How these Two First-Gen Latine Siblings Went From Paying Off Debt to Six Figure Net Worths

Episode Number: 359

Episode 359: How these Two First-Gen Latine Siblings Went From Paying Off Debt to Six Figure Net Worths

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How these Two First-Gen Latine Siblings Went From Paying Off Debt to Six Figure Net Worths

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This week on the Journey to Launch Podcast we’re featuring Israel and Sunem Tovar, two first-gen Latine siblings who empower people to use money to live their lives on their own terms. They discuss their financial journeys & achievements by sharing how Israel built a six-figure net worth by the age of 26 on a teacher salary and as a first-gen, openly gay latino, and how Sunem built a $250,000 investment portfolio and holds a Master’s in finance. 

Despite attending prestigious institutions, Israel still felt that he initially lacked financial literacy. Sunem also reveals that she didn’t learn much about personal finance while pursuing her Master’s in Finance. It was through their siblings sharing information with each other that they discovered personal finance blogs & podcasts which helped them save, invest, pay off debt and start the journey towards financial independence. 

In this episode Israel and Sunem discuss: 

  • Their backgrounds, experiences with education, and how they navigated financial challenges.
  • Israel’s journey to building wealth, starting with a $45,000 teaching salary, buying a house, and making strategic financial decisions, such as living with roommates and aggressively investing in retirement accounts.
  • Sunem’s experience of paying off $42,000 in debt, managing multiple side hustles, and transitioning to aggressive investing. 
  • Their upbringing in a Latino culture that emphasizes strong family bonds which shaped their desire to share knowledge with their siblings and build wealth together 
  • The ethical considerations of investing in real estate, the importance of being intentional with spending + so much more.

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  • What stage of the financial journey are you on? Are you working on financial stability or work flexibility? Find out with this free assessment and get a curated list of the 10 next best episodes for you to listen to depending on your stage. Check it out here!

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Sunem Tovar 0:02

building wealth for ourselves is kind of anti capitalist to because we get to use that money to rest. We get to use that money to, you know become financially independent. We're like we're getting out of this we're getting out of what capitalistic society tells us that we have to always be productive. We can't rest. And so like when we get our money, right, we can buy our time back and breath and like, do whatever we want.

Intro 0:28

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

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 to get your guide right now. Okay, let's hop into the episode.

Jamila Souffrant 1:41

Hey, hey, hey journeyers Welcome to the journey to launch podcast this week. I have two special guests, Israel and Sunim. Tovar, they are two siblings who empower people to use their money to live their lives on their own terms. Israel built a six figure net worth by the age of 26. And guess what? teacher salary, and as a first gen openly gay Latino, he earned a BA from Yale University and a master's in education from Stanford University. Sue Nam has built a 200,000 investment portfolio and hold a Master's in finance. First of all, I know your parents must be so proud of you look at you go. They've been featured in Business Insider, entrepreneur and more. And most notably, I met them at a conference that we both went to over the past, I guess, couple months depending on when you listen to this fin con. And I just want to say it was a pleasure meeting the both of you. Because Israel, you came up to me and you were just had all this energy, about listening to the podcast and how much it helped you. And I always say like you journeyers are people who like follow the content, don't understand how much it helps me when I meet you in the real world and in real life. Because oftentimes it does feel like I'm talking to the ether. And I know people are there. But not everyone is as engaged. Or I don't know. And I know I do that too, right? There are people that I really enjoy or love. But I don't always say something. I don't always follow them or comment on their things. But I enjoy them. And if they stopped creating content, I'd be like, Wait, what happened? So I really appreciate the energy you gave me. And it's why when I thought about giving away, what was called the bound copy of my books, the first printed copies, and I remembered I'm like, wait, I was trying to give it to other creators who may want to interview me. I'm like, wow, you know, they're, they're cool, too. But I'm like, why not give it to journeyers. And I'm actually meeting that are coming up to me. And like, let them get it first. And so that's why you were literally the first I think I told you the first person that I gave the bound printed copy of the book to so I appreciate you and I when I was thinking about okay, like, let's take this further, you reached out about coming on the podcast, I was like, of course. Let's go. Let's talk more about your journey. So all that to say, it was so nice to meet you in person. And welcome to the journey to launch podcast.

Israel Tovar 3:58

Jamila, thank you so so much for having us here. Like it's really giving a full circle moment. Because when we went to fin con for the first time, a few months ago, whenever this podcast goes live meeting you was on our top priority. Like we were so lucky to get matched with Julian and Kiersten from return regular as our mentors and they're like, What can we do to help you we're like, we want to meet Jamila. Like we want to meet her like that is on our priority list. And when we saw you, we were like we need to go say hi to her. And so I we both had all this excitement because we've been listening to your podcast for five years. And to me like you played such a huge pivotal role in our financial journey and also entrepreneurship journey, right? Like, like I mentioned to you in person, like I listened to your podcast. Well, I didn't mention these details. So I'll share these details. I listened to your podcast when I quit my first teaching job, and I realized that I had no financial literacy I was still broke even though into these really wealthy institutions, prestigious institutions. And my oldest sister shared it an episode from your podcast. And I don't know how she found it, but bless her heart for finding it, you know. And I, it was so humbling, because I was trying to figure out what I was going to do next. And I ended up going back to teaching, right. But I was like, delivering pizzas for Domino's. And I was working at a law firm part time and teaching English online. And it was during that time period where I was like binge listening to your podcast, like while I was delivering pizza. And it just gave me so much inspiration. And then I ended up going back into the classroom. And I still was going through it because teaching is a really hard profession. And I will wake up really early and listen to your podcast every Wednesday morning. And by listening to your podcasts for the past five years, I think played a huge role in why I was able to build a six figure net worth on a teacher's salary by the just when he says, and why in my sister's name. And I began our entrepreneurship journey, because you know, we saw someone who we can relate with, you know, who comes from an immigrant background, who is just so authentic and organic, and just incredible. So thank you so much. It's such an honor for us to be here.

Jamila Souffrant 6:10

Oh, well, I just I have to understand it. I'm sure everyone else listening to as fellow journeyers. Want to know, more of your background. So I bought you both of you have accomplished a lot. Israel, we can start with you in terms of going to school, you mentioned it just now you went to a prestigious school. So from the outside looking in, it's like wow, like, check that off your resume. But what did that look like? What did that journey look like financially? And then, of course, I'd love to learn more about your background and what you went through to in your early education.

Israel Tovar 6:44

Yeah, so I actually got four rights to both Yale and Stanford. Yeah, I did that, you know, I finished my way into getting enough funding, from scholarships to even covering most of my Carlo when I was in graduate school. So definitely a huge, huge privilege. But even though Jamila, like I mentioned before, even though I went to these institutions, like, I still graduated as a first generation professional of color, with no financial literacy. And so I went to school with folks who came from a lot of money, but I myself didn't have a lot of money. And so when I quit my first teaching job, that's when I realized like, Oh, crap, I have no generational wealth, I have no financial literacy, even though I went to these schools and got four rights, which is a huge privilege not to graduate student debt, like I still had no generational wealth, right. So that was like, the pivotal moment for me and being like, okay, these institutions are not going to save me, I'm my community, myself. We're going to save ourselves. When

Jamila Souffrant 7:42

you went to the schools, what did you think you were going to do? Right? Because then a lot of people who go there like thinking like business or investment banking, or high paying jobs is you always want to be a teacher? Um,

Israel Tovar 7:53

yes, I think right now, I'm kind of going through this metamorphosis phase where I'm kind of shifting my priorities a lot and interest, but all my life, I wanted to be a teacher and I, in fact, some of them, like when I was like, in second grade, I would want to play like, teacher and I will be like them to play with me. She was like, No, I don't wanna play with you. So I was that person who knew I wanted to be a teacher. And I taught English to undocumented Latino folks here in Nashville, prior to going to college. And so I knew that I wanted to go in education when I was in college. But when I got to Yale, because of the same reasons that you mentioned, like most folks who go to the institutions tend to pursue more like, prestigious high paying careers. And so I thought, I want to be a lawyer. And I entered on the hill and the New York State Education Department, I just realized I wanted to be a teacher. And then I became a teacher. And I was like, Whoa, this is wild. Like, it's so challenging, especially coming from my background. And with my identities, like I was that teacher, who would break up fights in the middle of the hallway. Like I was the only openly gay Latino male educator that my students had. And so I was making a huge impact. But I was sacrificing my well being. And that's why I like listening to your podcast was so important, because it helped me realize that money can give me more options, right? How money can give me Russians in my career in life. And I was able to do that and pivot from teaching but yeah, I long story short, I didn't want to be a teacher. And I got my master's education from Stanford and to become a teacher specifically.

Jamila Souffrant 9:24

And so now I'm, what about you, by the way, who's the older sibling?

Sunem Tovar 9:27

So I am, I'm a year and a half older than him. But most people think he's older than me.

Jamila Souffrant 9:33

All right, because he's pretty tall. Okay. So Sudan. What about you tell me a little bit about your educational background and what you thought you wanted to do? Yeah,

Sunem Tovar 9:41

so I went to college. So I also got my college degree paid off, but I did get student loans, but I really didn't need them. I just got them because so we're six in total. So our parents had six kids in total. And so we're the babies in the family. So some of my other brothers had gone to college and then got in student loans. And so I saw them like spending, using their student loans to spend on things. So I was like, Oh, I feel like I need to get student loans to so that I can spend on things. And so I got student loans, even though I didn't need them. I knew nothing about that I had to pay them back and that I had to pay interest on them. And so when I went to school, I originally thought I wanted to be a lawyer, you know, immigrant parents, all the things that you know about, like, being an engineer, a lawyer, a doctor. And so I was like, I want to be a lawyer. But then I realized that I am too introverted, to be a lawyer. I was like, I hate writing. I don't want to be speaking in public all the time. And so I was like, yeah, let me do something else. And so from when I graduated, I graduated with about $16,000 in student debt. And then I decided to get a brand new car, because everybody was telling me to get a brand new car, they're like, Okay, well, you graduated, you're making some money. And at that point, I was making like, less than $20,000. But I was like, Okay, that's a lot of money, which is not, but during that time, I felt like that was a lot. And so I got me a car loan. And so my, my debt went up to $42,000. And then during that time, I was like, Well, I don't know what's gonna happen, but I'm just going to be paying off the minimum loan. And then I believe in around 2016, I started realizing that all my money went to pay off debt. And I was like, I'm like, something has to change. And so I went down the rabbit hole of like, personal finance, and I started getting so into it. So in 2016, when I started listening to it, like I, there wasn't really much podcasts or was like, mostly blogs. And so it consumed a lot of blogs. And so I was like, Oh, I really like personal finance, let me go back to school and put me to a master's program in finance so that I can learn all of this. And don't do that. Like I was like, if I couldn't go back, I would tell myself don't do that. Because I literally learn nothing about personal finance. In my finance degree, it was all about like corporate finance. And I think I had like one or two classes to do with, like, investing. But by that time, I had already learned all of them my own. So I became debt free in 2019. Thanks to like consuming all this personal finance. And I did start listening to your to your podcast, too, in 2018. At the same time, this was started because, you know, our sister shared it, and we're in this chat that we have with our siblings. And so I started like listening to that, too. And then I started like, really seeing that, like, life is not just about becoming debt free. And I realized that like, you know, you can take control of your life, if you start investing, and you want to become financially independent. And during this time, in 2019, I was like working full time and going to school. And so I was really burned out. And I was like, I really want to become retired today. And so when I became debt free, I like pivoted to investing very aggressively. And because I realized the importance of investing, even though I got my master's in finance, like, they didn't really teach me about the power of investing. It was just like, you know, how to value a stock and all of that, but when I learned, I was like, Oh, my God, I need this. And then, so you know, I started to invest. And then I told you learn how to invest. And for a while, I would not listen to me. He was like, no, but then he quit job. I think that's when he finally like, started listening to me. And in fact, like, we usually share this story that's a little funny. When I first started his teaching job, he came up to me with his check, he was so upset, because like, who's taking money for this? For three? B? What is this? And he was ready to fight someone. But then I was like, Hey, let's actually for your retirement.

Jamila Souffrant 13:59

Yeah, that sounds definitely how most people feel when they start to invest. Because it's, it's such a, you know, foreign concept. I mean, think about it for you too, because I also had a degree in business with a specialization in finance, but you don't learn about how to create wealth for yourself, right, you're learning more about like corporations and business structures. And I honestly think that's for a reason they don't want you to know how to really build personal wealth, they want you to be indoctrinated into the system and keep you kind of on this cycle of working to for paycheck to pay for your bills and get that so you can stay within the system. So I'd love to know as well in terms of your investing so you said you were able to invest how much because what most people are not going to ask right like, what did those teaching years look like? You know, if you want to share maybe the range of how much you were making and how did you create such a big portfolio based on your salary was it mostly because of how did you were you were you able to save money in certain areas? What are some hacks for other people listening want to do that, too?

Israel Tovar 15:03

Yeah, that's that's a great question. And, again, all of these different ideas and strategies came from your podcast, right? So thank you so much to me again. But I was making 45k When I moved to Nashville back in 2018. And I also bought a house because that's what a lot of immigrants are socialized to believe that owning a house is the only way to building wealth through real estate. And that's not I don't believe that anymore. But that's what I believe. Then even even though I had access to Sudan, who was saying, No, that's not the that's not the only way like, I wasn't ready for her advice until I bought the house. And I went through the whole experience myself, I was not financially ready to buy that house, but I bought it right. And so I did that. And then I started to invest once I started once I quit my first teaching job, and then I got my side hustles. And then I went back to teaching, then I was like, Okay, I'm gonna start investing more aggressively in my 401, K for three B, right. So I started with 10%. And then I was like, I want to make more money. And I also want to live in a more progressive city. And so I ended up moving to DC where I got a 15k salary increase. And I also was able to decrease my expenses. Even though the cost of living was higher there, I was able to decrease my extensive because I was able to live in the outskirts of the city with a really good friend from college. And we rented a house, it was four of us living there. And it was three bedrooms, and I split a room with my really good friend. And it worked out because she was a consultant at that time. And she was spending most of her time in California anyway. And so I was only paid $350 for rent, and I increase my salary by 15k. And then I was finessing getting all the side hustles, like the homework center and doing this club and working during the summers. And I was investing all of that money. And the school where I worked to was providing a 6% match to my four, three B. So that made a huge impact, right. And so I was maxing out my 40143 B, and I was then maxing out my IRA, and then the additional money, I was also investing in a brokerage account. And then two years after living in DC, I decided I just didn't want to be a homeowner anymore. And because it was it was too challenging to be an ethical homeowner when I don't come from generational wealth. And there's, there's so much to unpack there, right. But I ended up selling that house. And then I invested most of it to my brokerage account. And so I was able to build a six figure net worth portfolio by doing all of that in in that time

Jamila Souffrant 17:52

span, right, I want to pull out some really, I think great things that you were able to do. And I think house hacking, being able to get your rent or living expense that low is key. I know not everyone can do that, right, depending on your responsibility and your age, or how safe you feel, right. But luckily, you had friends, you could trust and do that. And you know, sometimes you have to think out of the box, and be creative. And it may require that you give up some comforts. But it's not something that you need to do permanently, right, it may be something you do for two years to get to a point where you can then have more freedom and flexibility. I also loved that you talked about getting that race. So first you boot cities to high cost of living area, but then kept your expenses low. And then even though you made more, you just invested that money, you didn't increase your lifestyle to be able to do that. Now, can you imagine maybe. And I think this was what happens to a lot of people's, they already started this hamster wheel of making more spending more. And it's hard, it's an upscale back, once you start doing that, it just takes more of an emotional and mental effort. But I think that's the beauty of if you're able to find this like some people like all like I'm finding this at a point in my life where I'm not making a lot of money, or I have a lot a lot of debt. And I just feel like if you can understand these concepts now, that way, when you do make more money, you can then apply it. So it's not necessarily a horrible thing. If you don't, you're not in a position to start saving aggressively. But you know about this, that you could get in that position or when you get there, you can do it.

Israel Tovar 19:24

Exactly, yes. I don't think I would ever do that now. Right? Like, in fact, I live by myself and even though like cost of living has increased everywhere and inflation but like, I need to live on myself now. But I laid a strong financial foundation for myself and did those sacrifices and so I can have that now. Right. And I don't regret doing that. But like you said, I knew that it was only temporary. And I don't think I'll do that in the future. If I don't have

Jamila Souffrant 19:51

to sit down what about you and investing? How did you start? Uh, what were the things that you were able to do to get us to this place? I have investing so much.

Sunem Tovar 20:04

Yeah, so something that helped me when it comes to investing is, so I have a partner. So I think that's also been really helpful because I know like, there's the single tax, when you're by yourself, it's like more expensive because both of you, like only one person pays for the rent. And so I think that was also helpful. And also, what helped me was that I didn't live with my parents until I was like 23. And so during that time, when I was paying off debt, like that was really helpful. Of course, like, you know, so if you're like, young, and you're like, I want to become debt free, I think it's also good that you, like, take advantage of those privilege that if your parents let you live there, then go ahead and take advantage. But I mean, some people do say they're like, Oh, well, sometimes you do have to either pay like a mental health, because sometimes it's not the greatest to live with your parents. But I mean, if you can be okay with that, then yeah, definitely do that. And so something for me that helped was that I got out of college. And then I started doing I had a lot of little like side hustles. So I was managing a storage facility, I was managing actually two storage facilities. And then I got a job, and another job. And so I was able to, I think my job was only pay me like $45,000, but then I was making like $30,000, managing the storage facilities. And then I also did a lot of web design. So I had a lot of side hustles. And so I think having all of that, like really helped me pay off my debt. And originally, when I ran the numbers, I was supposed to become debt free and 2021. But I actually was able to achieve it in 20 2019, because of all the side hustles that I had, and I was doing too much. I was hustling a lot. And I understand there, there is a period of time in your life where you have to because when you don't come from generational wealth, and your parents can help you out, that is something that's gonna happen. And so I was hustling a lot. And so once I became debt free, I just pivoted to investing. And because I was already so used to spending so little, I like just took that amount and started investing very aggressively, which helped me like achieve $100,000 in the stock market in 2020. And then now I have over $250,000 in the stock market, because I am still investing. But I'm no longer investing as aggressive as I was in the beginning. Because like I said, you know, there's still time in your journey where you do have to be aggressive. But now, I'm not because now I'm practicing being more balanced with my life. Because now that I do have all of this money that I have accumulated, I'm trying to use it as a tool to live a life that I love. And so for the longest, I used to have to be in an office that I hated to go to, I had to drive 40 minutes, which I know it's not a lot compared to how much you used to drive the Rila. But it was still a lot for me. And so I hated being there. And then because I started thinking about like, money is a tool to use, I was like, How can I make my life better. And so I was able to negotiate with my job to only work four days a week and work remotely. And I started doing that in 2022. And I actually love it. And now I get to like travel every month, I was in New Orleans and in Arizona. So I've been into into so many different places, just because I was able to change my mindset from thinking that money was a thing for me to hoard, to using it as something that I can use to live a better

Jamila Souffrant 23:43

life. Yeah. And I think what you just said like there's a time in your journey where it does require hard work. I don't know if it's a just more definitely, it's a mindset thing. I think with social media, and I'm a bit I'm assuming a bit older than you guys too. So I feel like I put in the work because somebody may see me now and say like, oh, like you're able to, quote unquote, have it all. But there was a time in my life when I was more in hustle mode. And it's not that I'm advocating that people hustle to the point of exhaustion or burnout. But I just feel like most if we're being realistic about the people who are able to break through kind of this beginner journey or stage as I talk about, like, you know, whether you're a what I call explorer or trying to just get to stability or trying to get out of debt, you need to sacrifice and do more work in those stages to get to a certain point, but it doesn't have to be forever. And I think so many people see especially younger people, like maybe the fruits of what you've done, right? So they hear like, oh, you saved how much or you're able to not work from home or see me and say wow, like she's she was able to quit her job, but it's like you had to do some work to get to that to lay that foundation to do that. And I think most people don't recognize where they are in the journey yet. And so they think like, oh, I can do that. Now. It's like Well, you can't, but it will have made they let you may struggle a bit longer if you do it that way. Yeah,

Sunem Tovar 25:05


Israel Tovar 25:06

Absolutely. And I think that like, especially when you come from like a first gen like immigrant household, right, when you don't come from generational wealth, like you tend to do those sacrifices, because you don't have folks helping you, right? And people have asked me, Would you do it all over again? Will you hustle? And I say, Yes, you know, it wasn't fun. But I will do it all over again, because the financial foundation that I have built for myself has given me way more options in my career in my life. Right? It has allowed building that wealth has allowed me to ask myself different questions, right, and how I want to live my life, it's allowed me to reject jobs allow me to pivot and careers has given me so much more power, and getting that power. So first, and professional is so so revolutionary, from my perspective. And so I feel like I would do it all over again. But now that I do have that strong financial foundation like SNAM, I think we are kind of having a more balanced approach to building wealth, right. And we are also trying to move away from scar city money mindset, because I feel like that's something that we really struggled with growing up in poverty, right. And I think part of the reason why we also were able to build such strong financial foundations for ourselves, was because we were trying to get out of poverty. But now we have to remind ourselves that we're not in poverty. More than that we have a foundation that allows us to embrace abundance, and allows us to pursue lives, that we can rest more and experience more joy. And shift, like Sam said, are this this mindset of seeing money as something to be accumulated to as a tool that we can leverage to live our best lives, whatever that looks like for you

Jamila Souffrant 26:46

to talk a little bit more about like your family? So you said there's six of you, and how maybe your parents feel or felt about you not pursuing the traditional like immigrant, what they would say they'd want you for to have as a career, you know, do they see now because sometimes when you're in the moment doing it, there's just like, Oh, why are you choosing this path? Or why did you quit that job? It had stability, but do they now see the benefit of it? And then how would you say like your siblings, like I know, you said your oldest sister told you about the podcast. But do you feel like your position as like first gen immigrants or having so many, because I'm sure I didn't, I didn't discuss where your family is from. But how much now? Is it that you have family that are looking maybe to you for advice, or even monetary help? How do you create those conversations in your family or even boundaries so that you guys are okay financially, but then still potentially helping family out?

Sunem Tovar 27:40

So we actually we grew up in Tijuana. So if I was born in Tijuana, Mexico, and then I was born in LA, but I also lived in Tijuana. So we relocated from Tijuana to LA when I think I was like six and if I was four, and then we moved to Nashville, so Well, now I live in Nashville, which I listened national, but he's trying to move somewhere else. But yeah, so our parents, I feel like our parents are pretty proud of us. For the longest, my mom didn't want one of us to be like a lawyer or a doctor engineer. But I feel that what we are pursuing has has been good for her and my parents like they have they have been really great at like, being happy and supporting us in our journey. I mean, at least that's what I feel like I don't know about you. But to answer your question about our siblings, so we actually have like a chat where are all our siblings talk to each other. And since me and utilize started getting so into, like personal finance, and talking to everyone, we talked to all our siblings about investing. And in fact, one of our older brothers, who's like two years older than me, he just recently reached 100k in the stock market this year. And he started investing in 2020 when we started talking to him about it. And then our sister, she's also investing the one who, who showed us your podcast, she's also investing. And so yeah, I think most of our siblings are investing and they usually come to us for questions when they're like, Hey, should I What should I invest in? Should I open up this card? And something for us because we are Latinos? Like we grew up in like a collectivist family, like we want to build wealth with our family, because what's the point of us being wealthy and our family not like I want all of us to be able to become financially independent, work optional and not have to work so that we can go on trips together. And so we're really happy about I'm sharing this knowledge with them.

Jamila Souffrant 29:42

All right, I have to ask as someone who has kids and I'm just like, I love seeing adult sibling relationships. That is my you know, I'm pretty cool and close to my siblings and I, we didn't grow up all in the same household. I'm also a lot older than my sister for my mom and then I have a bunch of siblings. My dad, but we I love that are still all able to have a connection. And now raising kids within the same household only two years apart all three of my kids. And I'm just like my goal, I just want them to continue to remain connected as adults. And so I just love when I meet adult siblings that choose to spend time with each other. So was there a value system within your household growing up that your parents instilled in you to help enforce this as adults, even the what seems like this ability to share with each other and to learn from each other? And I'm not saying that you probably don't have like, issues, right, like all siblings do behind the scenes. But what would you say? So then as someone who's like, wants to have a closer relationship with their siblings and talk about investing, and bring them on the path with them or about well, is that something that had to be talked about as children? Or what would the value systems that you got from that? And then how, as adults, can you encourage your family members to get on the path with you?

Israel Tovar 30:59

Yeah, that's a great question. And I just want your audience to know Jamila went to them, and I do have issues, because she starts it and not me, okay, like, I never saw any of the issues. It's always just kidding. I really do think that it's very much ingrain in a Latino like collectivist culture, that we're so family oriented, I'm not sure exactly what our parents or family did for us to be so close. But I just know that like, for me, I was the only one who left home for college, like most of my siblings, who went to college, went to state schools. And for me, going away for college was really good for me, for me to explore the world, you know, and get to know myself better. But I would always come back to visit my family, like I would always come back to like, every time I had a break, I will come back to this and my family. And even today, like I stay coming back to Nashville, I always say I say come back to dusty Nashville because of my family, you know, like, because of my family. And it's like, I don't I don't know exactly what what our parents did. I just know that it's very much part of the Latino culture. And it's not just specific to our family. Right? Like, I know, for example, like when I being first gen, and being the only one who went away for college, my mom was really, really sad that I went away for college. In fact, she would make me text her every morning and call her every night. And she would often ask me, When are you going to transfer to a local university, right? Because it's just like, your kids just don't leave you, right? Your kids only leave you when they get married. And that's it, right? Where they get marry, right or whatever, like, they just don't leave you. And so I think it's I think my mom was also really pressing, like throughout our lives, like my dad was the one who went out to work really hard to get the money. And my mom was working really hard in the household. But I think because we had the privilege of having our mom there. I think that also plays a huge role in how we are able to really value family. But those are my initial thoughts. Do you have any other thoughts on them?

Sunem Tovar 33:09

Yeah, I think it has to do with my mom, she was she always made sure that we stay connected. In fact, like she, she still calls both of us like every day. So my parents recently retired, and they relocate it to the one on Mexico. So they move back. And so my mom, when she goes to Tijuana, she usually causes like, every day, and I think because she's like really trying to build that connection with us, which is why we have like grown up being very connected. But to answer your question about how we started talking to each other about money, so I feel like sometimes your siblings are not gonna want you to talk about money, they're not gonna want to take the advice that you give them. And I just say like, It's okay. Just keep on telling them eventually, when they get to a place to receive it, they will receive it. And so that's what something that I did when I was talking to who I like he was not willing to receive it for a while. And then finally he was and now he's so passionate about talking about this too. And so I think like, like I said, like if you have siblings, just just try and show that also also, like show them your numbers. That's been very powerful. Like, when I've shown my brothers my investment numbers, like how much I have in the stock market. They're like, Oh, my God, you did that. Like, if you can do it. We grew up in the same house hood. I can do that too. Can you teach me?

Jamila Souffrant 34:34

Yeah, I think definitely showing because so much of it feels invisible or fake, right? Like it's on paper or it's not real or it's not money you can actually touch so you have to make it real for people. And then imagine someone like you literally grew up with and they're showing you like I have $50,000 in my investment account. You may not have have anything because you didn't start you know, I would think that would encourage you to be like wait a second, like let me start Doing something. Hey journeyers if you are loving this podcast, then you will love my book, Your journey to financial freedom, a step by step guide to achieving wealth and happiness. I wrote this book for you. This book is for you if you want a clear and enjoyable path to having more money, options and a rich life, this book is for you if you hate your commute, and the fact that you need to seek approval or permission from a boss, I hated that when I worked. This book is for you. If you weren't born into wealth, you didn't marry rich or win the lottery, but you still want freedom. This book is for you. If you're at a crossroads, a major decision or event is imminent, maybe a career change marriage starting a family pressures are reaching a tipping point. And the discomfort and the desire for more can no longer be ignored. And this book is for you. If you find yourself zoned out at meetings, looking out the window or daydreaming about the life you truly want. So go pick up your journey to financial So I can show you how to map out how to get from where you are today to where you ultimately want to be. And enjoy the journey. While you're on the path. Head over to your journey to financial To see where you can pick the book up. It's available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, your local bookstore everywhere. Go to your journey to financial to get the book now is how you talk about you know home ownership. And I think it's so interesting. So as you said like, looking back on it maybe you you know wasn't for you, you weren't ready. But then it looks like selling your home did give you a boost, right? It allowed you to make some headway with your finances. And I often find that's the case for people where, you know, maybe you could if you knew what you knew you do things differently. But if you did things differently, you wouldn't be where you are, because it helped. So for you for people, considering homeownership right now, or wanting to have a home and invest in real estate, what are some things that you wish you didn't know that you would have done differently? And any other things. So I love how you just mentioned also home ownership as it being ethical. So we can talk about that after you answer the first question.

Israel Tovar 37:16

Yes, I have a lot of hot takes on home ownership Jamila, but I won't share them all on this podcast. I think the main piece is that we need to approach homeownership with intentionality. Right. And in order for you to become intentional, I think it's like deepening your financial literacy. Right, getting to know yourself more, and then connecting your financial literacy to yours to who you are and what you want from your life. Right. I think those are two main pieces, because a lot of folks especially if you come from an immigrant or first and background, like a lot of folks are socialized, like I was mentioning to believe that homeownership is the only way to build wealth, right? Because that's what was instilled in us. Right. And that stems from that socialization piece, but also from a lack of financial literacy. And so for me, that was definitely the case. And now knowing myself better, like I know, I'm a free spirit, I love to pop around, you know, like I've lived, I've had the huge privilege of living so many parts of the country and the world. And I want to continue to do that. And that's just who I am. And I feel like me, being a home owner in this stage of my life. And especially because I bought that house when I was 23 years old. I'm 20 now, right? When I was 23 years old, like I learned a lot from that experience that I wouldn't give back. But it was also really hard experience because I didn't have money to replace the roof when I had to replace it, right? I just didn't know all the pressures that came with homeownership. And then I was like, Oh, well, I'll just rent it. And then when I rent it, I'm like, oh, it's hard to rent it right? Especially because I wanted to be an ethical landlord, I wanted to rent out to black folks to brown folks, immigrants, queer people, right? And then when COVID hit, people couldn't pay. And I was like, It's okay, don't pay, but I only got $2 on my bank account. And so I'm like, what's going on? You know, I'm saying like, what's going on? So I decided to sell it because I realized that for me, it just didn't fit with my lifestyle with my values, like investing in index funds fit much better for me, because it's like, if I invest in index funds, I can build wealth through that and I can still bop around. Right? And I don't have to deal grapple with these tensions of being am I going to be a home? Am I going to be an ethical landlord, right? Am I going to come back to Nashville? Am I gonna I don't have to deal with any of that. Now, like, I think that if I were to buy a property again, when I don't think I want to buy a property in the US, I think I want to buy property in Mexico. That experiences as hard as it was. I think it taught me so much that wouldn't give back those lessons. But I implore folks to please approach your homeownership journey with intentionality. Don't do it because you feel like that's what you need to do. Yeah,

Jamila Souffrant 39:51

it's such a great such an important and great almost exclamation that you have to put like think through the numbers. When you are considering buying property, because also I think this idea of it being physical, and I love real estate too, because it's physical, you can walk, you can see it, you can, you know, it's also helps your ego, right? Like I own a home, I own multiple homes, there's like a lot that goes along, along with that, that people want to have and say, but you know, you can build wealth. And this is why financial independence and the concept grabbed me when I first heard it, and I'm assuming probably what helped you like get on board was when I was like, Wait, regular people are just investing, like in retirement accounts and taxable accounts. And yes, it takes longer, you know, it's, it's a slower burn, but it's almost failproof, as long as you're a long term investor, that you can invest your income to gain wealth. And I think that's something that I just want more people to understand about wealth, it, it looks different, this type of wealth, it's more covert, it's not as loud. But the fact that you can move around or that you know, you can travel or have the options that you guys have, like, that's a generational wealth, you're going to eventually be able to pass down to people in your family. Yeah, exactly.

Sunem Tovar 41:09

And also, like, a lot of people when they just think about wealth, is like a house. But also like wealth can be like building wealth is like do a stock market or a business and do real estate, like you can have wealth using all three of those. Or if you're like, actually, I just want to do one, then yeah. And that doesn't have to be like maybe right now, like someone can start off like building wealth through the stock market, because that's all they can afford to do. But later on in the future, they're like, Oh, I actually want to be a real estate investor. And you can do that too. And also, you can be a real estate investor through the stock market to FYI.

Jamila Souffrant 41:46

And doing it ethically, I think that you brought up a good point as well, like in terms of wanting to be fair, because a lot of people want a talk about real estate and flipping, you know, houses and all that, like, are you really thinking about the community and who can afford those houses. And so I think, in general, this whole system, you know, participating in it, this capitalist system, there's just a lot that you have to either come to terms with, and it's like, you can't necessarily it's not always it's not 100% honest, I'm not gonna say 100% ethical, but like just investing in the companies we invest in even an index fund, right, like some of those companies that we are participating in are not all great, a lot of them aren't. But the option though, is until we can figure this out as a society, it's We can't just sit on the sidelines either, and not build wealth, because at least if we have something, we do have some say we the more money you have, unfortunately, the more power you have. And so we need to as immigrants, we need to as brown people, as queer people build wealth so that we can have, we can have a say and have some influence and just not like sit on the sidelines. Absolutely

Israel Tovar 42:56

great. I have I have lots of heartaches, especially about capitalism to you know, I'll just share a couple on here. But absolutely, I feel like under capitalism, money equates directly to power, right? Power, whether that's political power options to give you more power to quit a job to have more flexibility or like this power, right. And so that's why we're so passionate about teaching folks how to learn the language of money and get their money, right. So they can have more power in this society. And because of capitalism, right? And the thing about investing in the real estate market is that like, these corporations are making money off the backs of our folks, right? This may be you don't you when you go to Walmart, you see low income black and brown folks working right? You see low income folks, but then the people who are getting the profits are the rich white men. And so you investing in the stock market is you reclaiming the money that we rightfully deserve? That is our money, our our communities are making that money. If you look at the history of the US, as a former history teacher, like immigrants, black folks, indigenous folks, we build the wealth of this country and we build arguably the global economy, right? Black folks were commodified as property right so black person only property in the US is so freaking revolution is so powerful, right? indigenous folks, like you know, the European colonizers stole our the lands of indigenous folks. So like so like an indigenous person, only property that's powerful. And so building wealth is kind of also reclaiming what's rightfully ours as marginalized people. Right. And it's reclaiming and also gaining more power in a capitalistic society. So we definitely need to get our money right and

Sunem Tovar 44:39

and something else that we say is that like, building wealth for ourselves is kind of anti capitalist too, because we get to use that money to rest. We get to use that money to you know, become financially independent. We're like we're getting out of this. We're getting out of what capitalistic society tells us that we have to always be productive. We can't run And so like when we get our money, right, we can buy our time back and rest and like, do whatever we want without having to always be in this, like, this thing that oh, I need to make more money, I need to be more productive. I need to accomplish all of this and this that, you know, the world teaches us that we have to but we do not have to. Where

Jamila Souffrant 45:20

are you guys now with your careers? What are your aspirations in terms of your job? Slash maybe entrepreneurship? What's going on there?

Sunem Tovar 45:31

Yeah, so for me is so my. So right now, I work remotely four days a week, I love it, I still do want to become financially independent. My goal is to become financially independent at age 45. I mean, I can get there sooner. But I have really tried to reach this in a balanced way and make sure that I am enjoying my journey right now. Because I realized in 2022, when I reach 100k, that even though I had built this big milestone, as a first gen Latina, you know, who came from poverty, like I was not happy, like I was really anxious during that time. And it was because, you know, like, I was just trying to accumulate money because of my money scarcity. And so during that time, like I decided to pivot, I'm like, No, I want to make sure that I am still pursuing financial independence, but doing it in a balanced way and enjoying my life. And I am honestly like, really enjoying it right now. For

Israel Tovar 46:33

me to Mila. So I also took a sabbatical when I left the classroom from July 2020, to February of 2023. And taking that sabbatical, literally changed my life. My life, I had been really highly productive, really high achieving, I really extracted a lot of joy from advancing social justice for our communities, teaching, you know, low income, black and brown kids and doing all this work. But when I was on my sabbatical, it was the first time ever that I wasn't doing anything, and that I just realized that I extracted more happiness, I had more peace by not doing anything. And I started working full time again in February because I was recruited to this brand new Fintech startup in the south. And it's been in I've been working full time again for like nine months now. And it's still been so hard Jamila. So I, my goal is to be able to retire as soon as possible. I wish I had retired yesterday, but I still, you know, I can't. But it's this tension of like, I want to retire as soon as possible. But I also want to have a balanced approach, right? So how can I win the lottery, right, like, so how can I win the lottery. So I can just retire tomorrow and not have to work. It's just, it's just, it's been a challenge. And so even though like, we are still really committed to helping folks, and I think we're always gonna be committed to helping folks use money to live life on their own terms, like we just don't believe in work anymore. And I think Sam and I both share this value that like, we just want to live our lives on our own terms, whatever that looks like and work a 40 hour work week, a 30, workweek Hour Workweek. It's just not democratic for us.

Jamila Souffrant 48:25

Right? Well, I think this this talk about that tension, because I know a lot of people are feeling that no matter where you are, whether so it sounds like you both are in a place what I call that the five journeyer stages, like either the aviator stage or work flexible stage, but meaning like you're now diverting a lot of your money into investing because you no longer have to worry about paying off consumer debt. And so now it becomes when you get to this third stage. So there's five stages. I talk about all of this in the book, but there's five stages to reach financial independence. And the first two stages are more about Okay, getting to stability, second stage is getting out of consumer debt. And then you reach these later stages, the aviator stage where you're building financial security, so you're able to invest, then the fourth stage is reaching work flexibility, so you can take time off work, you can take breaks, you can travel, but doesn't mean you never work again, you still have to bring in some income at some point. And then the final stage financial independence. And I feel like for a lot of people, whether they're at the beginning or the later stage, it's this it is this tension of well, I can if I spend less or I need less than I can reach my financial goal sooner, right? Like for me, yeah, if we like reduced our expenses, we can be at a point where I wouldn't have to work anymore myself like completely, but I don't want to do that I want to enjoy my life. I want to like still take trips, and live this more balanced approach. So now it sounds like you found a job where you found this work schedule that works for now. Right? And for you as well. It sounds like it's like finding out like how can you get to a point where it's like, it's not the job that I want to have forever. But it's a job that like, I feel like I'm contributing something to the world, or at least I'm happy, but gives me my freedom. So any thoughts or advice for people right now who are just like, well, I don't even know because I want to reach my financial goals. But I also want to have a nice car or also want to travel and why do I have to? I hate that I have to choose both like, I don't know, I know. It's not like a definite answer we can give people but let's talk through maybe what that tension looks like.

Sunem Tovar 50:29

So something that I always ask myself is like first, like, you have to be intentional with the way you spend your money, you will need to know what actually brings you joy and what doesn't. So that like, you can cut up out like the things that you don't really care for. So for example, something that has brought me joy, and that I was willing to reduce my investments because I used to invest like 50% or 60% of my income was when I was like, Okay, well, what brings me joy. And for me, that was travel, food. And then skincare. Now I've gotten into skincare, but like, so I'm like, willing to spend money on this. And for me that's worth, like, still working until I'm 45. But if I had a job that I hated, I would be like, Hmm, I mean, I love skincare, but I don't think it's worth me being in this job that I hate. So I'm going to reduce that. So I think it's just being very intentional with your spending, being very intentional with the type of person you are and what are your values? What brings you joy when you're spending money? Yeah,

Israel Tovar 51:37

I think for me, I think this tension is even more like, up in my face, because I took my sabbatical. And I experienced freedom for those eight months that it's been hard, I get a taste of it. And I want it back. You know, I want it back. And I just don't want it for eight months. I want it forever. And so I think this tension, because some of them also wanted to take a sabbatical. And then she saw me living my best life. It's just like, I'm definitely gonna take a sabbatical. But then she saw me going back to full time work. And she's like, I'm definitely not gonna take a step back anytime soon until I have reached my financial. Yes,

Sunem Tovar 52:09

yes. So that's why it's so nice to like, you know, to have a community of people who are doing things that you want to do so that you can go and ask them, Hey, how was this? Like, how does it impact your journey? Or like, how do you feel? And so yeah, like, I wanted to take a sabbatical. But when he came back, I'm like, Yeah, I don't think I want to I mean, my job is not horrible. Like, I have a lot of flexibility. I'm willing to like, think about taking a sabbatical in the next five years or so, once I reach half a million in my investments. Yeah.

Israel Tovar 52:38

So I think for me, I think I'm, I've been struggling with this tension, because of that beautiful experience is a blessing and a curse for me. But I think, like, literally, I had a therapy session today, and I've been was exploring this, you know, it's like, I'm nervous, you know, like, I do want to move abroad, I want to move to Mexico soon. And I do want to fully remote job because I think that like for me, like having like, a stable paycheck is really important. And I do want to reach financial independence. And, but I'm just nervous that I won't be able to, like do it, because I just don't want to work at all anymore. Right? And so like through therapy, I think I've been trying to get to know myself more and trying to figure out like, what are the different priorities in my life? Like, what are the non negotiables? What are my needs, right? Like, personally, spiritually, geographically, everything. And once I figure that out, how does money fit into that? And then how does work fit into that? Right? And so trying to try, I think it's kind of like a, like a self personal journey, for me to figure out those things before I can be like, Okay, well, maybe I'm not, I'm only going to work 15 hours a week, and I'm going to find a job that pays me really well for those 15 hours, or maybe I'm going to move to a different place, you know that I'm able to save money. So it's it's very much like a self discovery journey that I'm going through, right, currently. And so unfortunately, I can't really be as helpful as a man because I'm kind of like in the

Jamila Souffrant 54:07

struggle of it. It's a real feeling of what like, what do I want, which is why I feel like and I know the financial independence journey, it's almost just like it presents itself as this outward journey to these very much tangible counting the number or counting the dollars and looking at the accounts. And it's all this doing. But I think honestly, it's really why I want everyone to go on it is because it's not about the amount of money you accumulate at the end of it all or how much money you pay off in debt because this that will happen. That is going to happen once you start this journey, but it's the inward journey. It's going to require a view because you will begin or you're going to need to begin to ask yourself better questions about your life, about what's worth it to you? And it's going to force you to reckon with the life you created. To end the life you say you want? I don't know, I just don't think anyone. And I'm not being pessimistic when I say this, I don't think that anyone is going to be 100% have it figured out or happy 100% of the time, even the people who have all the money, even the people who are financially independent, like there are, they're still us, like, we're still like complete humans, with our emotions and feelings and everything. And so I just think, I don't think that the journey stops, I think maybe the numbers you might like, check off that you did something like you have 100,000. Even if when you reach the 500,000, like, there's all this internal work that happens, and I think it's just on going, but the sooner that you can understand that the journey is a lot of inward stuff, like it's a lot of intangible things. I think that's what will help you realize, or at least not be so hard on yourself for not having it all figured out.

Sunem Tovar 55:49

Yeah, exactly. It really does. When you start on like this journey of becoming financially independent, it really does change you, and in a good way. Because you like if I was like, you start asking yourself all these questions that you didn't before. And also like, I think we're in this point of asking ourselves questions, because both me and Ryan have reached close to five, which means that we are traditional retirement at 65. I think 60 is already set. And so we want to know what we want to do for those years until we actually and like, do we really want to like like, we also like, also ask ourselves some questions like do we want to keep on pursuing financial independence and like reach it at 45? Were like, like, I said, like, do I just want to take a job that's and work 15 hours and maybe reach it when I'm 60? Because my my traditional retirements already set?

Jamila Souffrant 56:39

Yeah, these are all Oh, my gosh, such great reflection questions. And I want you guys to like let people know where they can find out more about your work. You know what you're going to be up to over the next few months. And yeah, where they can find out more about you. Yeah,

Israel Tovar 56:57

so we recently pivoted from being the dream Teacher Project, where we provided anti racist culture responsive financial literacy to teachers of color, to just focusing on our platform of money Noticias podcast. We made that pivot because we want to foster a community of like minded people who are you know, committed to getting our money right and taking control of our lives. And so on our money notices podcast we spill the tea about money as it relates to being anti racist and anti capitalist and living our best lives. So you can find us on IG at the money Noticias podcast or on your favorite podcast platform. If you want to listen to our podcasts, we also have a free money guide. Six strategies to take control of your debt. If you're interested in that we can you can download that in our link in our IG account.

Sunem Tovar 57:58

And also like make sure to follow us on IG because I do share all the numbers when I travel so like if you're wanting to know all the tea on how much I smell when I travel. I feel like I literally travel every month now. I share all of those and then we share a lot of that behind the scenes

Israel Tovar 58:15

yeah so if you want to know like where's Israel gonna enter what is how is this you know, self discovery journey going on? Like follows on the IG and a podcast because I we shared all of that there,

Jamila Souffrant 58:28

right and see the IG one more time.

Israel Tovar 58:30

So it's money notice, yes, podcast, right.

Jamila Souffrant 58:34

And so if you're listening to this and you got value, or you enjoyed it, take a screenshot. I always say take a screenshot tag us tag me at journey to launch so we know that you were listening. And yet let's follow them on their journey. I'm so happy to have met you guys. And I can't just wait to see how your journey continues to unfold.

Israel Tovar 58:52

Thank you so much. To me, it was such an honor to be here with you today.

Speaker 2 58:57

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 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 journeys. 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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