But I think the best piece of advice I can give, you know, and I hope it's helpful to anyone listening is to be transparent, but not just be transparent, but also be willing to share the vision with those that you love. You know, the why, why are you doing this? What do you see in your future? What are you hoping to accomplish? I think that when you let people into that part of your heart as well, you'll be surprised at how supportive people can be.

Jamila Souffrant 34:17

Yeah, you brought up a couple of good, a lot of good points. But I want to pull out these is that you have to be clear, right? And sometimes you don't even know what the future holds, like you said, but you this is what you want to do. Also, what's in it for them, right? So basically, what's in it for them, the people that you love, even though you just want you of course want your family and friends to support you no matter what. And so why does it have to be what's in it for them? It just, it just makes me happy. But what's in it for them is if you love me and you're someone that I'm around a lot when I'm happier that the our world works better, because if I'm miserable, we'll all be happier. Right like and you really and then people truly care about you. They want to see you happy Be, but also what's in it for them, there is a reward like there, outside of this, you being happy, you know, the way you can frame it to a partner, spouse, children or parents is, yeah, this is what I'm doing. But if this works, we're all gonna like we're all be in a better place, because I'm gonna bring you along with me like it's so I think it's so important to share that vision. Now, you did say something where I would like to just touch upon budgeting. So I know there are some people who love budgeting like you. And there are some people like me who I budget when necessary. So when I was starting, and I wanted to invest and quit my job and do all these things, like I was on it, and because I wanted to invest and save as much as possible, now that my goals are more, they're not as money based, right now. They're more about like, these writing the book and accomplishing these things. I'm not as precise. So for someone like yourself, who loves budgeting, what would you tell someone who's trying to get into it and still has not found their groove? And what some methods that that helps? Or what's the payoff that makes you love it so much? And then maybe we can give some strategies around different types of budgets, I know you do the zero based budgeting, but let's talk about budgeting a bit more here.

Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez 36:14

Yeah, I think for someone who's kind of trying to get into it, and they're like, I'm not finding quite the sauce that works for me. I think first, a really easy way to start is just this kind of like pay yourself first method, right? Ask yourself, like, what is it that you want to pull aside for your financial goals? Whether that's investing or paying off debt or saving or saving towards your sabbatical fund, right? Like, what's the minimum amount you want to dedicate to that every single month? Just start there? Have you run those numbers? You know, and then let's say you do, right, and you have a little spreadsheet or pen of paper, and you're like, alright, Sunday for me, that number is $500 a month. Okay, fantastic. So what you should do at least, right, like, let's just get into very basics, when you get your pay, like let's say you get paid once a month, you want to immediately separate $500, from whatever you're receiving, right? Because when you do that, then you can spend whatever's left, like whatever's left is gonna go to your rent your mortgage, your groceries, whatever it is, and you can know you can rest assure that at least you've covered your money goals. First, at least you have paid yourself first, that's a good way to kind of just start getting into the groove of budgeting, because what budgeting is, honestly, it's just a plan for your finances. You know, it looks differently for everyone. And I think that then you can start into you know, another thing that that that is, and this kind of goes to the strategies that I teach my my my coaching students is to create have two checking accounts, you know, so let's say you get your paycheck, your paycheck goes into your main checking account, let's call it checking account one, okay? You've already established that each paycheck in this scenario, let's say you get paid twice a month, right? Most people I think probably get paid twice a month. And so you set aside immediately when you get that first paycheck, what happens 250 goes to your goals, you put that aside into your savings account that has like your emergency fund, and, and all those things, whatever you're saving for. And now you have the money in your main checking account, and then you have checking account number two, you can go ahead and transfer it to a checking account number two, which can be kind of like your bill, pay account, how much you need for your mortgage, your cell phone, your Spotify bill, your cable bill, your electric bill, like the things that we need, right? Put that money in there. And now you in your main checking account, do as you please, you know, you are budgeting there. Now, it looks a little different than how I budget, right? Because there what you're doing is you're really using bank accounts as your budget system, right? Like you are, boom, a paycheck is hitting, you're sending 250 to savings, you're sending, let's say 1000 to your bill, pay checking account and the rest that's in your main checking account is for you to do as you please for you to go dining out shopping, Amazon target, you know, all the fun things right? For me, the way that I budget, I use a zero based budget. So what it is, is a budgeting method where you allocate you give a plan, you give a job for every single dollar that you bring in. So as an example, let's say you bring in $4,000 a month, you're going to create a budget where you're budgeting out all of those $4,000 So for me my budget looks like at the top the very very top I have you know like savings or investing. Then I have my expenses which I have like the first line item like I said it's true. It's my parents, you know, it's like I budget a certain amount to give my parents every single month by the way children of immigrants I also think that's an excellent way to establish healthy boundaries, when it comes to your finances is to be very intentional and very Be clear about how much money you're giving your parents, right. So that's what I do. And then I go ahead and I put like my rent my cell phone bill, you know, I pay for my cell phone bill, which is for both my husband and I phone, you know, and kind of break it down that way. And then at the end, you're left with zero. That's because it's a zero based budget, you've given a job to every single dollar that you bring in. Now, I love this budget method for someone that's super detail oriented, maybe a little crazy, like me, right? Like, I love the details, I live for the details, you know, and if that's you, then you're my kind of people, I love it, right. But if you're like, Cindy, I'm gonna keep it real girl, that is not me, I don't want to budget every single dollar, that's a little crazy, that's a little too extra for me. Well, then you go with another budget method, for example, the 5030 20 budget, it's a very straightforward budget that says 50% of your income, your 50% of your paycheck goes to your needs, you know, your necessities, your rent, and groceries, 30% of it goes to your wants, you know, shopping and clothes dining out, and then 20% goes to your financial goals, it's a pretty easy rule of thumb to establish, which is I think the reason why a lot of people like it, because it's just it's very clear cut. And so that's, that's another method available to you. And then the other one that I like to recommend, this is kind of the one that I was first talking about, which is the reverse budget, right? This kind of like pay your self first budget where you're very intentionally first putting money towards your own goals. And then you're kind of break leaving the rest to spending. And I think that whatever way works for you, or maybe you make up one on your own, just stick to it, right, like just take the time to really appreciate the method that you've chosen to track your spending if it's necessary for the budget method that you choose. But even if it's not, and you're new to this budget game, I highly recommend a 30 day spending challenge to anyone listening to this, who has not really tried budgeting, maybe you've been hesitant. This is why I recommend the 30 day step spending challenge. Well, first, what is it, all it is is that for 30 days, you're going to write down on a pen and paper, especially whatever it is that you that you want every single day, you at the end of the day, you are going to ask yourself, What did I spend money on? Where and maybe even how do I feel about it? Right? So for example, you can say on October 1, I went to Trader Joe's and I spent $85 on groceries. Fantastic. You know, how do I feel about it? Well, good because I needed to eat right? Or, or maybe you're looking at it and you're like, Ah, I don't know, maybe I spent too much on snacks, right? Because Trader Joe's is like the king of snacks. I mean, we already know, all this,

Jamila Souffrant 42:48

oh my gosh, too many options, too many good options.

Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez 42:51

Right? And so you at the end of the 30 Day Challenge. The reason why you want to do this is because first of all, it's going to tell you where your money is going. It's gonna give you a very honest, I mean, you can't get more honest in that it's your own numbers telling you where you are putting your money on it in any given month. Um, but also it's going to show you you know, how do you feel about these purchases? Do these purchases make you feel good? Are they maybe do you made me feel any guilt around them? And that's so important to understand how you are as a spender first, before you become a budgeter, right? Because before you become someone that is good with planning where their money is going, you have to know how you've spent your money. What is your style? What is your attitude like? And I think a big reason why I am so passionate about the zero based budget specifically Jamila is because and I tell people this and they're always surprised, is because I'm a spender. Naturally, I'm a spender. I love spending money, I find joy and I love all the pretty things and experiences and gift giving is my love language. I love giving people gifts. And so I've seen no problems with spending money, and my bank account is like girl writing it, which is why for me specifically, I do like the zero base budget because it is so specific. And so I get to be a little bit more intentional.

Jamila Souffrant 44:18

So many good budgeting tips. Hope you're taking notes. And that's why I also love about like, you know, there's budgeters who are super frugal and simple, which are fine. What I love about you is that you'll show like oh like you'll, you'll buy luxury items still you'll show that how you budgeted for it, you know outfit of the day like I just feel like it shows a different way that you can still be financially responsible, but spendy right like and and it gives you peace of mind. So I will say that sometimes the guilt that we feel or the shame or not knowing where we are is most of the burden was mentally when it comes to our finances like you're thinking am I eating out too much like I don't but it's just cuz you don't know. But if you want to know, like, Hey, I have $250 or 300, whatever you give yourself within your budget to spend on eating out or take out Uber or whatever, you know, that as you're going along that you know what I am gonna go by, you know, I'm not gonna cook tonight, I'm gonna go buy that, but it's in my budget, I can do that versus what's happening for a lot of people is they don't know that they can do that. And they're doing it anyway. And they're like DAG, like, I don't know if I should be doing this. It's uncomfortable,

Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez 45:26

where you're like, oh, like, should I have done that? And so for me, a big thing is that my and I and I like to say is that my budget allows me to unapologetically spent on what I value. And it's, it's true, because, you know, for example, I recently went to Paris with with my husband, we went to Lisbon, Monaco nice. And we ended with Paris. And I knew that I wanted a designer bag, that is something that I knew I had it on my list. And, you know, the euro was like one to one with $1. So I'm like, This is my moment, like, this is my moment to save a lot of money on, you know, a bag that I've had my eye on. And so I had separated in my bag fund. Well, I actually call it the Cindy fund in the Cindy fund. I had, like $2,400, or something like that I had it separated. So when I went into the store, and I saw a bag that was say, $4,000, I was like, No, this isn't in my plan. It's not just like, oh, I don't have the money for this. No, it's not that is that this is not part of my plan. This is not part of my budget. So because you're out of my budget, I'm not going to purchase you, you know, and I looked at my options. And thankfully, due to again, the Euro being pretty low with which I understand my Europe friends you're not happy about and the VAT refunds that you know, you can get like you can get kind of like a tax rebate sort of I was able to spend within my budget. And not only did I get myself a bag, but I also got myself a wallet.

Jamila Souffrant 47:02

I love it. But again, the plan allows you to spend and you got to figure out what works for you. And again, you may be in a season of your life where something works one way and now you're in a different season where you're getting to choose another method, you don't have to stick to one. And so it's important just to note that so I let the force be with all my budget errs or people who want a budget that are still figuring it out. There's still hope. Now Cindy, talk a little bit about this book and writing it and just like having your now thoughts and words become something tangible in a physical form that you're excited, I'm sure to share with everyone.

Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez 47:44

Yeah, so. So my book is overcoming that achieving financial freedom eight pillars to build wealth. And I wrote this book, I first of all, I always had this book in my head. I always had it in my head. And I think us like you know, personal finance educators, we all have a book in our head. But our books all look differently, right? Like my book, I knew I wanted to write it from the perspective of a first gen Latina, you know, from the perspective of the daughter of immigrants from the perspective of someone that was born and raised in a very low income community in an urban neighborhood, like in the Bronx. And I wanted to write it from my perspective, because I did not see anything like it. You know, if you go to the bookstores, you very, very rarely see books written. In the first instance, I'm talking about, like any books, you very rarely see books written by people of color, by children of immigrants, by immigrants themselves. Now let's go into the business and finance and economics section of the bookstore, you're not going to find it. It's sad, but you're not you're going to find maybe a couple, you know, and I and there are more in the past couple of years that have popped up and I love it. And it makes me very happy. And I do financially support those books, like I buy those books, because I want bookstores to realize that these books sell and that these stories are worth sharing. And for me when I first started my journey, you know, to financial freedom. I went to the bookstores and I found just I'm going to keep it real with you again, I found a lot of books written by old white men. And and I bought some of those books and I bought them because well what else was gonna fly like I needed, I needed some resources. And I'm really happy that in the past few years, more books have been written by women and or women of color. But I don't think the work is not done yet though. I mean, like, like, we need so much more representation and something I didn't find was, you know, stories like mine, and so I wrote my book, because I wanted to do a few things I wanted to first share my story. I wanted to share in a very Be authentic way, I wanted to share parts of my childhood that have molded me as an adult. Today I want to share about my experiences of going to college and realizing when I was filling out the financial aid forms, that my family was actually poor, like, according to the government, my family was very much on the federal poverty line and kind of like, just just how I navigated all of that, how I navigated financial aid, how I navigated law school, you know, I started law school, and I realized that like, oh, so this is what rich people look like, this is what they sound like, what a new world for me. And then, you know, from that to, you know, becoming a young attorney, and everything that kind of came with that starting my business, I didn't want to share my story. But I wanted the meat of the book, which is the eight pillars, right, the eight chapters, I wanted to I wanted them to dive into the personal finance topics that I so wish someone would have taught me when I graduated high school, when I graduated college, when I graduated law school. If someone would have given me this book at my law school graduation, it would have saved me from so many hours of Googling, you know, it's kind of this all in one on, let's talk about debt. Let's talk about investing. Let's talk about conscious consumerism. There's a whole chapter in my book on conscious consumerism, because, you know, a lot of times people hear that or, you know, if you follow me on social media, you see that I do like spending money I do, you know, and I like nice things. But I like doing things from a very mindful perspective. And when did consumerism, this consumerism as we know it, when did it start in America? was kind of the history on that? How has it impacted our finances today? No, I go into that, how can you become a more conscious consumer credit, budgeting, saving, you know, increasing your income, because as much as we can talk about, you need to budget and you need to save and you need to invest? You also need money to do those things. Right. So how can we successfully negotiate at work? How can we start our own business? What does a rough picture of a business plan even look like? I include those things in my book, you know, and at the end of the book, I include the last chapter is a very simple kind of like checklist roadmap, right? Where for each topic, it's kind of just goes through very simply, you know, a checklist and provides templates for people to use. The reason why I want to structure my book that way, is because I want to meet people where they are. So if you're just starting the journey, this is going to serve you well, because, again, the financial freedom journey is very long. I believe it's lifelong, right. And so to have something at the outset, I think, is going to serve people very well. But I also think that people that are on that road currently, like maybe you've already paid off some debt, maybe you've already opened your first investment account, maybe now you're getting curious about starting to invest for your children, right, those people as well, how can I meet them? Well, I can meet them with this sort of a resource that hopefully will live on your bookshelf that after you read it, you can go back to you can be like, Wait, what was it that Cindy said again, about like credit cards and credit card rewards? What was it that she said again, about those two, like big debt payoff methods and how they look like, and the book is also full of examples, you know, so I actually in the book, I use my friends names, in the examples that I share in the book. Because, again, my friends names are all, you know, very diverse and very inclusive. I think just that alone, I think that little element of representation is really important to us. But also, I think it gives us a clearer picture, right? There's one thing to say like, this is what credit is, and this is these are the five factors that make up your credit score, that's one thing, but to use an example that will illustrate for you and make the reader see oh, that's how I can get my credit score up. You know, those things, I think are just that much more impactful. So my book is my love letter to my community. It really is. It's a compilation of all these years of work. It's a compilation of trust me when I say hundreds and hundreds of hours of writing, and research, and I do hope that it is the kind of thing that not only that you pick up, and that brings joy and value to you, but something that you feel will bring that value to someone else.

Jamila Souffrant 54:41

Yes, I can't wait for everyone to grab this book. So Cindy, please tell everyone where they can find more about you and pick up a copy of the book.

Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez 54:50

Yeah, so you can I'm most active on Instagram. I'm at zero base budget, no spaces. And then my website you can check it out. It's zero dash based budget. dot com slash book. And there you'll find all the information on my book where you can order it. It's available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble target. You can also support local independent bookstores through bookshop. So if you go to bookshop, they will have their you know, you can pop in my title. And you can actually also choose what bookstore you want to support, like independent bookstores, including, you know, black and Latino and Asian owned bookstores, which I think is really amazing. So yeah, you know, it's something exciting. It's this new chapter in my story, right of being a published author, something I never really thought whatever happened, and it's here and now I get to share it with the world and it is truly It's truly been the honor of my life.

Jamila Souffrant 55:48

No, I can't wait to see it in the world. And thank you so much again, Cindy.

Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez 55:53

Thank you, Jamila.

Jamila Souffrant 55:57

Oh, don't forget, we are giving away a copy of this week's guest book. So if you want your chance to win, go to journey to launch.com/win for more details, and make sure you're following me at journey to launch on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Outro 56:13

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

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Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez, Esq., founder of Zero-Based Budget and new author of “Overcoming Debt, Achieving Financial Freedom Book: 8 Pillars to Build Wealth,” joins the Journey To Launch podcast to discuss her upcoming book and quitting law to pursue entrepreneurship.

We talk about how she was able to achieve Coast FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early), leave her law firm to run her business full-time, and the importance of being transparent about your money and your vision with those you love and value.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • How Cindy took a balanced approach when paying off her $200k law school degree in 4 years
  • The difficult decision Cindy had to make between practicing law and running her business + money transparency when choosing to be self-employed 
  • Why you need “back up” funds to mitigate risk + take worst case scenarios into consideration if you’re deciding to leave a secure job
  • Budgeting strategies and techniques you can use to transform your finances (even if you don’t like budgeting)
  • What a career-shift conversation needs to look like with your partner and loved ones + more
I'm Listening to Episode 295 of the Journey to Launch Podcast, Life After Debt, Achieving Financial Freedom & Quitting Law For Full-Time Entrepreneurship With Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez Share on X

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