How Tracy Paid Off $170K Of Debt, Why We Need More Queer Voices In The FIRE Movement & Being Open About Privilege

Episode Number: 296

Episode 296- How Tracy Paid Off $170K Of Debt, Why We Need More Queer Voices In The FIRE Movement & Being Open About Privilege

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How Tracy Paid Off $170K Of Debt, Why We Need More Queer Voices In The FIRE Movement & Being Open About Privilege


Tracy Levesque 0:03

It's really important for folks to know that queer folks do have financial concerns that straight sis folks just don't have when you have a child like you have to second parent adopt the child. That's one example of like a financial costs that like other people don't have is like even if a straight couple uses donor sperm, they still just put each other's names on the birth certificate nuts that you don't have to do a second parent adoption

Intro 0:30

T-minus 10 seconds. Welcome to the journey to launch podcast with your host jameelah. So frogs as a money expert who rocks her car, 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 2:00

If you want the episode show notes for this episode, go to journey to 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 that comm slash jumpstart to get your guide right now. Okay, let's hop into the Episode

Jamila Souffrant 2:42

Hey God yours Welcome to the journey to launch podcast I am going to be speaking to someone who I hope that you'll love just as much as I am, even though Tracy never really spoke before but I feel like just I feel the vibes online from what you've done so far. And I just can't wait to just explore more with you and have the other journeyers because I know you're a junior to listen in. So let me introduce Tracy Tracy avec is the co owner and co founder of yikes Inc. A web development agency located in the vibrant Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, certified women and LGBT owned yikes is also a proud B Corporation focused on sustainable business practices and observing the triple bottom line people planet and profit. And I'll just do like a more informal introduction. The way I came across are no of Tracy's because so I Twitter's I think the first place I saw you, Tracy, and you would always retweet and give like thoughtful commentary about some of the episodes. As you I guess were listening to it. And then you had a blog post, which I thought like, blew me away because Tracy wrote a blog post about all the things she learned from binge listening to the entire catalogue of the journey to launch podcast. So Tracy listened to every episode, I think you did it from start to finish.

Tracy Levesque 4:01

from episode one, all the way through, I listened to almost nothing else.

Jamila Souffrant 4:05

Oh my gosh, not only did she do that, but she took the time to write a blog post about it and gave some very thoughtful takeaways. I was just so impressed. Because it's like, I told her before, like, don't be nervous talking to me. I'm just me. And so I'm always a surprise when you know, when people view journey to launch and myself this way. And I know that you've also been able to accomplish some amazing things with your finances, and you're still on the journey yourself. So I thought it'd be perfect to bring you on the show and talk more. So welcome to the podcast, Tracy.

Tracy Levesque 4:35

Oh my gosh, thank you so much. This is like a dream come true. I can't believe this is happening actually, like, you know, I was the most I was hoping that you would maybe read it. And you'd be like, Oh, that's nice and move on. But the fact that here I am now I'm just amazed.

Jamila Souffrant 4:50

Okay. So tell me first how you found out about the podcast itself and then how you yourself got on this financial journey?

Tracy Levesque 4:59

Sure. I'll start from the beginning. So since my late 20s, I've been into finances and all started because I think I saw Suze Orman on Oprah. And then I read her book, The Nine Steps to financial freedom. And it absolutely changed the trajectory of my life. So I started a very, you know, traditional conservative, work until your can't work anymore, save in your retirement accounts, and maybe someday you'll be able to enjoy like all your hard work. And then I also listened to life kit, the podcast life kit, and Tiffany the budget nista elite, Jay was a guest. So after that, I bought her book and read the book. And that's the first book that introduced me to the term fire. And when I first heard that term, I was like, I had this visceral like, that's not responsible. That's not possible feeling. And it kind of scared me a little bit, but I was intrigued. And so I want to learn more. And then you were a guest on an episode of frugal living. And you mentioned fire. And so then I sought out your podcast, and I was just hooked from episode one. And then I listened to all the episodes until I caught up.

Jamila Souffrant 6:10

Wow. And so you were curious. And but what I love too, is just and this is what I say like if you're a curious person, even if you don't always like agree right away, but you're curious and you're willing to listen, you know, as long as it's not harmful content, like I just feel like you just never know, where you might actually agree with something or learn something, you can use your benefit. I think that's a superpower that some people just don't have.

Tracy Levesque 6:30

Right? I think you need to lean in the things that scare you. Because it'll open up your mind. You have to keep an open mind to things that are like you said, not harmful.

Jamila Souffrant 6:39

Yeah, yeah. Okay. So I would love to dive deeper into your backstory a bit. You know, you had filled out a questionnaire about just like your history, because I like to get that information. So I like have a basis of how we chat. And you mentioned your mom and dad, but you mentioned your mom and like she blew me away with like what you wrote about her. So can you just give me a background of like her coming here and like what she was able to accomplish and how that impacted you on your financial journey?

Tracy Levesque 7:04

Sure. So my mom is from the Philippines. And she moved here when she was like 23 years old. And she became med med tech, which isn't a super high paying job. It's like a decent job. But she she would watch TV and or listen to the radio and hear about the Dow Jones Dow Jones is up the downdraft is down. And she loves to tell the story. She'll tell the story in a minute. And she's like, what's the Dow Jones and so she looked into it, she went to the library looked into it. And also she saw it advertised on TV like this 10 course guide to the stock market. So instead of buying it, I think she took it out of the library and had my dad photocopy it at his job. I just get that got that new tidbit. And then she just taught herself the stock market. And she has made a lot of money in the stock market. She was very, very successful. So she didn't sit my brother died down to teach us about the stock market. I think she tried once, but we aren't paying attention. But what I learned from her was, money was not something to be afraid of money was something to make work for you. And that had that lasted with me. And I think that's you know why I am the way I am today?

Jamila Souffrant 8:17

Yeah, it is it like a fascinating how like, so I My mom also immigrated here and she was 20. And I know like you know, they didn't they didn't have the internet back then. And so she was able to find resources and make her way in like a country she had no real connections or leverage in like she she said she used to look through the Yellow Pages, find information the old fashioned way. And let's think about how much of a privilege we have now like in our generation of what our kids have, and how much easier and just more accessible information is.

Tracy Levesque 8:49

Right? I think when my mom wanted to make a trade, she actually had to call somebody and they had to do it for her and now we just Robinhood on your phone, you can make a trade like that. Or Schwab, you just hit a button on your phone and you've made a trade or you can automate the whole thing.

Jamila Souffrant 9:03

Yeah, so okay, you learned you had this great foundation even though you didn't you weren't trading stocks yourself. But you had this great basis of what was possible.

Tracy Levesque 9:11

Right? I had like a growth mindset. My mom gave me a growth mindset not a scarcity mindset and not like not that money was something to be afraid of. And something you don't talk about. How did you

Jamila Souffrant 9:24

guys manage money growing up? Was it something where you that like you said there was no scarcity of it? Did you have the latest things or was it more low key instill with the investing mindset that you saw growing up?

Tracy Levesque 9:38

It was super low key. So my mom comes from the Philippines. My dad is a Jewish guy from the Bronx. So they come they both come from very modest backgrounds, and they never felt the need to show off wealth. And we were never spoiled. We're spoiled in like learning like if we wanted music lessons See that kind of thing like encouragement and like education and learning, but we were not spoiled with things. And I really appreciate that too, like a modest lifestyle, you know, frugal, but not, you know, but comfortable. Like, I never felt like, like I needed anything, or I never had that feeling of like, I'm losing out on something or missing out on anything.

Jamila Souffrant 10:23

Which I'd like to say I brought that up specifically, because I feel a lot of times parents or, you know, people who have children in their lives feel like if they, that the material things like if they can't do certain things, or they can't do better than they were given. They're not doing well enough. And I just like think of you and you know, we'll get more into your story about how you're doing now and like myself, where you realize that your children like actually like, even though in the moment, maybe saying no to certain things like cause some disappointment. But I felt like this is the true wealth, like the growth mindset, passing on wealth that way, or being a good example. And splurging on education, what if you can, and taking your kid to the library, like you don't know how far that can take your child? And if that's what you're able to do? And all you can do like that is more? Like that's enough. That's more than enough.

Tracy Levesque 11:12

Right? Like understanding the value of an experience versus a thing. Like, I'm really glad that I had a foundation of that. And I tried to do that for my own kids now.

Jamila Souffrant 11:21

Yeah. All right. So how so as you graduate, or you're in college, what did you major in, in college? And then what did you go on to do for as a career,

Tracy Levesque 11:31

I was a really terrible student, which is hard when you have like an Asian mom, I didn't, it did not fit like what she had, you know, imagine for me to like, go to Princeton and be a doctor and marry a doctor, a man doctor. Instead, she got like, you know, a creative lesbian daughter. And so I went to temple, and I am super, super, super lucky that my parents were able to pay for my education. It was very affordable temples very affordable at the time. And I graduated with a radio TV film degree. And then I worked at the local PBS station for a little bit. But while that was happening, I had a real interest in computers. So I was really interested in like, early internet, we're talking before the internet even had a graphical user interface. It was all just text. And then I met my wife when I was 22. And the two of us also like computers, and we met met another woman who was also super into computers. And the three of us started making teaching ourselves like HTML and learning to make websites. And we started making websites for nonprofits that we were involved with. And then the three of us were like, Hey, we do this for free, we should start a business. And so we just did. And so we still own that business to this day Web Development Agency.

Jamila Souffrant 12:51

And but with information, I mean, even though it was probably better than when your mom was looking, you know, through the yellow pages, or having to call around how did you know what to how to start a business? And how long ago was this? To give us contact?

Tracy Levesque 13:03

This was 95, I'd say we 9495 We started as a partnership. And then in 1996, we incorporated

Jamila Souffrant 13:13

and was it profitable from the very start, like how did you get your first client and start building the business? Because it's still it's you'd like you said, it's so you still have it today?

Tracy Levesque 13:23

Yeah, it was proper from the start. We completely bootstrapped the business. We never like, you know, got funding, I think we got a loan or two, you know, here and there along the way, but we were able to pay this off early. And I don't know, we just we just hustled, I guess in the beginning, I remember, you know, just having the energy to be able to work nights and weekends, and you know, the entrepreneur, hustle, it's, it's tough, but we just, you know, we were really focused on customer service. I really like helping people understand computer stuff, because it can be scary. And, you know, just being like your friendly computer company, and bridging that gap, that technology gap.

Jamila Souffrant 14:00

Right? And what about also I know you real estate is a part of your portfolio. So how did you get into real estate? And how does that play into what you're doing now?

Tracy Levesque 14:10

So fast forward from 96 to 2010. The business was in our house, and then we had an actual office, and then our office The rent was being raised. And so And by this time, it was just me and I who own the my wife, Mia and I own the business. And we're like well, you know, we should look for a building to maybe something a nice little building with a storefront for the office and a couple apartments up top. So we started looking, and then I found two completely abandoned, dilapidated buildings that had one of the buildings have like a hole water damage all the way from the roof all the way down to the basement, just a hole going through the whole thing. They were two buildings for apartments too. You storefronts. I just fell in love. Like, this is the weirdest one I want I want to do this I want to do LEED Platinum rehab and if anybody is familiar with LEED, it's like a sustainable certification for buildings for green building. So like, I want this project, this is what I want to do. And then me it was like, Can we find something like you just move right into? It was easy. Like she like I had to do like convincing. But I hustled, I went to every bank that would talk to me, I applied to every program. I think I won, like, six grants to do this project. And we did it. We were the first LEED Platinum mixed use rehab in Pennsylvania.

Jamila Souffrant 15:38

Oh, wow. And they were connecting properties, or they were separate. Okay,

Tracy Levesque 15:44

I'm, I'm in I'm in one right now.

Jamila Souffrant 15:46

Oh, wow. So again, how long ago was this

Tracy Levesque 15:48

is this 2010. And then we moved down to moved in in 2011. And while I was able to secure two banks, so a primary lender, and then a secondary lender, which is also like a program with the City, Philadelphia, who supports small businesses, we also had to put our own money in. And as you're getting towards the end of the project, you know how construct any construction project scope creep comes in, things just kind of like spiraled out of control. And we wound up having to, like, put a lot of our own money that we didn't have. So alone for my brother, we maxed out six credit cards, we took out two, you know, lines of credit, we had a home equity line of credit, so we're just maxed out and I am so anti debt. Up until that point in my life, I had never had any debt except for our home mortgage. And so we made it real, like, yes, we made it. But now I had a giant pile of debt. It was like over $100,000 in debt. So I also have another blog post about how I paid all that debt off in 10 years.

Jamila Souffrant 16:54

Oh, well, we'll definitely like that. But I'd love for you to give some just tidbits of how you did that. Right. Like, so for someone who was that adverse, you get this opportunity, where it's like, okay, but this you could see it as an investment, like how, how, once you had that debt, what did you do to get rid of it.

Tracy Levesque 17:13

So the first thing you do is make a spreadsheet because I love making a spreadsheet. And I had every single debt, you know, debtor that I that we owed, and I made a list, the amount owed the credit line, if applicable. And then the interest rate. And then just as aggressively as possible, paid off the highest interest rate loans. And then when we got things down to like a little bit more reasonable. I started using zero balance transfers. So I would do a 00 balance transfer and apply it to one and then aggressively pay it off, pay that off and then do it again. Until like it was like six credit cards, five credit cards for credit cards. And it took me 10 years, but in the pandemic, I finally paid the whole thing off and it felt just amazing. So and another thing is I borrowed money from my brother, which people should never do that, right. Never lend or borrow money from a family members. So because that's the thing that like so many friends like you know, they'll never see that money again. I made it my priority to pay him back. And so that that felt the best when I finally made that last payment to him like that, that felt good. And I paid little extra after that. And then any money that came into our lives tax refund a bonus. Any bonus money just threw it at the debt throughout the debt. And we live really frugally for those 10 years. We didn't take big vacations. We didn't buy anything, you know make any huge purchases, like we just anything that was going wrong with our house that we lived in is kind of ignored it, you know, until all that debt was gone. And then we did buy these buildings, right. So the rents as you know, rental income start coming in from the buildings. We also use that to pay down the debt. So at the end of the day, I think was this worth it, right? Like, all that time that we were paying all this debt, we could have been maxing out our Roth's we could have maxing out our you know, IRAs. It could have been just like saving like building our emergency fund and whatever. And yeah, I think it is worth it because the neighborhood that we bought in is a really hot neighborhood now a fish town like I guess it's kind of like the Greenpoint, Brooklyn maybe of Philadelphia. And it like Forbes named like America's hottest new neighborhood in 2018. And the building's appraise it like $1.38 million when we did a refi last summer, and we are able to refi and get rid of that subordinate lender and just have one lender at a lower interest rate. And so our debt service per month is like lower. So yes, it wasn't worth and also, you know, I got to like, do something good in Philadelphia, I love Philadelphia so much. I love that city, as well take buildings that were abandoned and make them beautiful, and then not just rip them down and put up something new and it doesn't fit with the neighborhood, I was able to do a green rehab, like we have solar panels on the roof. You know, everything is like super efficient. So I was able to get back to the city I love. So yeah, I think it was worth it.

Jamila Souffrant 20:32

And so it took you 10 years to do that. So how did you stay the course and you have a partner, right? So your wife is also involved in this journey with you? How did you not get discouraged? Because a lot of people right now are within that right now. And it will take, you know, they may be just starting and they're looking forward, like it's going to take me so long. So how did you enjoy it? How did you stay focus or just withstand the journey?

Tracy Levesque 20:55

Well, I mean, like, you always say that you have to enjoy the journey. And, you know, for me, like I like to enjoy all, all the times in my life, like a lot of people saying like, either their best days were in high school, or their best days are ahead of them. It's like I want to enjoy, like every moment, no matter where I'm at. And so, you know, I've made choices in my life to do that, like, living where I live. Making sure like, like having lots of friends in my life, like still doing things having hobbies like this, everything in my life brings me joy. So no matter debt, or no debt, I'm still enjoying life. But that was hard. Like mentally, it was hard. I really didn't like having it by just stayed the course, we stayed very just focused on getting that paid off. And you know, when things also come your way, it's like we had to replace our water heater. We had bats in our roof and had the leg get, you know, the bats the bad guy to come in, like, get rid of the bat. So there were still other expenses during those 10 years. But we just stayed focused.

Jamila Souffrant 21:57

Were you still investing? I heard you said you, you could have been doing more with investing, but you chose to kind of go all in on debt. So what was your perspective or stance on investing? While you were doing that, and what is it now.

Tracy Levesque 22:09

So while we are paying off the debt, we didn't max out everything, we are still contributing a little bit, like $50 a month, something like that. And we still had, you know, our pre tax accounts at work, not maxed out, but still contributing, still contributing the entire time. And I swear the months that we paid, we paid off all the debt, we started maxing out everything again. So max out our Roth max out or simple contributed up to our contribution to our kids 529 account. And one money moves that we made. This year it was we started an HSA, for our business in Mexico. So we're all in now now that like we're done with the death part, we're like, into the like saving for retirement part.

Jamila Souffrant 22:53

And I love that you didn't you know, you while you may have pulled back on investing, you didn't stop completely, which is just important to note, because I do think even if you are aggressively in the stage of paying off debt, you can still invest it doesn't have you know, you don't have to max it out. You don't have to put in 1000s of dollars, but anything counts. So any little bit counts.

Tracy Levesque 23:11

I agree. Like I think, you know, the philosophy of like, if you have debt, and the debt has a high interest rate, like why invest at all because you know, the math doesn't work out. But for me, the math does work out because it's time, right? It's like the biggest grower of wealth is time. If you're not taking advantage of that time, even a little bit, I think you're gonna you're gonna lose out on a lot.

Jamila Souffrant 23:34

And so you're already financially savvy, I'd say and like aware, and then you find out about the financial independence movement. So this like adds a layer I always like to say like, you know, I also knew about like being the basics of money before I found out about the fire movement. But finding out about it, like opened up a whole new world like it, it was almost just like, Alright, sure, like get out of debt, be debt free and contribute the 15% to your retirement account, like that's your goal. And then wait, there's another level to this where potentially I can stop working before the standard retirement age, like what is this? So I know you said it was uncomfortable at first, but what made you like how did your mind start to change about it? How did you start to realize that potentially this could be a path you would travel on?

Tracy Levesque 24:21

I think fundamentally and this came from your podcast, was the people in my life that I had listened to up until that point. We're like Suze Orman, you know, it's a very like, what's the word? You know, like, my mom is like, stereotypical Asian tiger mom. So it wasn't like a lovey dovey, you know, like relationship and it wasn't like a you can do it like, you know, was more like a scolding. Strict, like, a way of kind of being supportive and Suze Orman is a greatest I don't want to you know, diss her at all. But you She's kind of the same way. It's also like, Suzy Smackdown. And like, That's so wrong. It's not even funny, like just this kind of strict teaching. And I thought I respond well to that because the way I was raised, but then when I started listening to you, and there was a quote that you said, you're it was the REIT episode. And you're like, one thing I can say about journeyers is they're smart. And, you know, and I'm like, Wow. You know, there's another way to be supportive, you know, you can be like, you can do this, you're smart, I'm gonna, I'm gonna give you this information, but I'm gonna let you make your up your own mind. And I'm like, wow, it is encouraging when people are supportive from like, a loving place. And it's actually like, changed the way that I might attitude as a parent to. And my wife is like, the, you know, the, the sweet one, and I'm like, the strict one. But like, I should be more sweet too. But you know, that just completely opened up my mind. It's like, people can make their own decisions. It's like I can, it's like, it is doable. It's possible. I also listened to Susie's podcast religiously, and she gave like advice that you should work until you're 70. And now having my eyes open, I'm like working to yours. Oh, my goodness, you know, like, I'm 52. Let's all you know, be realistic. I'm probably over halfway down my life, which is really scary to think about. If I'm lucky, maybe I'm at the halfway mark. But I don't want to spend like, you know, 30 more years working, where it's, you know, 20 more years working, I'm gonna enjoy my life. And just also I read your money or your life, which I learned about from your podcast, and the concept of like, you're exchanging your life energy. You know, for work, it's like you're dedicating your life for work instead of your life, really. And I'm like, I don't, I don't want to do that anymore. It's like, I've done things in my life to improve my life. Like, we stopped drinking last year, I exercise regularly. I tried to get good sleep. But what is the one thing that stresses me out more than those other things is work. It's like work seeps, especially when you own your own business, and you're responsible for people's mortgages and people's rent, you know, and well being it's like, it seeps into my vacation time it sleeps into the time when I should be completely engaged in focus with my kid, you know, this permeates everything. I'm like, I don't, I don't want to do this until I'm 70. So that was such an eye opener.

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Jamila Souffrant 28:29

Let's talk a little bit about entrepreneurship because you've been doing this now for a while and you have like a official business, you have employees. And while it's your own business, so you're in a field that you are skilled at and that you like doing and you're the boss of the business like so it's still not something you want to do forever. And you know, I think defining are talking a little bit about work here may be helpful for people because and I know that there are some people who have started their own business. And that is like they can do that forever. Like they love it. They can wake up and do it every day. And I've spoken to people who who feel that way. But even with me, I kind of have been saying this on, you know, in different interviews here and there. It's just like, I love what I do with journey to launch. Like, I don't want to be doing anything else. I love to what it has given me the flexibility. But I don't want to do this. You know, I'm still on my path to early, hopefully early retirement and financial independence. So how do you think about that, like, you're doing something, you created your own business, but that's still not something that wants to you, you want to keep doing forever?

Tracy Levesque 29:28

No, the hustle is real, right? It's hard. You know, the, the stress of working for someone else. And is is one thing, like and I have to admit I prefer the stress of owning my own business to working for someone else and working a job that I'm not happy at. However, it's it's hard. It's like you, you know, especially with an agency like ours where you have to continually be bringing in clients and then getting the work done and out the door. And after like you know it's gonna be like 25 years. I'm bad at math. 26 years of doing this, I'm tired. You know, I love the work. I do love. I love the people I work with. I love our clients, like I enjoy technology. I love web development. But I don't want to do this forever. I want to I want the freedom to enjoy my life. It's like those moments that my wife and I get to be on vacation. And we just get up. We're like, what do you want to do today? I don't know, let's go here. Let's go there. And like we go to a farmers market like buy ingredients or what we want to cook that day. It's like simple freedom of being able to do what you want with your day. I want that all the time. Someday.

Jamila Souffrant 30:39


Tracy Levesque 30:39

Soon. soonish

Jamila Souffrant 30:41

sooner rather than later. But you know, I know you're still doing the work that you need to so so now you're investing and you're you switch, right. And that's the beauty of paying off like debt is that you now get to decide where your money goes, like it goes to now fund or invest in the things that will help you. Since you paid it off. And you're investing more? Are there things that you're doing more with your money to enjoy in the moment? Like, are you trying to take more vacations? Like have you come to the point where instead of waiting, let's say I don't know your time horizon yet for retirement, but let's just say it's still 10 years out? Are you trying to bring more of that enjoyment to today? So like taking more time off? Is that possible vacations? Like how are you balancing that?

Tracy Levesque 31:18

Yeah, I think just like simple vacations, like, you know, if our kid goes to summer camp, and he's away at summer camp for a week or two, then we'll like go somewhere and just like get an Airbnb and enjoy life and like, do whatever we want. Now, here's another little thing that I didn't talk about yet we have fire during the pandemic in June of 2020. And we had a complete gut rehab of our house. So while insurance paid for a lot of it, we did put our own money in so we do have a little debt from that that we're paying off. But it's not the you know, the huge debt like we had for the buildings, but so just enjoying our house too, because now our house is amazing. And I feel like I'm in a fancy Airbnb every day. So enjoying our house. Just like you know, we have community garden, like I enjoyed doing that kind of thing. So just enjoying life. But we've maxed out like everything else in our lives. And I know it's it's like I was just listening to your episode dropped today. Purple. Yeah. And how she said, which I found very interesting now that she's retired, she doesn't think about money at all. Whereas before she thought about it all the time. I'm still in the thinking about it all the time. I'm still in like obsessing over spreadsheets like phase of, you know, saving for retirement, but I really enjoy that. That kind of thing.

Jamila Souffrant 32:38

Yeah. Okay, so I want to I am going to I'm sorry, I know. So we've mentioned like, Your money or your life and some previous episodes. So we'll make sure to put that in the episode show notes. And now I kind of want to talk a bit about just like your the blog post that you wrote, because you wrote the blog post that I mentioned earlier, about, like the things you've learned from listening to the podcast, and again, amazing things, but I will tell you, the one that stood out for me and I want us to dive in, like go there was your point number seven, which was we need more queer fire voices. And actually love that you like you said that because let me tell you, when I first started listening to podcasts, I felt like my voice or my perspective wasn't represented. For the most part, I thought they meant well, it was just a blind spot. for them. They didn't know what they didn't know, because it didn't impact them. And so when I read that, and then I loved like, I felt like you were taking out like you were saying, Okay, now I'm gonna start sharing my story more, because there needs to be more perspectives. And like, I want to go there with you in terms of the things that you as someone who's in the community, like the things that impact you more that I may not be aware of that. I know that a lot listeners are the journeyers are facing that I may not have discussed yet on the podcast, because I do like, like, I appreciate that. Because again, there's like blind spots that I don't even know that I'm not hitting. And of course, you can't cover everything in every conversation. But I'm like, this is such like, she's right. Like, you know, I haven't had a specific episode. And of course, there have been people of very varying orientations. But they don't always lead with that. Like, that's not they don't want that to be their definition. So they're talking about other things. But I would love to talk about what financial issues are things that you have to face being within the LGBT community that you had to overcome or that we should be aware of, on the financial independence journey?

Tracy Levesque 34:24

Sure. So you know, as I was listening to your 200 Plus episodes, you know, the whole time I'm like, Oh, I wonder when doodle is gonna have, you know, a queer person on and and there were four guests that were queer, maybe they were more not to erase, like, you know, identity because somebody didn't say it, or they have an opposite sex partner, but they're still bisexual, like, you know, not to erase anyone. But the four times that it was made clear to the audience, actually three times it was made clear to the audience and one and Arlen Hamilton is like famously lesbian and famously out and I was Like, not to say that you were you're homophobic at all, not to you know, like, I didn't get that vibe from you at all. And like, I think Jamal is really cool. I think she would be open minded, but it's just, you know, straight people don't think about us, you're not raised to think about us. So like, so no, no, like blaming or shaming or anything like that. But from my perspective, it's really important for folks to know that queer folks do have financial concerns that straight sis folks just don't have. For instance, like in my case, we have a kid. And so when you have a child, like you have to second parent adopt the child. So I gave birth to our kid, but my wife and I had to adopt him together. So even though she's my biological child, I still had to go through a background check, I still had to like go through the adoption process. And that process costs like a few $1,000, we had to go to a judge and do the whole thing. So that's one example of like a financial costs that like other people don't have because like, even if a straight couple uses donor sperm, they still just put each other's names on the birth certificate. And that's that you don't have to do a second parent adoption. That's just one example. Another example, is, especially for transgender folks, gender for my healthcare is really expensive. Not all of it is covered by insurance, a legal name change, also expensive. And also, you know, it really depends on where you live in this country, how expensive it's going to be and how hard it's going to be for you. If there are laws actually trying to make you illegal, you know, essentially, like in Texas, the governor there, he issued a letter to Texas state health agencies, announcing that giving transgender kids like affirming health care is considered child abuse. And those parents should be turned into like, authorities. So now you have this whole situation where like, we can't just live where we want, if you want to move to someplace like Florida, because it's more affordable, right? And maybe the cost of living is like, is really low. Well, they just passed like a don't say gay bill, that in school up until third grade, you're not allowed to mention LGBT anything. So could you imagine if like, we had our kid there in kindergarten, and we had to tell our kid you can't talk about us when you go to school? And then what does that say to kids? It's like, oh, there's something wrong with my family. And I'm not saying we're not the only ones that don't have the freedom to not live where we want to live. But it's just something to consider.

Jamila Souffrant 37:42

Yeah, what even go into that when we give ideas of how to, you know, save money on housing, right, like move to another state or even travel hacking across the world, even going to countries like making sure that the countries are safe?

Tracy Levesque 37:54

Yeah, absolutely. There are some countries where it's still illegal to be gay. We can't just go everywhere we want, you know, I don't want to go somewhere where it's illegal to be me.

Jamila Souffrant 38:04

Yeah, and I always say like, you know, the solutions are not going to be discovered, you know, immediately. But I think acknowledging them is like a starting point. And this why was so important for me to talk to you other than like, thinking that your story was great. It's just like, also like inclusion. What I wanted to happen when I realized that I wasn't listening to podcasts that had enough voices, it was one Alright, I'm gonna start my own thing, so that I can bring on and do that. But then to like, I pick up when speakers and I know they can't do it in every sentence, like you can't almost you can't affirm always like everything, like sometimes sentences or scenarios and like, bring everyone inside of it. But I just really appreciate when I hear someone who is different than me, at least acknowledge that there is a difference. And they maybe they don't have the solution for it, but they can acknowledge it, and then it helps someone feel seen, or at least help them understand that. Alright, so we know it's different. But like, also, what help is there out there. So for you, are there any resources or things that you found helpful as you navigated your finances? Any organizations or ways that you were able to go through some of these processes?

Tracy Levesque 39:09

Well, you know, I'm really lucky to live in Philadelphia, which is one of the like, the best places in United States to live when it comes to LGBT laws, but then leave Philadelphia and most of the rest of Pennsylvania, you know, we still don't have equal rights. It's like, in 29 states, there are not laws protecting LGBT folks. So you could still get fired from your job, you could still get denied housing and public accommodations, thing, public accommodations, meaning things like restaurants, hotels, theaters, museums, you can still get kicked out and it's legal, totally legal. You know, people think that oh, well, you can get married now. So everything's good. It's like yeah, but you can get up and get married on Saturday and fired on a Monday depending on where you live. The thing that's frustrating is how audition still feel free to specifically pass laws targeting us, like don't say gay law and all the anti trans laws that are happening. It's like, don't get me wrong, people are still passing off laws that affect, you know, all kinds of people. But for us, it's like, no, no, you were gonna pass this law against you, you know. And it's scary, because Pennsylvania is like one governor away from like, having our rights taken away. And we're lucky, we live in Philadelphia, but for the rest of Pennsylvania, it's like, frightening and legal to be fired still for being LGBT.

Jamila Souffrant 40:36

So have you come across organizations or resources that are helpful, even with like insurance, I know, like that also can present some problems, especially as if you are an entrepreneur or someone needing to go, you know, like, it can be more expensive, like, what have you found that has been helpful if you can share anything?

Tracy Levesque 40:52

Sure. Well, I mean, like I said, in Philadelphia, like, there's so many resources, like, we're part of the Independence Business Alliance, which is the LGBT Chamber of Commerce here in Philadelphia, and they're a great source of resources, that workshops and, you know, just a lot of events to like, help people out and to network and to network with other like diverse chambers, which is really great. We have, you know, legal organizations, we have health centers, we have really great organizations and support for the LGBT community here in Philadelphia, so that we're very lucky. And you know, my wife, we're really privileged and lucky to be able to hire like, LGBT own, you know, run like law firm, to help us with all of our papers and estate planning, and the second parent adoption and those kinds of things. And, you know, marriage changed a lot before marriage was legal, there would be situations like during the AIDS crisis, where the gay man would lose his partner, but then the house is in his partner's name, and he couldn't afford the real estate transfer tax, so he lose his house. So marriage did help with a lot of those things. But after Roe v Wade being overturned, they're like, Okay, that's next. So we're all scared that these rights now that we have, which it's like, 1000, some rights that you get with marriage could be taken away. And that's frightening, too. I've been out since 1988, I'm used to like, fighting the fight and living through it. So I think I'm not super scared myself. But as a community, I think folks are really afraid about the status of their marriage in the future.

Jamila Souffrant 42:33

Right. And it also just shows that, you know, while there's so many paths, or battles, or things you cannot control, right outside of your control, that impacts what your journey is like. But then there are some things within your control, right. And it's like, it sucks, but like, you know, there are some people who are fighting a more uphill battle in certain areas that other people just don't have to think about. And so it is a privilege. And I always say, like, when we talk about privilege, like there's obviously different levels of it, right, like, there's the SIS white man, like privilege, and then there's like, all this other stuff, like, I think I'm privileged to have the mom that I had, that was was able to pour into me the way that I was, or I'm privileged to have, I was born in Jamaica, but I was able to immigrate here pretty young and have like, you know, a different type of opportunity than, you know, someone who was not born here and or like my siblings who were not born here in the United States. So I don't know, I just want us to, like not take that always as an insult, like to acknowledge our privilege and to, you know, have more of these conversations about it, or open conversations about what it's like for someone who's walking a different walk from you. Because we can learn a lot from that,

Tracy Levesque 43:39

like, I have a lot of privilege to it's like, you know, I I don't have any disabilities, you know, that is such a privilege to be able to just like, walk through life, and get to where you want to go. It's like, I have the same privilege as you did with your mom, I feel the same way. It's like, I never felt any needing or wanting growing up. And like I and I, I'm very, very thankful that I was raised with that growth mindset and not being afraid of money. My wife, on the other hand, she's the youngest of five, and they had a lot of struggle like growing up, her mom had to like not Mix powdered milk with the regular milk. They never went out to restaurants ever. Five kids like four of which are like, you know, five and under all at once. I can't even imagine. So she comes from a background that is, you know, where she's much more has more money worries, and it feels like she can be like, broke at any moment, even though everything's gonna be fine. So yeah, I have a lot of privilege in this world. And I acknowledge that and like, try to do what I can to like, help other folks.

Jamila Souffrant 44:44

Yeah, and just like with your partner, how has that been? So you know, obviously, different backgrounds, different money mindset, so many hang ups. So how was it when you came to her and told her about the fire movement? How was that conversation like, was she is she on board with this plan or not? This you have a different idea of what that looks like, and how do you come together and travel together?

Tracy Levesque 45:05

Well, the two of us are very similarly minded when it comes to like, you know, frugality and like what's actually valuable in life and what matters in life like stuff. We're both not in this stuff, right? We don't need a fancy car, you know, fancy clothes, or we appreciate like the simple things in life. And so we're very, like on the same page with that. I think fire scared her at first. Maybe. But she's on board now. Yeah.

Jamila Souffrant 45:31

Well, yeah, looking maybe forward and thinking like, wow, we can maybe like stop working, hopefully, and how many years or less like, is appealing?

Tracy Levesque 45:38

Press? I have the spreadsheets and the numbers and the math to like, this is how it works. You know, this is how

Tracy Levesque 45:43

doesn't that help?

Tracy Levesque 45:45

Yeah, absolutely.

Jamila Souffrant 45:47

I, I know it helped my husband because again, he's like, more probably when you mentioned how your wife was with the house. Like why? Why do we have to like struggle? Can't we just like, maybe just buy a regular house? Like that's how my husband is like, he's just like, What do you mean? Like, can't we just make things simple, and what the spreadsheet and we're so anyone listening that has a partner who maybe just more either risk adverse or just needs more validation, and like, show them numbers, I always say showing my husband like, calculations of what could be possible for us definitely got him on board versus me just telling him.

Tracy Levesque 46:21

Yeah, let's say I played some podcast episodes for her, I played the money or your life one, and the HSA one to get her on board with HSAs.

Jamila Souffrant 46:31

That always helps. But you know,

Tracy Levesque 46:33

we're just, we're just a real team. You know, I mean, we're like, the two of us are a real team. And we really like, you know, work together on things. And we're very aligned. But I'm definitely the more of a risk taker, the extrovert. She's like the word introvert, but she also keeps you grounded. So we work well together.

Jamila Souffrant 46:50

Right? It's a good balance, like you need that. And Tracy, what about generational wealth? Are there things for the LGBT community that are different? I'm sure there are, but like, that you want to address or talk about?

Tracy Levesque 47:04

Absolutely. Some families cut their kids out of generational wealth just for being LGBT, no other reasons. So for instance, a friend of ours is the executor for a friend's estate who died, and the friend happened to be a transgender woman. And her father had cut her out of his life, like he was just not in her life after she came out. But after she died, he tried to go after her money and prevent it from going to you know, who she wanted it to go to. Not only are you cut out, but then like, you know, your wishes after your death are not honored. And so it's been a multi year battle, to try to have her estate go to who she wanted to go to.

Jamila Souffrant 47:52

And this was even with an estate planning will,

Tracy Levesque 47:56


Jamila Souffrant 47:56


Tracy Levesque 47:59

I mean, a trust me, I don't know if a trust was set up, because you know, a trust kind of like goes around it, but definitely a will. Yeah, and the dads finding it.

Jamila Souffrant 48:07


Tracy Levesque 48:08

So you know, just things that like people take for granted. You know, we can't always just, it's just not a given for us necessarily.

Jamila Souffrant 48:17

What's something you would tell a federal journey or someone who's on the path, maybe they're not as farther along as you right, they have some, they still have a lot of debt to pay off or just starting their business. I mean, I'm sure you can give different types of advice on all those areas. But what's something you can tell to encourage or something that you wish you would have known on your path? As you are going?

Tracy Levesque 48:41

I think about like, you know, what do I wish I would have done differently if I knew what I knew now, and I you know, of course, like, I wish I had like started earlier, like save more and also just had this attitude change earlier. That same time, I regret nothing. I have no regrets about how I live my life. And I just, you know, look forward to the present and moving forward and like feel good about everything. But I don't know, I think like trusting yourself, and trusting your gut, especially like if something doesn't feel right, then there's maybe there's like a financial decision. Like if you feel nervous or funny about a financial decision, then maybe it's not the right time to do it. And even if people are telling you, that's what you should do now. trusting your gut is really, really important. Because that helped me avoid like financial mistakes in my life.

Jamila Souffrant 49:34

Yeah, I think that's really important. We it's the difference between like something that is scary because it just is something different and new and you know, there's a risk involved in getting a return right versus this is actually not right. It's like that's why that self reflection, like you know, as much as it is an outward journey, like all the things you have to do, you know, check off a list externally, like there's so much internal work, so that you become the person And who, like you, you have discernment over the opportunities that come your way or to even view like opportunities like sometimes you don't, it's not a clear, it's not a clear sign. It's not a clear yes or no opportunity that you know, you should go to. But it's like, like you said, we talked about this in the beginning, being curious and letting that be something that guide to?

Tracy Levesque 50:21

Yeah, definitely, like, at one point, we were, you know, during the fire, we are out of our house for 16 months. And we were staying at an Airbnb that was owned by our friend. And while we're living there, like oh, cool to like, own an Airbnb, you know, like, oh, this house is such cute houses house just happen to be like, down the street from our house house where we live. Yeah, what if we bought this house? And what if we, like started an Airbnb and like, you know, we're really thinking about what you're dreaming about it, we're thinking about, like, all the things you would do. And then we actually started to pursue it. But then, almost at the same time, me and I were like, this is a bad idea. This is not the time to be doing this. And I'm so glad we didn't do it, you know, because it would be it would have been a big financial burden. And then also, you know, all these things went wrong with the house, like after we moved out, like, you know, a few months later. So I'm like, glad that we avoided that in general. But things like that, you get swept up in the dream of something that then your guts telling you like, this is not a good decision.

Jamila Souffrant 51:21

Yes. Okay, Tracy, this was an amazing conversation. And I mean, that I would love for you to share or tell people where they can follow you. So I know you have your, your company website, if you want to share that. And then your personal website where they can definitely check out your blog posting, because you're starting to share and more about your financial journey, which I think is amazing.

Tracy Levesque 51:42

Yeah, that's been fun. Like I really enjoy, you know, writing now about like, fire. So I'm Little Jimmy on almost everything. It's li l Jimmi. And that's my Twitter, Instagram, etc. and my website is the Tracy, L. th, e tra, Cy That's where I have my blog.

Jamila Souffrant 52:05

And of course, I will link everything just now that she mentioned in the show notes. But Tracy, thank you so much, again, for coming on the podcast. I hope this was a great experience. I hope what you thought this would be and like you listening was like something that you felt like was what you expected. So thank you again.

Tracy Levesque 52:21

Oh, thank you so much. It's my pleasure.

Outro 52:26

Don't forget, you can get the episode show notes for this episode by going to journey to 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

Outro 52:44

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 to 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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Once blogger Tracy Levesque released her article titled, “What I learned from binge-listening to the entire Journey to Launch podcast,” I knew that I had to have her on as a guest. She joins us after paying off $170k worth of debt and jumping on the financial independence, retire early movement.

We chat about the growth mindset her mom passed down to her, her entrepreneurship journey, how true wealth is providing education, curiosity, and the understanding of the value of experiences over material possessions, and why we need to have more LGBTQIA+ voices in the FIRE community.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • What sparked Tracy’s curiosity about the FIRE movement (Financial Independence, Retire Early)
  • Building a business without a roadmap, hustling as an entrepreneur in the computer world + getting into real estate 
  • The steps Tracy and her wife took to pay off $170,000 of debt in 10 years using the debt avalanche method + zero-balance transfers 
  • Blind spots in the FIRE movement, using privilege for good + the call for more queer voices in the personal finance space
  • How Tracy’s mom taught herself about the stock market and became a successful investor + more
I'm Listening to Episode 296 of the Journey to Launch Podcast, How Tracy Paid Off $170K Of Debt, Why We Need More Queer Voices In The FIRE Movement & Being Open About Privilege Click To Tweet

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