Paying Off $102K of Student Loans & Buying a House in NYC on a Teacher’s Salary w/ Melissa Jean-Baptiste

Episode Number: 370

Episode 370: Paying Off $102K of Student Loans & Buying a House in NYC on a Teacher’s Salary w/ Melissa Jean-Baptiste

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Paying Off $102K of Student Loans & Buying a House in NYC on a Teacher’s Salary w/ Melissa Jean-Baptiste

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Melissa Jean-Baptiste, financial educator and author of “So This Is Why I’m Broke” is a first-generation Haitian American and former NYC high school teacher. Melissa joins us this week to recount her journey of paying off $102,000 in student loans and buying her first home, all on a teacher’s salary. As the founder of Millennial In Debt, she creates a shame-free digital platform dedicated to helping Millennials and Gen Z restructure their relationships with money, obtain financial freedom, build generational wealth and become future millionaires. 

In this episode, we discuss: 

  • How Melissa’s student loans grew from graduating with $50K owed to $80K in 3 years due to an interest-only payment plan she didn’t fully understand and how she successfully paid it all off in 2018 through selling her teaching lesson plans as a side hustle. 
  • Her venture into homeownership and the challenges encountered during the home buying process. Melissa underlines the importance of obtaining an independent home inspection alongside the bank’s appraisal.
  • How she transitioned from teaching to dedicating herself entirely to content creation and entrepreneurship within her “zone of genius”.
  • The significance of having a supportive community, both online and offline, to navigate significant life and career transitions effectively + much more!

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Hey, hey, hey, journeyers Welcome to the journey to launch podcast today in the rocket seat. We have Melissa Jean Baptiste, she is a financial educator and author of so this is why I'm broke money lessons on financial literacy, passive income and generational wealth, which is a first generation Haitian American and former New York City High School teacher love all that. So stop by say, Melissa. Yes, as the Beyonce of personal finance, she paid off $100,000 in student loans and bought her first home all on a teacher's salary.

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 2:24

Thank you so much for having me. It is truly an honor. I love your podcast, and I've just been like fan girl eggs. I'm really excited to be here with you.

Jamila Souffrant 2:32

Yes. So okay, I want to learn more about your background, your story. I always love when I speak to fellow creators who also grew up in New York who have that immigrant background plus your Haitian, which I love as a teacher. So all the things that I feel like it's so relatable for people on this journey. So can we go back just a little bit into, you know, maybe your younger years, and your family background and how money was discussed or not discuss growing up? And how that kind of shaped you into what you're doing now?

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 3:03

Yes, awesome. So I am first generation Haitian American. And so in my household, it was really, really focused on Save your money. That was really the, the big part of the conversation about money was save your money, save your money, save your money, don't waste your money on things like don't just go buy all the things you see, save your money. And so that's pretty much how I tried to approach money growing up. And I never really saw money as a tool, which is now what I look at it now. I really just thought as I work, I make money, I'll save some money, and then I'm gonna spend the rest. That's just how money felt to me growing up. And so I graduated from college, I became a teacher. And at 25 years old, I was like, Well, the next adult thing to do is to buy a house. And so in New York, you know, I went with a winter realtor, and he was just like, well, your debt to income ratio is really high, and you're not going to be approved for a very large mortgage. And so I was approved for 100,000, which, in New York, you're not getting anything with $100,000, you know, alone. So he's he gave me the advice to call my loan provider and really discuss strategies with them on bringing down my student loan debt, so that I would have a better opportunity to get a bigger mortgage. And so I made this call to Sallie Mae, and you know, I'm speaking to her and she's just like, Oh, I see your balance is $80,000. And that shocked me for so many reasons. Because I did not borrow $80,000 I borrowed 50,000 And I never missed a payment. I was paying back my my student loans since 2010. So in 2013, I was really confused as to why my balance went up. When I never missed a payment. I didn't I didn't know what that to income ratio was. I didn't know anything. And so she sat me down essentially, where I sat down crying, and she explained that I was on an interest only payment plan. And I was just like, I don't even know what that is. All I know is when they sent me the letter to pick, you know, the different payment plans, I picked the lowest one because there was no way on my teacher salary, I could afford to pay $1,100 a month to my student loans and then live and do anything else. And so she was just like, get it on this payment plan, you'll be paying back your loans for the next 30 years. And I don't want to live with my parents for 30 years like that, that just doesn't feel like a success that feels like I failed, and doing all the things I'm supposed to do as the eldest daughter as the first generation to go to college and do all these things. And so that's when I really sat down with myself and my numbers and overcame the shame and the sadness and the confusion to really understand, you know, what my debt look like, what my net worth was? And what are the things I could do in order to pay this debt down more aggressively, so that I could move out of my parents house, buy my first home and really start living the adult life, you know, as I knew and saw it. So

Jamila Souffrant 5:54

when you went to college, did you always want to be a teacher? Was that the goal? No.

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 6:01

I love having that conversation. Because it's so funny that my counselor at the time, I wanted to be a psychologist. And then I took that my first psychology class and it was so boring. I was just like, No, I don't want to do that. And so I went to her and she's like, Okay, well, what are you like, what are you interested in, and I really loved English, I loved writing, that was my passion. And she was just like, well, English majors don't make any money. So you should double major and become a teacher, like go into education. And I'm just like, teachers make a lot of money. But I think what she was trying to do was guide me more towards like safety. Where as you know, just being an English major, or trying to go into journalism was seen as more difficult or not a strategy to land a job. So I was just like, Okay, I guess I'll do that. And I kind of just like walked into the education fields as a way that I could still be an English major, and have some sort of security when I graduated from college.

Jamila Souffrant 6:53

So what grades did you teach? And you taught English? I'm assuming? Yes,

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 6:56

I taught English. And I taught high school for 11 years. So majority was ninth and 11th grade, and towards the tail end of my teaching career, I taught 12th grade advanced literature.

Jamila Souffrant 7:08

Okay. All right. I love that. So you said you graduated with some loans? Did you go to a private or state or city school,

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 7:16

I went to a private college. And I think that's such an important conversation itself. Because I didn't look at state schools as an option, right, I applied to a few. But I went to a private high school, and it was really just made to seem like you have to go to a private university. Those are the good schools, that's really where you want to end up. And as I got older, and when exactly when I became a teacher, and was helping students make decisions on where to, you know, go to school and apply. It was just like my colleagues, the people I'm teaching side by side when to say schools have little to no debt, and we're making the same amount of money, and we're teaching in the same school. So it was really just the misma misstep. And the journey, but that's okay. Well, it's

Jamila Souffrant 8:01

I mean, I obviously hindsight, you know, more and yeah, you know, at that age, you know, when we were younger, it's just like, there's just like, sometimes we're on this track that we want to stay on, or just have our blinders on about other options. I heard you say you went to a private high school where you like going for PrEP?

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 8:15

Yeah. So I went to Catholic High School, and I took all the Yeah, all the prepping all the you know, like, do this apply to that. And so it was just one track focus. I should have

Jamila Souffrant 8:26

known it was Catholic, just because you're Haitian your families. I would have had that. Okay, I love that. Right. Just trying to get a sense of your background, your education background. And as I know, that just for immigrant families, like education is super important. So that seems like it was definitely instilled in you. And so you graduate, you become a teacher. But at the same time, it's looking like you're understanding now your finances and the lack of knowledge and knowing kind of loans, you signed up for what that was doing for you. So can you talk about your teaching years, and earning the money you were making? Plus now, learning that you weren't even paying down your loan, and how you made changes to get that loan paid off?

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 9:05

Yes, so at 25 years old, like I said, I went to the realtor, he dashed all my dreams, I could not be a homeowner currently. And I really saw when I looked at my numbers that I had a giant gap. So essentially, I was making enough money to pay for my my cost my living but I didn't earn enough to pay down the debt aggressively where it was actually going to hit the principal. And so that's when I discovered side hustling. And initially, just like most anyone that's like, Okay, I need to pay down debt, or I need to make extra money. I was looking at every side hustle on the planet. I was like, I'm gonna walk dogs, I'm gonna tutor, I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna do that I am going to just do anything to earn this extra money. But the fact of the matter is that's not sustainable. And it's also not enjoyable. And so whenever I talk about side hustling, it really is important to look at the skill set that you already have and how you could monetize that in a way that won't take up all of your time. And so Essentially the side hustle that helped me pay down the majority of that debt was I started selling my lesson plans, the unit plans because I was already creating them. For my classroom, I was already spending the hours and putting in the time to make sure that this lesson plan was made for class. And so I found this platform Teachers Pay Teachers, and I was just like, okay, it seems legit, there are a lot of people using it. And that's when I really started making money doing things I was already doing. And so at the height of my side hustling, I was making about 10,000 a year, and I would just take that money and put it directly towards the principal. Every year, I had a little sinking fund, and I was like, we're focusing on this loan next year, we're gonna focus on this loan. But that was my main side hustle, ultimately. And it took me a while to get there. But it was absolutely my favorite, and it still earns me some money now. So it's turned into like passive income over the years.

Jamila Souffrant 10:49

All right, you hear that teachers, Teachers Pay Teachers look that up, you probably have great lesson plans that other teachers will pay for, you can make some money from Yes, absolutely. Did you qualify for the forgiveness program at all through your loans being a teacher? So

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 11:05

yes, and no, the PSLF in that time was still very just almost impossible to earn. And so I was really, really, really trying to stay the course and do all these things. But the primary issue was a majority of my loans were private loans. And so for teacher forgiveness, and PSLF, it has to be federal loans. And so I was able to earn $5,000 in forgiveness at the time because there is a program and this is for New York, I don't know about outside. But in New York, if you teach at a title one school for five years in the humanities, you can get $5,000 forgiven. And if you teach science, special ed and bilingual education, I think it's 17, five you couldn't get and you have to teach for five years and a title one school. So that really did help. But that only goes towards federal and a majority of my loans were private, and had variable interest rates. So that was really a battle, I had to fight on my own. Right,

Jamila Souffrant 12:02

all this information that you knew, right, like all the while you can't go back and change it. I think the importance of talking about it is that for people who are currently in a situation that they don't actually know what type of loans they have, or maybe they have children who are entering that stage, what to be aware of as you're going forward on your pathway. And how much debt did you have at this time, where you got serious about paying it off?

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 12:24

At 1000s? I had borrowed 50,000, in first school and a mix of private, mostly private and some federal, and then by 2013, I was up to $80,000 in loans. Okay,

Jamila Souffrant 12:35

so it sounds like you started paying that off aggressively. How long did it take you to pay that off.

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 12:40

So I made my final loan payment in 2018, and December 2018. And when I made that final payment All totaled up, I pay back $102,000. So double what I borrowed, but it didn't take me 30 years. So it's like, you know, we had some pros and some cons but I was so happy to be done.

Jamila Souffrant 12:57

And that was mostly from like the 10,000, like having that extra income from teachers pay income. And then I'm assuming just like, What are you putting extra money monthly also towards those good questions.

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 13:07

So people always talk about like snowball versus snow Avalanche method. So instead of doing like an additional every month, what I did was any additional money I had per month, I would just put it into that sinking fund into a high yield savings. And I focused on just paying the minimum every month, and then December, it was like my my holiday reward to myself, I would take that sinking fund and just pay off the loan in its entirety. And so every year at the top of the year, I would calculate how much I needed to put into that sinking fund a month to make sure that when December came, I could cover the payoff amount to pay off the loan. So what's important is that people who want to follow this particular method, you want to look at your balance, and also realize that the interest is still going to be adding in. So let's say if I owed 10,000, I would try to save 12 to 13,000. Because I knew by the time December came, it was going to be more than 10,000. So it was just like the planning of January to celebrate in December,

Jamila Souffrant 14:00

right. And it's smart to put if you're doing it in that method to put it in a high yield savings, because hopefully the high yield savings account is there any more interest than the debt interest, where you can kind of hedge off some of that interest payments. That's smart. So going back to being a teacher, can you talk about like how you manage your money at that point, what you saw other teachers doing? Because what I noticed just from, you know, like my husband is that if you know what to do, and you start early as a teacher, like, over time, you can do very well. So you know, you get all your certifications, you know, you make a top of your salary range, and then you know, make sure you're contributing to your TDA your retirement account, like you're doing all those things, but sometimes, like teachers don't know to do that. So like what was the environment in which you were in? When you started to think about your money more and how was that dealing with the teachers around you? Yes.

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 14:50

So I was so so very fortunate and I talked to her still even to this day that I had an amazing work mom when I started at a specific school in Brooklyn in 2011 and I knew nothing about investing, I knew nothing about management. So this was even before I started focusing on paying down my debt. So she sat down with me and she was just like, Okay, you need to sign up for a four, three B, which and teacher world in the in New York as a TDA. And I was like, No, I don't want to do that. And she was like, No, you have to. And I'm just like, No, I want to keep all my money to myself. And so she really sat me down, she said, Well, we're gonna start with 3%. And she's just like, it's gonna, you know, we take out your check pre tax, and she's just walking me through all these steps. And she's like, this is really what's going to set you up for success when you're ready to retire. And I really wasn't trying to hear it, but I didn't want her to continuously keep talking about it. So that day, she got me to sign up for the the TDA, the 403 B, and I contributed $121, a check from 2011. And every time I got a raise at my job, she was just like, Okay, we're gonna increase that contribution by one to 2%. And I'm just like, but I'm not going to feel the rays. And she's just like, you won't miss it. Just like because you're already managing your life with the money you're making. Just like any additional money, you really, really, really want to put towards this TDA. And I'm so thankful for that. Because today, I've achieved Coast fire, which means that when I'm ready to retire, traditional, I will have the amount of money I need, even if I stop investing today. So she really helped me build that security on a teacher's salary, without having to think about it without having to do too many, you know, extra steps just by starting that TDA. And so that's really one important thing. If you are a teacher, you do have access to that 403 B, it's so important to just start, even if it's 1% contribution, because it grows over time. And it really will have an impact on your future that you can't really imagine right now in your present day. Right.

Jamila Souffrant 16:41

One of the other amazing things when I first started my journey that I learned about teachers and some city workers or state workers is that you have access, also additionally to a 457 plan for your state. So if you are able to contribute a maximum to your, you know, your 403 B or TDA plan, and you also have more money to invest, you can also contribute to another pre tax retirement plan, like a 457, that's separate. And so that's more money that you're shielding from taxes that you can put towards your financial independence goal. And with your 457 plan, if you separate from that employer, so you you're not working at the school or state anymore, you can take that money with you or take it out. So obviously, there's more to it. But I just want to mention that drop a breadcrumb for anybody listening who wants to look into that further now, for your journey at this point, talk about money management. So you know, I don't know how much you were earning at that point. But I know you were paying off your dad, were you saving for like a steal a house at this time. So dual goals. So

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 17:43

initially, in the first two years, I was saving really just to pay down that debt. And when I paid off those two, really the largest loans are the ones that are taking the most from my monthly salary, I was able to now start to do a double goal of okay, this money is being saved for paying down future the debts. And then this money that I'm saving, because I no longer have these debts is going to go towards paying for the home. But I really had to focus those first two years on just saving for my student loans. And then I was able to multitask. And so that's why I always say people are like, should I pay down debt? Should I invest? Should I do this? You want to do the split when you can't, right? So you focus on one at a time until you have that additional income or until you know, your side hustle enough to split that income into multiple goals? If not, it is really okay to focus on one at a time, right? So personal finance is so personal, that sometimes the generic like do this only doesn't always align. So that's what worked for me. But you really want to sit down and see well, how, you know, how does my money look so that money management really was focused on saving just for loans, and then saving for loans in my house?

Jamila Souffrant 18:51

I mean, you're talking about reaching and doing good things on the saving and investing side. But I often hear from people and I want people to understand like, did it take some sacrifice or some holding back from spending on the other side? Like what was that really like? Because I know people are listening like, you know, I can't do that. And there's some legitimate reasons why they can't right like obligations and family but there are some people who it might take some sacrifice that they're not thinking about or don't want to do. So what did you have to sacrifice on the expensive side to be able to do what you did? When

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 19:20

I first started this money management and focusing on doing these things I focused on the 5030 20 budget. I no longer use that word now but that's where I started and so that that type of budget really is on paying for your needs and then saving and it doesn't really incorporate investing or too much else and so because my my my focus was just on one thing, that's what I did, and I pretty much cut out all unnecessary expenses. I don't suggest that holistically now right because it was really difficult. I was very depressed. I was mostly navigating out of fear and shame and that's not really how I like to approach navigating money now. Will you have to make sacrifices and change your spending habits, yes. But it doesn't have to be all or nothing. Right. So now I use more of a zero based budget. And I definitely incorporate self care. So I can spend on things that I like in moderation or within specific parameters. So I'll say, Okay, I'm gonna give myself $200 this month to spend on things I like, or I'm going to give myself $100 this month to spend on things I like. So I still get enjoyment out of my money. And I'm still hitting my savings goals and my investing goals while doing you know, fun things. So, when I was younger, I cut out things like brunch, I was not going to celebrate birthday dinners, I was not buying gifts for anybody. And I was ashamed of that I was embarrassed to not be able to buy my mom a birthday gift. But at the time that felt that sacrifice felt like that was the only way for me to hit my goals. So now, it's a little different. Yeah.

Jamila Souffrant 20:49

And I think that's such a conversation to be had about the intensity at which you need to go all in and certain things because I get it. It's like one of those things where I often think about like Michael Jackson, and like Joe Jackson, or just like people who raised superstars and the sacrifice they had to do and like he had no childhood. And then he produced one of the greatest talents or just look at anyone where you're looking at someone who put it all in and you're like, what was it worth it like for the human? Sometimes we talk about, like, the sacrifices we make. And we're like, oh, like now where I am now, I wouldn't do it. But it's like, is it because you'd like don't have to do it anymore. And then there are people who are in like the earlier stages of their journey, like in debt, want to desperately get out of it. And I'm not an advocate for total deprivation and being miserable, right. But it does sometimes feel like, depending on where you are in your journey, if you listen to this, and like you're really in debt, but then you hear what you don't have to like, go too hard, because you need a balance, then knowing that and kind of like letting yourself off the hook a bit doesn't allow you to be as intense it keeps you stuck more in debt, versus what you did allows you to get to where you are. But if you didn't do that, it could have took longer, which is fine, because there is a balance. But I always find that that's an interesting conversation to have. Because then people who maybe who want to get out of debt faster are having a harder time because they're like, Well, I don't want to be miserable. I don't want I don't want to be too uncomfortable when I think that's part of it, though, is to kind of be uncomfortable.

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 22:22

Yeah, I love this conversation. Because what level of discomfort Are you willing to go through to achieve your goals? Right? And so when I look back at that time, I'm just like, Okay, well, yeah, you were able to do this in five years. And that's great. And it is great. And I love, you know, having my house and all these things, but I'm just like, I missed out on some really important life moments with my friends and family that can't be made up, but you can't, you know, recreate. And so that's why I'm often just like, I wish I would have found some sort of balance where I still would have been able to be in a similar timeline, you know, if not five years, maybe six years, but still gonna celebrate, like, you know, my friend's birthday or something like that. So it's an interesting conversation, but I'm, I'm in the same boat. It's just like, it's hard to decide, right? It's

Jamila Souffrant 23:12

hard to go back and think, you know, if you didn't do that, then your journey would look different. But that's okay. So now you're paying off debt, your student loans, you're saving up for the house. What is that buying the house process look like at that time? I don't know what year that was. And just because I know now in today's market, it's so hard for like young people to buy a home, especially in New York or high cost of living based on their salaries.

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 23:35

Yes. So I again, first generation American first person in my my like house, my household to buy a house. So a lot of mistakes were made. And whenever you talk about homeownership, I'm just like, I am not anti homeownership. I am not, I think it's so important. It's an it's an important asset. But I am very pro sharing information on both sides of the coin. So there are a lot of pros in the home ownership process and homeownership experience. And there are also a ton of cons. And I feel like if we don't share the information, we're setting people up for failure and foreclosures and things like that. We don't want that. And so I think I was very excited to buy a home. This is in 2018. So tail end of 2018, I was very excited. But I was not very well informed. I wasn't informed of the process. And I wasn't well informed of what it was like, once you sign once it's your home and now there's like, everything's on you. And so I really do think if I were more well informed, I would have definitely saved more. I would have been a little more financially prepared and I would have understand the process more and so I always share this example and everyone's like, aren't you like embarrassed to share it? It's like no, because I don't want anyone else to make the same example. So for example, when it comes to appraisal, and the inspection, they look similar on paper, but they are nowhere near the same as And when I saw that, I was like, Oh, we're sending an appraisal, we're gonna, you know, make sure we know the value of your home. In my mind, I was like, Oh, they're coming to inspect the house to see what it's worth, not understanding that and inspection is actually coming to like, check the infrastructure, you know, check the pipes, make sure everything is working as it should, or give you a gauge on, you know, when this roof might collapse or when the heating, like might go bad. And so I didn't know that. And so my first year of home ownership, I spent over $20,000, doing renovations that I probably would not have had to do if I had hired my own inspector to check all of these things out. And so the appraisal is for the bank, because the bank wants to know that they're making the right decision giving you money. And so I didn't understand that. And so that's what I mean, when more information about homeownership really needs to be discussed on all sides. Not to like scare people off, but so people know, like, Oh, I'm going to save that $500, I can hire an inspector, I'm going to save that $350 So I can get you know, because to apply for a mortgage is not free. I thought it was free. Like there's so many application fees and things that I didn't know existed. So I want people to know so that they can feel financially secure when they're going through the entire process. So that's, that's my spiel on homeownership and the process that I went through.

Jamila Souffrant 26:21

I Jamila here, host of this podcast and author of the book your journey to financial freedom, a step by step guide to achieving wealth and happiness. Just a few years ago, I was in a job I didn't like with a long commute. feeling stuck, I knew there had to be a different better way. Then I found the pathway to financial freedom and financial independence. Today, I have more money, options and freedom than I ever thought was possible. And in my book, Your journey to financial freedom. I'll show you how you can achieve that too. You'll learn how to spend and save responsibly, all while enjoying that spicy Margarita and extra side of guacamole. To determine where you are on the journey and evaluate your spending and saving goals accordingly. Quit your job, retire early, or reach financial independence. My book your journey to financial freedom a step by step guide to achieving wealth and happiness is out now and available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and more, you can leave and listen to the audiobook narrated by me go to your journey to financial to get a free bonus when you order the book and see all the places to buy it. Once again go to your journey to financial Can you take us all the time a little bit? So you now you paid off your debt and five years? It sounds like correct. And then where the timeline Did you buy a home was it after that five year mark or

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 27:44

so I was a little ridiculous. But amazing guys, so I paid off my final student loan in December of 2018. And I closed on my house in January 2019. So I was in the process of purchasing my home as I was getting ready to make my final loan payment. So it was like madness all around.

Jamila Souffrant 28:03

But definitely big first gen energy and power into that you're giving. So talk about your career at this point. So you're still a teacher. Yes. But you also tell me when you started your platform and how your career has transitioned now? Yes. So

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 28:23

I started millennial Lynda in 2017, I reached out to my best friend and business partner because I was already a blogger and content creator before millennial and dead but I was in the beauty space. And I was talking about her hair and all that stuff. And I came to her and I was just like, I think I want to write a show. And she was like, why? She's like, you've never done that before. She's like, Yeah, I was like, I just think I want to like after learning all the things I learned about money from 2013 to 2017. And all the different people I spoke to and all the conversations I had about money, I was just like, I really want to write people's stories and a funny, humorous way, but also educational. And I really want people to have access to this and be able to laugh and be like, Oh, but I learned what debt to income ratio means I learned what this means. And so that summer of 2017, I wrote the web series millennial in debt. And I was like Googling, like how to you produce the web series and doing all this stuff. And I found this amazing director, and we just like worked really well together. And then in November 2017, the first episode came out on YouTube, and we dropped an episode every week, and it was hard gaining a lot of traction. And so I reached out to my best friend again. I was like, I think I'm gonna make an Instagram like it was always like, I think I'm gonna do this. And she's like, Okay, if I make the Instagram and we make the website, and I really just wanted it to be a place where people could see the episodes, but also ask questions and share their story and learn more things and learn more about my journey. And it really just took off in November 2017. And it just grew into an educational platform where I really talk about financial freedom, financial education, career development, and just really giving people the information To become future millionaires, that is what I call my audience. Because that's where I feel like we all can do the best been gaining generational wealth.

Jamila Souffrant 30:08

So that was 2017 Your a lot is going on for you, by the way, like you got to 17 the other, you know, you're building kind of this platform on the side, you're still working as a teacher. And you know, English teacher, that's not easy. That's not at a high school and broke. Are you still in Brooklyn at this point?

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 30:24

No. So in 2017, I pivoted into queens, and I was in a performing arts school, which was like the perfect place to be building something, right? Because the kids were so crafty. And I would like talk to them, like, Hey, do you think this is cool, and they were just like, so cute and helpful. And like one of the most popular episodes of this series I actually filmed in my classroom, but you just can't tell it's a classroom. It just looked like I'm on a job interview. But that was my classrooms. It was just like, it's like really cool breadcrumbs like that, that I really love.

Jamila Souffrant 30:54

Okay, we're gonna have to definitely get the link to that episode to put in the show notes. So we'll do that. Yeah. So you're paying off debt, you find this home? How long did you stick with teaching, and then there was a pivot right into what you're doing now full time.

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 31:07

Yeah, so in 2021, towards the end of the school year, I really wanted to kind of jump ship everything that but pivot really into my zone of genius, because I really loved teaching, and I was really good at it. But it felt almost like I wasn't growing. And I wasn't learning, I was just like, Oh, I could kinda, you know, if I wanted to teach the same thing for the next 15 years and retire and be fine. But that really wouldn't be pushing what I thought I could do or what I wanted to do, or what I wanted to try to do. And so, in September of 2021, I pivoted into the tech industry at complete a complete pivot, I went into the marketing sector of a tech company, a fin tech company. So I was still in the finance world, and still kind of teaching a little bit with like content and things like that. But it was definitely a pivot out of the education world. And then in November of 2022, I was laid off, and I was just like, maybe I'll try you know, this like business owner entrepreneur, millennial in debt full time, for a year and see what happens. Because when I pivoted into tech, my goal is I'm just gonna do this for a year and see what happens. And either I'll, you know, become a full time business owner, or I'll go back to teaching, like, that's just where I was at. And so the layoff kind of forced me right back into the business owner world. And so I have been working for myself and Millennial and debt since November 2022.

Jamila Souffrant 32:33

I love that. But I need to go back to the decision to walk away from a teaching job because, you know, there's that security, the pension, how did you come to that decision, because I know a lot of not just teachers, but people who have safe jobs who are just like, I can't give this up, because it's just too good to give up. Oh,

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 32:53

I was there. I was definitely there. But since like 2016 2017, I think when I was starting millennial, I always felt like, I don't think I would be a teacher forever. And I wanted to try something different. And I worked in really great schools, and I had great administrators and my last assistant principal, when I was you know, talking to her and like, No, I think I'm ready to go. And she's just like, well, teacher will always be here, you will always be a teacher. She's like, they can't take away your certifications, they can't take away your education. She's like, you can always come back. But she's just like, you know, how much longer are you going to have the opportunity to try something new, or try this without that fear of like, oh, you know, I can't do anything. So she really gave me that that push to say like, if this doesn't work, or if you know, I can't do it, I can always go back to teaching. It doesn't take away anything from my teaching journey and my ability to to teach, but now felt like the right appropriate time to just try to just give it a shot. So that really was a defining moment. And like I said, I really wanted to try to work in my zone of genius where I was good at it, but it kept pushing me and evolving me and helping me grow and learn and change. And as you know, content creation business owner, it's everyday is different. So it's a lot of change and growth. So that's really where I wanted to kind of land and I landed there through layoff but that's okay. So

Jamila Souffrant 34:13

did you have the tech job at hand before you left? Or did you like plants leave first and have money saved up and then this that fell into your lap?

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 34:21

When I became a homeowner I became a massive saver even more than before, because you just want to be cash fluid when you own a home because so many things can happen. And so in doing that, I was just like, I think I want to build just a little safety net of what happens when I jumped ship like what happens when I make this leap. So I did secure the tech role before I left teaching it was a pretty for the most part pretty seamless transition out and I continued to do that saving like I'm gonna just save this. We're just gonna save we're gonna save and see. And so when I was laid off, I had a year's worth of expenses saved. So it gave me that safety cushion to Move, navigate and figure out entrepreneurship and business owner being a business owner full time without having to jump back into another traditional nine to five. So that really it was the definitely the financial safety and cushion that made this feel more doable impossible.

Jamila Souffrant 35:15

So all the things that you did up until you now, like have your business almost set you up really nicely to do what you're doing now, because you're a teacher. And I always say I love teachers when they go into entrepreneurship, because you can teach if you can teach like kids and teenagers translating that into young adults and adults, and being able to distill maybe complex concepts and then to something that's tangible and relatable is very important. Like it's such an important skill, especially on social media. So I'm like, Okay, check, then you're like, you're you were an English teacher. So you're good at writing, like, check, then marketing, this felt like, all the things that you did very nicely set you up to have a successful business. And I think I want to say that for people listening, who are like in a stage where there's a puzzle piece, right, and I still think whatever you're doing now, it's probably the next part of a puzzle piece. Like, how I feel to the next big part. And that whatever you do now, if you're listening, sometimes you're just like, why am I in this position, but it's like part of the puzzle piece to allow you to put it together to use as a tool for your next thing. So stay at it, for sure, for sure, I agree. Now you are full time in your business, you know, you're helping people also reach their financial goals. Talk to me a bit about for you the difference between us. So managing your finances, for your personal wealth, and then now running a business and being financially responsible for that, because I know that that's different. Like just because you're doing well, personally financially doesn't mean like, it's translates to like the business in terms of running that and how maybe as a saver, because I find this with a lot of personal finance creators Is that because you're so astute and such a saver, that in a business, yes, you should be smart and save, but you also have to spend right and invest in your business to grow. So how has that impacted you?

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 37:06

A word Ah, it is definitely different managing your solo independent finances and being successful. And managing a business making sure the business is successful means making sure the business is profitable. And also managing your own finances because I was in a financial position, even though Millennials started in 2017, and was monetized fairly early in its inception, I never used Millennial Money for myself, and I loved that I never used it to invest, I never used it to pay any of my bills, I used my nine to five this to say me and Millennial Money to sustain itself. And so pivoting into Oh, this money has to sustain the business and is very different. So you hit it right on the head where it's just like, because I'm so good at saving and investing, it was a challenge to say, oh, we should invest in a business coach, or we should invest in this type of marketing or this particular tool that's going to help alleviate or sustain and grow, you should invest in hiring an assistant or you should. So it's like, this is money coming out and like but it doesn't have to because I can do everything right. And that's the first thing. Like if you're like, Oh, I've been working and having a side hustle business, and then it becomes a full time business, you think and you want to do everything. So you can save money, and you're really hurting yourself in the business and doing that. Because you will sleep and you won't, you won't grow the way you want to. So it definitely has been challenged. But I find that in the same way where I was able to save like, Okay, this is one year of, you know, money to sustain myself, I've done similar with the business where this is X amount of dollars to sustain the business and X amount of dollars to sustain me. And then we move forward in taking those risks and making those movements and doing those things to make sure that money still grows. But we know like, Hey, I like to call it the runway, like, hey, we have this amount of runway for spending. So we want to make sure we're hitting these income targets so that the runway keeps extending. So that's been how it's worked best for me. And this year, I finally because I was doing my own bookkeeping. Don't do that. Don't do your own bookkeeping, don't do your own taxes. Like I don't want to go to jail. So I hired like a first my first bookkeeper, and that's doing like payroll and things like such big girl things. And I'm like, But and it was expensive. And I'm just like, well, I need to do this right, I need to do this. So it is a challenge, but it's possible and doable. And you just take like one step at a time. And that's really what's been helpful for me.

Jamila Souffrant 39:37

Did you ever consider going more all in on maximizing income from your teachers, PE teacher or from that skill set and that target audience because I know that there are some like businesses where they do really well with that model where whether it's like expanding on helping teachers specifically with lesson plans, or just going another route versus personal finance, I find that sometimes within the personal finance space, like as getting customers in that space, when you're not promising them certain things like, you know, for people who sell investing products, and I know you have some products around like teaching, right, but like, it's easier to almost sell people around creating a business and or making money versus saving and budgeting, like, so did you think about like customer base, and like, if you shouldn't lean more into what you can make as teaching teachers? Yeah, so

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 40:29

I definitely in the business model, think of all different ways that we could pivot and grow, because like you mentioned, and also in the finance space, I find just like, for just for sure, I can sleep at night, I also price things in an affordable manner. Because if you're trying to help people budget and save, you don't usually want to be charging him like $3,000 for a product, right? It just doesn't feel I know that there are some out there, but it's just like, How can I be helping you budget is even if I'm like taking $3,000 from you. And so that is difficult to really grow and sustain. And so a lot of times in the business world, in my business world anyway, I've really turned into like corporate sponsorship to carry a lot of the weight and partnerships with brands. So I've really, that's been a huge part of my bread and butter is really partnering with brands and speaking engagements. But I'm not opposed to leaning into that direction. And I'm always just really into, like, how can we adjust and grow and help and reach more people. And career development has been a really great avenue that we've pivoted into, and really helping people, you know, learn how to update their resumes, learn how to land their next job, because it's something that I know how to do and how to teach, I was teaching resume stuff to my students, you know, for years. So that is something that has definitely also shown a lot of success and growth in the business. But you're right, it's just hard when you're like really, really, really into one sector. And it's just like, Well, what do I do here now? And how do we grow? So always anyone listening, always have some sort of pivoting and growth strategy? If you do want to go into, you know, being a full time business owner?

Jamila Souffrant 42:03

Yeah. Well, what about your personal journey, finance journey now? So, you know, there's some things you've checked off like, and you know, I don't know how you feel about debt still, if you're still the kind of like no dead zone, or you use that to your advantage, or how you're feeling about your financial independence journey. So I know you said your coast, FYI. But is there a strategy for you when you think about like moving forward to be able to quit your business or just having to work earlier? And so early retirement, like, what does that look like for you?

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 42:33

So I love what I do. But I don't want to work forever. So that's, I feel like a common factor. I don't want to work till 60. But it's nice to know that when I hit 65, I will be okay. But what I talk about Coast fire all the time is that now that I've reached it, I still continue to invest pretty aggressively, and I'm buying back my time, right? So every year that I continue to invest, I get to retire earlier than that traditional 65. And so I reached Coast fire about three years ago. And so I'm like, I could stop investing, but I won't. And so my goal, it's a loose goal is to hit millionaire status in the next 10 years and retire in the next 10 to 15. So that's the goal. So we're gonna keep investing, we're gonna keep growing our assets and our income until we get there. And then after that, who knows? It could be anything at that point.

Jamila Souffrant 43:24

Anything's possible. Yeah. Well, I'd love to talk a bit about your family. So coming from like the Haitian background, what does your family feel about? You maybe quitting your job? Because I know Haitians love stability? Do? How did you navigate that? And just with your personal relationships, right, so you I heard you were the oldest. So that means you have some siblings? And so like, how do you navigate money conversations, or hopefully influence people around you in a positive way? Just like friends who are not within the space, like family and friends? How do you navigate all this?

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 43:53

I've always said that I have. I'm an extremely fortunate human being and all aspects of my friends and family because kind of no matter what I do, they are with it. They are foreign, they might not understand it, they might take some time to really get the full picture. But I have been very fortunate where my family and friends kind of know, like, whatever crazy, wacky thing that I'm gonna do, or I want to do, they're like, it's gonna be good. That's and I really love that. And so my parents, they had a few conversations with me as we I was, you know, telling them I'm leaving teaching. And my dad was like, the cutest thing. So when I told him was like, Oh, I work in marketing now. And for a couple of weeks, he was telling his friends that I was a telemarketer. And I was like, no, no, no, no, like, I'm not a telemarketer. But last year, we took a family trip to Costa Rica, and I was under a brand partnership that I negotiated with the hotel. And I think that's when they really understood like, what I could do and what was possible, and like they saw me working and like creating content and talking to these people and doing these things and then when my book launched and they came to the book launch and they stopped people, they're like, why there are people want you to sign your name? And I'm like, Yeah, I think so. And so they're really excited. And I think they just get to see and learn more and more. And when I share these experiences, and like, I went to the NASDAQ, I went to the New York Stock Exchange, like they just really excited and they love talking to their family, because patients love to talk about their kids and their kids doing good stuff. So even when they're confused, they ask questions, but they're really just there to support and my friends who are not in this space. I love really that like, they'll kind of check in with me, like, Hey, I just opened a 401 K, like, you want to, like, talk to me, help me set up. There's even my partner who just got a new job. He's just like, oh, like, I have this option, and this and this, and we want to talk about it. And it's just like, really nice that they come in and just check or have me look over things. So it's really been a great process. And the more I grow, I'm able to help support them. And so I helped my dad open his first Roth IRA at 62. Right? And so I it's like, you know, it's never too late. And he's always just like, can you check and see if it's grown? And I'm like, okay, yes, I was, like, long term died. But he's like, he always wants to see like, Oh, he's like, I invested in the study group. So I'm really just like, I am glad that they're always open and just happy to have their support.

Jamila Souffrant 46:20

I think that having family that support you, and trust you, like it's such an asset, it's such a privilege, you know, that helps people who you don't want to make different decisions. Like that confidence level that you get, I always say like, I feel like the confidence that I have, where I don't have to have many people who like and love me, but like, I know, there's a core group of people who do no matter what, and it's like, I feel so empowered by that to go out into the world.

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 46:46

100%. And it really changes how we show up on the internet, right? As I always say, I'm just like, I don't really care about what trolls are saying, like, I don't care because like my friends and family are so in my corner. It's just like, I'm okay. Like, it's cool. You don't have to you don't have to like my content. It's fine. Right? There's someone else that will so Right,

Jamila Souffrant 47:05

right, right. And on the flip side, like having people who are not within the industry who don't care about that, like they don't care about how many followers you have. They're just like, what, like, are we gonna brunch or not? Like, I'm like, All right, I have to do this thing, like, sure. I

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 47:18

love it. I love it. And I'm like, right now it's super cute is when we do go out and do like things that are not connected to anything. They're just like, do you want me to like get B roll for you? Because I taught that they're like, do you want me to just like record you walking? And I was just like, No, it's okay. It's okay, so it's like really cute. I'm really enjoying this experience with them. That's

Jamila Souffrant 47:37

awesome. That's awesome. So Melissa, please tell everyone more about where they can find your book more about you where they can follow you. And by the way, Melissa puts out amazing reels and content. So you know there's some people on the internet that do like a mate like create amazing like you I think Hey, Burna is like another one and some others like the reels you put out. I'm just like, so creative and like when it's like meet time for our real I'm like, Oh my gosh. So I want to follow you because you do put out great work. So tell everyone where they can follow you and find out more about your work. Yeah, so

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 48:08

I am a millennial in debt on all platforms, Instagram, Tik Tok, millennial You can find the book kind of anywhere you find books, which is cool or so this is why i And yeah, I'm always online. So she sent me a DM I'm there you could you could catch me. Love

Jamila Souffrant 48:25

that love that will tag all of Melissa's information in the show notes. Alyssa, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Melissa Jean-Baptiste 48:31

Thank you. Thank you so much.

Jamila Souffrant 48:35

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're not missing an episode. And if you're happening to listen to this and Apple podcasts, rate review and subscribe there. I appreciate and read every single review. Number two follow me on my social media accounts. I'm at journey to launch on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And I love love love interacting with 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 Hello

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