Ada Vargas, founder of Queer Money Coach, joins the Journey to Launch podcast to discuss how they were able to reach Coast FI, what led them to full-time entrepreneurship, and why reframing your perception of investing is crucial to financial success.
Ada thought in order to retire you had to literally save millions of dollars. They didn’t know what investing was or about the FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) Movement.
We chat about their mission of helping Queer folks thrive in their financial life, the “Four Yous Framework,” and how they went from spending 100% of their income to a savings rate of 60%.
In this episode you’ll learn more about:
- Coast FI, front-loading retirement as a high earner, and living off of $20k per year
- Leaning into financial empowerment and ease with the “Four Yous Framework”
- Reframing retirement savings from a “chore” to a gift you’re giving your future self
- The differences and nuances of queer personal finance + why representation matters
- Making the transition to zero-based budgeting, automated investmenting, shopping for index funds, and more
Check out the video to this episode on YouTube below or by clicking here.
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Ada Vargas 0:02
So for me, it was important to have that structure because that's not how my brain works automatically, right? I'm not keeping tabs of everything that I'm doing. And that helped me bring in my spending, be more aware of what was bringing me value and what I was like, Oh, that was not worth the money, and making it so that I could actually come back again and again to it.
T-minus 10 seconds. Welcome to the Journey To Launch podcast with your host, Jamila Souffrant. As a money expert who walks her talk, she helps brave Journeyers like you get out of debt, save, invest, and build real wealth. Join her on the journey to launch to financial freedom in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
Hey, hey, hey, real real quick, it's Jamila, here and I have some exciting news to share with you. My first book, your journey to financial freedom, a step by step guide to achieving wealth and happiness is finally available for pre order. That's right, you can pre order my book right now. Today. The book is officially out December 5 2023. But you do not have to wait that long to get some resources and information to help you. If you preorder the book today, I'm giving you some fabulous bonuses that will help you with your financial freedom and independence journey. I'm giving you the Financial Toolkit for free. When you preorder the book, you'll get the debt payoff matrix workbook, the goal fuel worksheet, the financial goals, workbook, and the retirement account questionnaire, my most effective and fav resources to share with you for free, go to journey to launch.com/book To get your copy to pre order the book today.
Hey journeyers, I have a special treat and offer for you. I'm right now working on my first book, your journey to financial freedom a step by step guide to achieving wealth and happiness, it will be out officially December 5, and I'm working to get it in the hands of as many people journeyers as possible. I know that this book has the ability to change lives. And so the way that I'm thinking about doing that is by tapping into my journeyer community, that's you. And here's what the deal is. I am waiving my speaking fee and podcast advertising fee for the next few months. And instead asking organizations and small businesses to pre order copies of my book, pre order my book in bulk copy. So what does that look like? You can either have me come speak to your organization, or company to talk about general personal finance topics to do q&a, I will zoom in and do that. Or you can tap into the awesome community of journeyers who wants to hear more about your business if you're an entrepreneur, and advertise on the podcast, and all you have to do is pre order bulk copies, that means multiple copies of my book, it is going to be easier than you think it is. I don't have that many spots to be able to offer this but I wanted to get this out to you. If you are interested in not only helping this book, reach more people, but getting all the value out of it too by me speaking to your organization or company or advertising on the Journey to launch podcast. Now if this sounds like something you may be interested in, let me know. Email me at hello@Journeytolaunch.com, also go to journeytolaunch.com/bulk orders that's b u LK orders o r d e r s for more information. I hope to hear from you soon.
If you want the episode show notes for this episode, go to journeytolaunch.com or click the description of wherever you're listening to this episode. In the show notes. You'll get the transcribed version of the conversation, the links that we mentioned and so much more. Also, whether you are an OG journey or are brand new to the podcast, I've created a free jumpstart guide to help you on your financial freedom journey. It includes the top episodes to listen to, stages to go through to reach financial freedom, resources and so much more. You can go to journeytolaunch.com/jumpstart to get your guide right now. Okay, let's hop into the episode.
Jamila Souffrant 4:22
Hey Journeyers, Welcome to the journey to launch podcast this week we have a special guest, all my guests are special, but I'm so excited to be talking to ADA Vargas, the founder of queer money coach, which focuses on serving queer folks to go from loss and overwhelm to feeling financial ease and having a money plan to support their present and future goals. Their method combines personal finance education and creating sustainable financial goals for the "for you" framework. So I'm excited to talk more about that. They have reached fire by age 29. Well Coast fire by age 29. We'll go over what that is and are pursuing financial independence, and they want to reach it by 45 years old, which I can't wait to learn more about this journey. So welcome to the podcast. Ada.
Ada Vargas 5:06
thank you so much for having me Jamila. I'm excited to be here with you.
Jamila Souffrant 5:09
Yeah, so let's talk a bit about your journey so far. I always get excited, you know I have a lot of guests on the podcast, and some are just more generally personal finance motivated. They're not necessarily pursuing financial independence. And then, you know, there's a big range of people. So when I meet someone, or I know that they are intentionally are embarking on this financial independence journey it's exciting, because I know that my audience can then gain some insight on the journey. So tell me about how you first came about the financial independence movement and how old you were? And then we'll talk through the steps that you took.
Ada Vargas 5:52
Yeah, absolutely. So I have been a personal finance nerd for going on nine years now. That's how I described my beginning of my journey, I entered the workforce midway through college and have been in the workforce for about 10 years. And I perhaps picked not the right careers for myself, but it was a pretty big realization right away that I did not want to work for 40 plus years, pretty much from the moment that I entered the workspace. And so I began kind of a looking around of what were the options to get out of a traditional length of a career. And at the very beginning, I had no idea about the personal finance community in particular about the fire movement. And so the only way that I thought that you could get to retire would be to save the literal amount of money that you needed, and have that be millions and millions of dollars in order to last you decades. I did not know anything about investing, about how it can help you get there so much faster, and also about how it can sustain you, you can have a nest egg that you withdraw a percentage from that continues to renew all of these things, right, that we talk about in talking about investing. And so I started going down a rabbit hole of looking for answers. And I very quickly found my way out of thinking that I needed to save every single penny, that I needed to live in a post world work life. And I'm really, really grateful that I learned that because otherwise that mountain seemed insurmountable. Right? Once I learned about investing in the way that especially starting early can help you get the amount of money that you needed. I was like, All right, this is actually doable. And that's when I found the fire community. And I started just ravenously consuming content consuming blogs, podcasts, YouTube videos, constantly soaking it in. But for three years, that's all I did. For three years, I just consumed, consumed, consumed and did absolutely nothing with that.
Jamila Souffrant 8:03
Wow. Okay, so I want to pause a bit and go back to your career, if you can share more about what that was. And when you realized that it wasn't for you. And did you go to school for that?
Ada Vargas 8:12
Yeah, I studied political science. And so I was working for a foundation working all throughout Latin America, giving out grants, and it was very, I've always been really aligned with the missions of the work that I have done. But I've realized that primarily being in front of a computer and typing... like, you know, if a cat looked at you, it would just look like you were doing the same thing over and over everyday. Right, just sitting there typing, having kind of office based work. And I think that for me as in my flavor of neuro divergence, I have ADHD, that kind of solitary computer work was really not it, even though I was very aligned with the mission of what we did. And then I went on to kind of work in the election space for a very long time and had very similar roles. So I think it was a realization that that lifestyle was not was not really the one that I needed.
Jamila Souffrant 9:05
How long were you working in that career before finding about financial independence, retire early, which is the acronym is fire that we are referencing right now?
Ada Vargas 9:16
Yeah, I was working in that space for about about a year. And then I moved into a much more tactile job for a little bit. But upon kind of thinking about wanting to retire early, I realized that I needed to be looking for jobs that I could be earning more money at so that I could get to those milestones earlier. So it's been a trade off, right of like, what do I want to reach? And what do I need to get there?
Jamila Souffrant 9:40
How did you change jobs or careers to make more money? Is that what I'm hearing?
Ada Vargas 9:47
Yeah, I did. I went into like the election tech space where I started making more money being in tech and then I went into consulting, which also helped me get there a little bit faster.
Jamila Souffrant 9:57
I think this will be very helpful for people, can you maybe share about how much you were making? Or what the percentage jump was when you did switch? And then how did you leverage your degree and experience to make that change for people who currently feel that they are stuck in a low paying job, but they have skill sets that can make them more money or earn them more money?
Ada Vargas 10:19
Yeah, absolutely. I think there's a couple of pieces that go into the answer for this, number one is that I definitely, like I was able to go from the job that I liked better, where I was making about $30,000 a year to my election tech job where I think starting out I was making about $50,000. So that was a $20,000, jump right there. And then, over the course of three years, I moved into making $80,000 there. And that was right, $50,000, more than I was making three years prior. But at no point in my path to reaching this, this milestone of coast fire, which we'll talk about a little bit more, did I make six figures. And that's another thing that I really want to emphasize, is that yes, I was making more money than anybody in my family had made, more money than I ever thought I was going to make with a political science bachelor's degree. But it wasn't anything that was out of the realm of possibility, I think, for anybody out there listening. And I think that one of the first pieces that I needed to confront was this acceptance of being able to make more money than I ever saw models for it's that a permission to go after those higher paying jobs to go after those promotions and to advocate for myself during the times when there were raises, and knowing the purpose of that raise for my future.
Jamila Souffrant 11:43
Well, how did you know that that job? Say that again? What
Ada Vargas 11:45
it was election technology,
Jamila Souffrant 11:48
election technology? How did you know about that? So and I'm asking this, because, you know, you don't know what you don't know, sometimes? And? Or what opportunities are out there? If you just don't know they're available? Did you know about that type of job because you met a person who worked in that job or because of your current job? They told you about it, I just want to understand for people who may be feeling like well, I don't even know what the possibilities are or where it could maybe be not a seamless transition, but a more, it feels like a natural transition based on where I currently am because I don't even know that this opportunity exists. So how did you find out about that opportunity?
Ada Vargas 12:26
It was very much a seamless transition in terms of my skills, because I actually have been doing election related things since I was 16. So at this point, I had already been doing elections work for, like 9, 7, or 8 years. And the way that I found out about it was I looked in, I was a part of a forum called jobs that are left. And that's where I was able to find it. But once I started realizing that I wanted to have more money in my life to put towards this really ambitious goal of retiring early, I started filtering out jobs, just by the salaries that I wanted. And I think that's something that I recommend to people all the time where if you're just looking for thing that's a fit for your skill set, but then you're looking generally, a way that you can make it so that you're focusing you're searching is just by filtering out whenever possible by the salary that you want to make, not the salary that you're making, not even just a little bit above what you're making, but what you actually want.
Jamila Souffrant 13:23
Yeah, that's actually really good advice to you know, aim for a search within that range for yourself. By the way, just want to go back to because I love you saying that you had to just open up your mind that you could earn more, you deserve to earn more, so that you knew to go after that opportunity. And then you talked about it taking you a while to act. So even though you were consuming all this financial independence information, which is very similar to my story, by the way, I remember finding out about financial independence in 2014. But it wasn't really until like 2016, when I started journey to launch, that I was starting to take action. I think that's actually a common theme is that you don't always act right away. There may be different reasons why you don't but that if someone is listening, and they're like, Well, I feel bad because I've been hearing about this, and I still haven't really done anything intentional. I think that's actually a normal part of the process.
Ada Vargas 14:20
Absolutely. And I think it was a matter of time for that knowledge to sink in. And then to realize, like, truly, truly how much time is of the essence and how looking at my favorite tool in the world is the investor.gov compound interest calculator. And I think that that was like a turning point for me, if you have are not familiar with this tool, please go Google investor.gov compound interest calculator and when you put in a projection of how much money your money can grow, if you look at those last couple of years, you see that your money grows so exponentially in those last few years. And at that point, I I had given up three years of my life of that time, right? And looking at what it could have done. If I had three more years. If I had those three years back, I model it out based on what I think I could have been investing at that time, which was pretty significant. I think. It basically cost me like $200,000 over the length of my life to have that year three year procrastination. And I don't think that I could have done it any other way. Like you said, it was part of my journey. But it is a very big learning that I tried to share with folks to show them how much waiting even a year or two can cost you in the long run.
Jamila Souffrant 15:34
Yeah, that's it's interesting, because on one hand, I want people to like not kick themselves if they have not started yet. But on the other hand, you want to say, but hey, you should start, you know. So it's like, don't feel bad, where it causes an action. Or if you feel that guilt, or shame for whatever reason you how far you feel. But it's also the best time to start is today. You talked about the trade off. So you went from making a job or working in a job that wasn't earning a lot. But you said you kind of liked it. And then you did increase your income. So talk about that trade off. And I know that's something that a lot of people experience is, do I want to give up maybe something that I enjoy if it's a lower paying job to make more money? And maybe it's not something I enjoy? And what did that look like for you?
Ada Vargas 16:20
Yeah, I think that this is when we start to get into that framework of thinking of the different parts of myself. And this is something that I've like, gotten more vocabulary for and honed in more, as the years have gone by, but I've been living it for quite a while now. And so I call this my four you's framework where I have like my past self. That's like the version of me before today that has made every monetary decision. But it also has taken in all of those financial stories from growing up and from society and from the environment that I'm in. And there's present me. So that's me right now who needs to be housed, fed, to get delights and to be the one making all of the decisions. And then you have the near future version of yourself a couple of months to a couple of years from now that wants to go back to school or wants to go on a vacation or wants to have like the short term kind of dreams. And then you have your retirement version of yourself. So that far, far future version of yourself. And I think that when I started realizing what those trade offs were, it wasn't just about present me right, I had been living in such a like self and like indulgent present self, for other reasons, right that I was trying to like, we can get into that conversation about overspending and how I kind of turned that ship around. But realizing that there were more versions of myself that needed that income in order to make sure that I could reach that place of being able to do whatever I wanted of being able to have financial ease, and financial peace to not have to constantly be hustling. So it was more of a, I can kind of put front load this work for myself, and front load that earning potential so that I can rest sooner and faster and longer.
Jamila Souffrant 18:07
Yeah, I think it's so important to look, you have to look at the big picture. Because if you're only focused on a present tense in a situation where you don't feel happy, for either reason, whether it's because you're not making enough or you're making enough, but you're just not fulfilled completely. Sometimes you can lean more heavily into I need to satisfy and help the today self which is valid. And sometimes you know, you need to help that today self more than any other like the future selfie, you need to make sure you're safe and that your mental health and physical health is fine before like sacrificing but I think when you can see the big picture and you realize that it's a portion of your life that allows you to then live abundantly or like you said, I love that financial ease phrase, it's worth it. And it doesn't feel like a sacrifice. If you're, you know, saying okay, I'm going to work in this job for two years to earn this money. Because this is what I'll be able to do. And this is how I'm going to enjoy the present moment since I'm going to be here anyway.
Ada Vargas 19:08
Yeah, I, I talked about this all the time. And I was in a Lyft recently. And I'm chatting with the Lyft driver about what I do. And he's asking me all these questions. We had like an hour long drive together. So it's great. I kind of shared with him that I look at it like I am laying out a trail of gifts for my future self. That was a huge mindset shift that I had where I think a lot of folks myself included in the past thought felt like investing for retirement and putting that money aside for retirement is like a burden. It's a chore it's a bill and it's really not it's gifts for myself I will get to spend that money and it's going to multiply from where I'm putting it in right now. And I will get to look at that trail of gifts for my future self that I'm befriending I'm becoming like best friends with that version of myself that I will also eventually get to be but I imagine that my imagine my cute older self I imagined myself with like a wrinkly face. And I encourage people to write to do that visualization of yourself. Take a tick tock filter that makes you look old and take a screenshot and tell that version of yourself that you love them. Right? And so making those decisions become a lot more tangible, become a lot more fun. And make it so that it doesn't feel like this thing that I have to be an adult and do this right, but having it be much more tangible and fun.
Jamila Souffrant 20:23
How did you start to make the action or take action with your finances? What changed? So when you did start after listening to the podcast and reading the blogs? What specific steps did you take to now be able to become financially independent in a way or at ease? As you say.
Ada Vargas 20:41
Yeah, I made a pretty drastic change all of a sudden, because I have kept my life, like baseline costs pretty low. And then I was overspending on all of these things that were optional. So once I had this kind of aha moment where I saw that big picture that you were mentioning, I changed from spending 99% of every single paycheck that I got to having a 60% savings and investment rate, I just drastically shifted, I did a whole 180 to the point where I started maxing out my 403 B. I had a 403 b, which is like the nonprofit equivalent of a 401k, I maxed out my Roth IRA, and I started investing in a brokerage account. And I like submitted the paperwork to my HR team to make those contributions to turn the volume all the way up on those contributions to max out. And a couple of years later, after I stopped working at that space, I actually had a conversation with that HR professional who was a friend who told me that she was so confused. She thought I got another job. She thought I had a side hustle, because she was like, how are you going from utilizing 100% of your paycheck to utilizing 40% of it to live or she didn't know exactly the percentages, right. But for me to go from not contributing at all to my 403B to maxing it out. And she was like I've always had questions. But in the professional realm, I could not ask you what was going on. And years later, when once we were still friends. We kept talking and she's like, I understand now I see what you were doing. And she's like, it all makes sense now. she's like, I've literally been thinking about this for years.
Jamila Souffrant 22:24
Well, what were the specific things right, what changed? Did you start budgeting? Did you cut things completely out? If you can share the tactical day to day changes? You made, that be really helpful?
Ada Vargas 22:36
Yeah, absolutely. So the first thing I did is I started using a zero based budget, which also kind of goes along with the concept of paying yourself first. So you're taking every dollar that comes into your life and giving it a job. And this is another place of those trade offs. Right? A lot of people hear the B word budgeting and they have all sorts of reactions to it, which are very valid and have a lot of background I'm sure. But making that transition from spending anything I wanted on any on traveling on eating out on taking cars everywhere. All of those things, I made the trade off to say I'm still going to have some of these things. I do not advocate for people depriving themselves 100% of everything. Like that's just not sustainable. Sustainability is a big part of the journey, right? But having that awareness of how much money I was spending on all those things by doing an audit of my money, and then deciding, okay, how much do I reasonably want to spend on these things? And what do I want to put towards my financial goals. So that's where that zero based budget comes into play where I assigned every dollar a job. And I started automating a lot of my investments, particularly all of my investments, to my workplace account, were automated. My investments to my Roth IRA, I actually did them manually even though I advocate for folks to automate these things. The reason I did it manually for a long time is because this was my transition period Jamila, instead of buying a $500 plane ticket, I would go shopping for $500 of a whole market index fund. Right? Like I literally looked at it as though I was shopping, but instead of it just being this fleeting moment of I got this thing, and now the feel good energy from it dissipates. Now I see it growing now I see it's still in my bank account in a different place. But I made the shift of tricking myself into shifting my shopping for things to shopping for index funds.
Jamila Souffrant 24:32
Well, that's smart. It's a different way to think about the process, right? That this is actually like fun. What can I buy today? Or, you know, how much money can I put in from my budget to do that? You mentioned you have ADHD?
Ada Vargas 24:47
Jamila Souffrant 24:47
And you started budgeting. I know everyone experiences their ADHD differently. But how did you work through that in order to create the best system based on your personality and what worked?
Ada Vargas 25:03
Yeah, I think that this is a place where one of my other kind of really essential behavioral changes comes into play is that I schedule a weekly money date with myself. And so one of the reasons why I was able to spend 100% of my paycheck pretty much for such a long time as because I had no insight into what I was spending. Because for me, like, my memory is very fragile at times. And so if it's not happening right now, it's not happening, right. It's like there's either now or not now, in my brain. And so having these weekly money dates to look at where I had been spending money so far that week, was so helpful to ground me in reality, and to help me make my decisions for the week coming up. And it also helped me start to appreciate the things that I had been doing so much more, right. Like I mentioned, I can forget what I did three days ago, if I'm not really being very, very intentional about remembering it. And so going through my financial transactions was also reminding me like, oh, yeah, I got to have dinner with Alyssa last week, that was really nice. And it became this, like, gratitude practice slash awareness of my spending. And so for me, it was important to have that structure because that's not how my brain works automatically, right? I'm not keeping tabs of everything that I'm doing. And that helped me bring in my spending, be more aware of what was bringing me value and what I was like, Oh, that was not worth the money. And making it so that I could actually come back again and again to it.
Jamila Souffrant 26:29
So you started to swiftly change your spending, divert your income into investing, and saving? How long would you say that You were doing that? And what did that look like At that starting point when you started to save so much.
Ada Vargas 26:45
I was really trying to figure out how quickly I could retire. Going back to that place where I finally got the big picture. And that was always the end game for me, was figuring out when I was going to be able to have 100% control of my time, because I think that is what feels the wealthiest to me. When I think about wealth. Like I think this is something that we share as time control over your time is a huge, huge piece for me. And so I was like 100% in on retirement. And that's when I after a couple of years of that, I realized that I needed to have this in between person, right? It's not just present me which I was living just for present me before. And then I was living for retirement me far too much. And I was forgetting not only present me but that in between that near future self. So I had to do a little bit of recalibration to bring balance to these three versions of myself. Because you know, things can happen. And I don't want to from like forebode that joy all the way till when I'm retired. Yeah.
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Jamila Souffrant 28:49
So how long would you say that you started to when you started your journey until you were able to reach the coast FI, which I want to get into now what that means and then the significance of it for someone on their journey.
Ada Vargas 29:02
Yeah, it took me three years to get to Coast FI, which wasn't something that was presently on my mind as a milestone to reach. But once I got there, it gave me a lot of peace. And so we can talk about what that means. Yeah. So what is Costa FI ? Coast Fi is basically a point where the money that you have in your investments and your nest egg that is working for you. If you left that money alone, for like whatever the difference is between the age that you are now and the age that you could retire, that money could grow on its own without you adding any more money to be able to sustain you. So say I wanted to retire by 62. I'm currently 30 years old. That money that I have now left alone would grow to the point where by 62, my retirement would be fully funded. And to put some concrete numbers to that. That Coast fire milestone for me is also my My $100,000 kind of milestone, so leaving those $100,000, I'm just gonna really quickly plug this into my favorite calculator that I tell you all that I mentioned earlier that investor.govcalculator. So leaving $100,000 to grow for 32 years at an 8% interest rate just to be adjusting for inflation already, that would turn into $1.2 million, basically, that $100,000 Right now, left for 32 years alone would turn into $1.2 million, basically, in 32 years. And so that would be plenty for me to retire off of that would give me over $40,000 a year to live off of adjusted for inflation, right? It would be future, what $40,000 to this now in 32 years. And that is basically that front loading of that, of that money is something that I encourage, especially folks that are high earners, who don't have a lot of expenses to do, because you just buy yourself options once you do that front loading.
Jamila Souffrant 31:00
And do you spend about 40,000.
Ada Vargas 31:04
I spend about $20,000 a year right now, I'm a very frugal person. Now. I've changed my ways very, very much,
Jamila Souffrant 31:11
I'll say. So now we have to get into that you remind me of purple. She has been on a podcast a couple of times. And I think her annual spending number is about 20,000 too. Which is so interesting, because it's so different from how much I spend a year. So I love hearing it. And I know that I have different types of audience members and journeyers, who listen and some are super frugal, or just spend less, and I call them guacamole levels. I expand on this in my book that's coming out later this year. But this idea that based on how much or what your lifestyle looks like on annual basis, and the cost of that, it's going to affect your FYI number. And so you want to spend more or living more in more luxury in certain areas of your life, then it's going to cost you more, which would therefore make you need a bigger financial independence number. So with that, I'd love to talk a bit about kind of how you spend only 20,000. You live in Chicago, right?
Ada Vargas 32:09
Jamila Souffrant 32:10
So can you break down how you spend that? And then how it feels like is this something that obviously, I'm assuming it feels good to spend that because you're actually projecting that you'll spend that in retirement? Also,
Ada Vargas 32:21
I'm actually projecting to spend about double in retirement.
Jamila Souffrant 32:26
All right, yeah. Double double. Yeah. So yeah, you're going from 20 to 40. Okay, so talk about that.
Ada Vargas 32:30
Yeah, absolutely. So one of the pieces that has been really, really central, like I mentioned earlier, I was able to change from spending 100% of my income to 40%. so rapidly, because I keep my baseline cost of living super low. So that's my housing, my transportation, and my food costs were not super low. But that's one of the levers that you can very quickly change. If you're trying to change, like find money in your budget in order to invest right to increase that gap between how much you make and how much you spend. And having that really low cost. of living is like my secret, my secret weapon. This is something that came with my gratitude practice. And that is like being really grounded. And like, what is enough for me? What am I comfortable in? Not based on what anybody else says I should be having? Not based on like, what are typical rental rates in Chicago, and I'll look for that average rate, right? But what is going to serve all the needs that I have, that maybe somebody else would not choose, but it's perfectly fine by me, right? I could be paying double what I pay triple what I pay in rent, and have that be completely normal. But that doesn't necessarily mean that it's a choice that I'm going to make. So having that baseline cost of living. I live in a garden unit apartment that I really hated when we moved in. And I was like, we gotta get out of here as quickly as possible. I don't want to be in here. And I changed my perspective on that kind of accidentally through taking on this gratitude practice of daily, really appreciating what this home did for me. That year after year when our lease is up. We're like actually, let's just stay here like this is our home and it's perfectly good. And I think that that's something that could not be right it could not be as far along in my journey if I didn't have that like baseline cost of living be so low, and from there adding all of the like luxuries that I want on top of that becomes much easier.
Jamila Souffrant 34:33
So you saving on one of the highest expenses most of us have which is housing. What about the other areas when it comes to food and transportation? How are you cutting those costs?
Ada Vargas 34:44
Yeah, I primarily take public transit, I don't drive and I also started making friends in my neighborhood. Believe it or not, that's like a great time and money saver is being able to walk to your friends we call it friends by foot and buddies by bike is our friendship motto as well. But the main piece that I think was like the biggest lever that I could pull when I was changing my financial habits was food. Actually, I was a big fan of strolling through Whole Foods after work every day. I did not like to meal plan, I like to be really spontaneous. I like to go out to eat with friends, or by myself anytime I wanted, right? Those were things that I like loved to luxuriate on, because I couldn't do that growing up, because I grew up in like, low socioeconomic class. And those were not luxuries that I had. And so I thought, like, I want to have this all of the time. Also under the under the water level, it was also me feeling uncomfortable having money because it made me different from everyone else. So I was trying to get rid of that money by like overspending, right, there's levels to what was going on there with my spending. And so once I decided, You know what I am going to allow myself to grow my wealth, I'm allowing myself to bring in more money, this doesn't mean that I don't belong, this doesn't mean that I will be unsafe, then I was able to start making those decisions, like, Okay, I'm going to meal prep, I am going to go to Whole Foods on rare occasion, I am going to like, go out to eat maybe a couple times a month instead of a couple times a week, those kinds of intentional pieces that again, started to become more worthwhile to spend that money because I was being more intentional each time I was spending it.
Jamila Souffrant 36:30
And I think it's so important that we, as we begin to embark on our journey, right is to understand the trade offs. We don't have to be grudgingly make these changes or do them. I mean, you maybe in the beginning, it feels like that. But that really, if you can switch that mindset, like you said from maybe feeling unappreciative about your current situation, to feeling gratitude, to oh, I mean, you know, I can't do this, instead of saying it like that, but you know, not doing this allows me to feel this way and, and enjoy this, like switching that mindset, it's mindset is so important, on the journey, and I find that we often do want to get to action, right? Like, let's just make more money, let's just spend less, which, you know, it's necessary, depending on your position, but it's the mindset and habits that ultimately create a sustainable, Happy journey. And I want to talk about a little bit more about something you just said about what I would call survivor's guilt, a bit in terms of having money, and starting to make more or being in a better economical place, and maybe some of your peers or even family members, and how that causes self sabotage a bit. And we don't even sometimes see it, or understand it. So let's just dive a little bit deeper there. Because I do feel a lot of people have that. And maybe they're not even making money yet, because they're sabotaging themselves, before they even get there. Right? Before they even have an opportunity to make the whatever six figures are earned 50,000 More they don't even apply or try because they're at this natural setpoint that they're so comfortable in, because of the survivor's guilt.
Ada Vargas 38:16
Absolutely, that's the ticket, right? What is the setpoint that you're comfortable being at? Like? What is the level that you're comfortable being at? And have you really allowed yourself to move on, like, move on to the next piece? And I think that was what was most confusing for me. Because I wasn't tuned into this like subconscious what was going on below the water level, right in that subconscious piece, where I was like, why am I making more money, double the money that I was making at my last job, and I'm still getting to the end of every month with $15 in my bank account, right? It gave myself that permission to make more money, but then I didn't give myself the permission to keep and grow that money. And that was something that was totally out of my radar. For years. I think those three years that I wasn't taking any action, I was taking action. It just wasn't for the progress of my goals. And I was completely in that financial self sabotage space. So right you can be self sabotaging and not allowing yourself to make more money. Even when you get to like middle or high earning. You can continue to do that self sabotage, which is why a lot of folks that are making six figures can still be living paycheck to paycheck, right? It's not just about money. It is so much about belief, and so much about your mindsets and so much about what you believe you deserve, how much you're giving yourself that space to to grow. And yeah, I'm so aligned with you that you have to get that foundational belief in place before you can really start making any sort of moves and that's why I love to have those visions of myself because they helped me ground in that like yes, my older self deserves to be able to rest every day and do whatever they want. Yes, my like near future self deserves that space of peace. And my present self deserves to have an emergency fund to not be stressed out about money to have that right. Like, making it concrete is what helped me so much to be able to establish those beliefs.
Jamila Souffrant 40:11
Now that you've reached coast, FI, meaning you don't necessarily have to invest anymore to have a funded standard retirement. I know that you do though want to still reach financial independence, I believe you said at 45. So that's what 15 years from now about, huh? Yes. So what does that look like for you? In terms of how you work? You know, are you still working? I know you have your business, we will talk more about like, how you help people in the queer community, with their finances. But how do you foresee that journey going? And I know, it's one thing to say looking ahead, what you think? And then it's what another thing as you go through the years, you might change your mind, but from from where you are, what does that look like moving forward for you in terms of work in investing? And how you currently are living your life?
Ada Vargas 41:00
Yeah, so at the end of last year, I decided that I love to talk about personal finance so much all of the time, and to help other people on their journeys that I started, like, went full time with my business career money coach to help queer folks right move from that overwhelm and financial confusion to financial ease. And part of the reason why I did that was because I had reached that coast FI milestone, and it gave me the space to think alright, how can I slow down in my investment kind of ambition for a second and build this other thing that's going to give me that time, flexibility that I want so much. And that is going to be something that feels much more aligned with the way that my brain works. And with engaging on a day to day basis with students and clients, much more tangibly, right. So reaching that milestone gave me the permission to slow down and dream up a life that felt much more aligned in this very moment. And so that was a risk that I was willing to take, also because I built up financial, like cash cushion for me to be able to live off of while my business grows. And then the goal, right is to be able to ramp up all of my investing back to my previous levels, so that I can reach that ambitious goal of retiring at 45. Or earlier, who knows?
Jamila Souffrant 42:26
Yeah, so that's sort of the conundrum I think is faced when you start the journey is that as you learn more about the possibilities, and I talked about this, I did a speech at fin con, I made an episode of the podcast, so we could put that in the show notes to listen to it. But I talked about like, going from casual observer in a space where you're just like, taking information in to then being a participant in in the levels of being a participant to where you get the confidence, or courage to say, You know what, I can actually contribute to the conversation and become a leader in the space also, you know, and it takes a while to get from just consuming content than wanting to create your own. But you wouldn't have known that unless you started your financial independence journey. And you wouldn't be able to maybe have, you know, quit your job or do what you're doing now full time without having taken care of the future you because, I know for me part of feeling great about or at least not feeling great, but feeling comfortable with taking the risk was I knew that long term would be okay. It was really more about taking care of the short term, like, you know, making sure that we had enough money to cover our expenses while I left my job and started to also build my streams of income. So I think it's just one of those things where it just proves that, you know, you should embark on this journey, even if you know, I will say even if you fail, you're end up in a better place because failure on this journey means you're going to end up in a better place and have better skill sets because of it because of who it forces you to become and what you just gradually start doing you know that you can never know until you start taking the steps.
Ada Vargas 44:04
Absolutely. And it gives you options to change your mind. Right, I can change my mind if I decide actually, I don't want to work for myself, I want to like go back to working in a like corporate consulting environment. Or I can decide you know what I don't actually want to hustle to like build this business, which I very much do, right serving the queer community is so so so lights, my fire, but maybe one day I'll wake up and decide I don't want to do it anymore. And I want to just live out my dream of working at Trader Joe's and like a plant store. And then I don't have to contribute to my retirement ever again until I'm 62. Right and be fully funded by the time I'm 62. I have so many options that I'm so grateful that the past we have even the past couple of years, just three, four years of really, really intensive action gave me so many options. Maybe I want to take a sabbatical, maybe whatever it is, right there's so many options that open up Once you start to build your own self that financial safety net.
Jamila Souffrant 45:04
that's so and it's so funny you said one of your retirement dreams is to work at Trader Joe's. Because I always say that to like I would love like part time work at Trader Joe's. Because I just love Trader Joe's. This is not an advertisement for Trader Joe's. But so talk about for the community that you're focused on helping, the queer community challenges or differences, that cisgender people like me who don't necessarily always understand but need to start understanding. How would it impact you like how your financial freedom or independence journey can look a little differently based on being within the community? And then we can get more into that?
Ada Vargas 45:46
Yeah, there's so many nuances that come into play, right? When you're a queer person living in the United States or all around the world, right? There's different settings based on how much like protections you have legally, what access to health care you have, what the queer experience is, based on where you live can vary so so much, but I think there are a couple of things that come through as through lines. And one of them is this, like lack of seeing ourselves represented as elders, right? When you meet like a 40 year old queer person, you're like, oh, queer elder. And that makes like, that's, that's really a shock to the system. Because when we are like living in a world, and in particularly a painful moment right now, where we're trying to be legislated out of visibility out of access to health care, out of being able to have safety, where we live out of taking care of our family, our queer family, it makes it really hard to think about that future version of yourself, right? If that's not something that you're already inclined to do, not only is the like social and political landscape are really hard for folks, but also statistically, a lot of folks in particular, trans folks and trans folks of color have such lower life expectancies, and it is my mission and passion and life to see a whole lot of old elderly queer and trans people thriving and surviving, right, doing that surviving until you're 70, 80,90 years old, as a queer and trans person is a huge amount of resistance. But I don't want us to just get there, I want us to get there financially thriving and financially being at ease and being able to take care of ourselves and of each other, and community. So even just that visioning of elder queer folks is like a huge part of my mission, but then also providing space for folks to talk about transitioning or family planning, or what is an LGBTQ plus retirement home like these things that maybe you're not going to feel comfortable talking about to like a traditional financial advisor, and like a cis white male space, right, or, in general, but then even being part of this community and having these things that you want to get some perspective on? How do you reach those goals for that near future self, right, that near future queer self in that retirement self, it's really, really my pleasure to be able to create those spaces for folks.
Jamila Souffrant 48:16
And I know you talked a little bit more about like, creating spaces for people to feel that they can express their concerns. And it'd be legitimized, right? Like someone like you believe like, because you you experience it, you know, what, you know that it's real, you know, and you're being acknowledged for your feelings and your actual lived experience. So creating spaces is one, how do you recommend that queer people find those communities and reach out? Or are there organizations? So I think it's very fascinating. I didn't even think about just maybe the lack of representation in terms of older queer people and seeing that in a positive way. What that's like, so are there organizations or other ways that you recommend that they can can create a community and be supportive to communities and have to see themselves in it?
Ada Vargas 49:05
Yeah, absolutely. I think that's one of the blessings of being queer for me is being able to just type in like queer Chicago and then find like 10 different things, there's hiking, there's self care groups, there's, like folks that want to knit together, right. And so finding queer community, utilizing like, Facebook and Instagram in particular have been really, really helpful for me wherever I've gone to be able to find folks that I feel really safe and ready to connect with and I would really encourage folks to do that. And in terms of seeing our older selves, this is something that I that is on my list to do is to visit the centers that are near us that are serving that queer, older population that does it that is living and thriving right now and existing right? And connecting with those folks as well to be able to see ourselves very, very tangibly, but also just doing that exercise that I mentioned of imagining yourself, as that older version of yourself, what do you want for them? Where are they sitting? What are they doing? What are they drinking, what kind of like tea or whatever beverage you like? Are they sipping and making it really a person that you have a relationship with, that you are in connection to and working to love on by doing all of this work that feels maybe not like your favorite thing to do, but something that can become your favorite thing to do?
Jamila Souffrant 50:30
And what would you say is something you would tell your younger self about what you've learned so far on your journey to help encourage someone who's just starting or maybe having doubts about being able to reach the destination that they're aiming for?
Ada Vargas 50:46
Yeah, I think what I would tell myself is that I can do those things that I'm hearing other people talk about, that I can do it and that it is not that hard. Yes, there are a lot of pieces that are like take a little bit of initiation energy to start. But I think that's one of the things that is most mind blowing to me, and that I try to say as often and as wide as possible, is that investing is weirdly accessible. And weirdly simple. Thanks to our guide, Jack Bogle who invented index funds, and to making it as simple as possible, right? It does not have to be so complicated. It can be so automated, if you just take the time to start putting into action, the lessons that you learn, but having really good discernment about it, right, not just listening to anybody but getting a good picture. Once you start to hear those things that are coming through as truths from a lot of different avenues, then you know, you're on the right path. But just reminding my my younger self that all of these things that I'm learning about, and I'm like, is it true? Can I do this? Yes, I can. And it's easier than anybody told me. I wish somebody would have told me. And it's okay to get help.
Jamila Souffrant 51:59
Yeah, so I'm so glad you said that, because it did remind me of when you do find out about like this pathway, that you're just like really like this, this existed like this whole time, but it's not something I knew about in my 20s I could invest my way to wealth, and not invest by doing scammy things or, you know, giving my money to someone else to invest. But literally, just investing small amounts over time consistently, could lead me to have the freedom that I have today. And I could have had it earlier. And I'm just like, why don't more people know about this. And I do think there's so many flaws in the system where I understand there's a distrust of the system. And you know, this, it's such a nuanced layer, especially from communities of color and at risk communities of why they are just far behind the wealth gap and income gap. But then also why when they do have money there, it's harder to let it go. There's so much of it. So I'm glad that you know you've created a platform where you can advocate and share what you've been learning and help other people who are ready to embark on the journey and where you know that it can help them. So, Ada, please tell everyone where they can find out more about you and what you do.
Ada Vargas 53:16
Yeah, absolutely. You can find me on queer money coach on Instagram and Tiktok or queer money coach.com Feel free to connect with me and ask me anything that is on your mind to help you really demystify whatever might be making you nervous about money or where you might be on your journey because I would love to help you move into that next step. And helping people get ready for investing is particularly my, my sweet spot is making sure that you know that wherever you are in your journey, you can get started. So yeah, feel free to connect with me queer money coach, and I hope to see you around.
Jamila Souffrant 53:55
Or I will definitely link all of that in the show notes. If you're listening to this. You know, I always love when journeyers and people who listen to the podcast share that they're listening and share a takeaway. So tag me at journey to launch tag Aida at queer money coach, where money coach on Instagram, if you're listening so we can see and ADA thanks so much again for coming on the show.
Ada Vargas 54:17
Absolutely. Thanks for having me. It's been a blast.
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 in Apple podcasts, rate review and subscribe there I appreciate and read every single review. Number two follow me on my social media accounts. I'm at journey to launch on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And I love love, love interacting with journey are there. Three support and check out the sponsors of this show if you hear something that interests you, sponsors are the main ways we keep the podcast lights on here. So show them some love for supporting your girl 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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