Over the summer I was introduced to a young woman named Ashley Brewster through one of my good friends. She is currently attending Law School at the University of Dayton and also runs a business called Impact Financial Consulting where she helps people get on track with their finances, build budgets, and create habits to generate long term wealth. My friend has known her since he was young and he also knew I was interested in this field, so he told me I should reach out to her. I did, and we met up one day and talked about how she got started, what her motivations and reasons behind doing this were, and also bounced ideas off of each other. This was before I had released my blog so she gave me some tips on how to make it successful as well. Since she had tons of great information and I felt that a lot of people could benefit from what she knew, I reached out again and asked her if she would be willing to let me interview her and be my first guest post for this blog. She was very happy to do it and since this is my 10th post, I wanted to make it special! Now I’m going to show you guys some of the conversation we had and what we can learn from her, enjoy!
Rod: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background.
Ashley: I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio and went to Walnut Hills for high school. I then went to Ohio Wesleyan to play basketball, but after a year realized it wasn’t the right fit for me so I transferred to Ohio State where I majored in prelaw and minored in public policy and economics. My economics background introduced me to the flow of money and my desire to learn more about how money works grew from there.
Rod: You talked about how you observed your surroundings and saw people with good jobs but still nothing to really show for it and realized there has to be another way. Could you talk about that?
Ashley: I looked around at family members, people in my church and in my community and many of them had really good jobs, example: were high up in corporate America and all had very good degrees. But, one thing I learned is that the degree just gets you the job, the individual is responsible for creating the financial path they would like to have and that is based on their behavior. Your income doesn’t necessarily make you wealthy; it’s more so your actions and what you do. If you’re always spending everything you earn, you’ll never be in a position to save and then invest what you save. Because they weren’t doing that, their money wasn’t growing. They were making a lot of money but didn’t have a lot of money. They would have nice things but ultimately, they were over consuming.
Rod: Because of this you started reading, researching, and talking to people who were in good financial position. What did you learn from them and how did that help you along your own journey?
Ashley: The first person I actually talked to was a 36-year-old black man who told me that he and his wife didn’t have any debt and were millionaires without ever making seven figures. They had a savings rate of 50% and had no debt. They had no mortgage, car note, personal loans, or medical loans. He told me that you don’t necessarily have to be frugal with every little thing. If you like going out to eat and nice restaurants you can do that, but you always have to pay yourself first. If you do that and make it automatic, your money is more likely to grow, and you won’t have to depend as much on debt. And then, from the investment income you can live the life of luxury and not pretend to live the life of luxury by using liabilities. Because of that I never took on credit card debt or a car note, because I aspired to be like them.
Rod: When we talked, you told me that once you transferred to OSU, you had to take on some debt to pay for school. You also told me you applied and received as many scholarships as you could to help alleviate the cost of school. What else did you do in terms of work to help pay for school and talk about the importance of hard work, balance, and working to get yourself out of debt.
Ashley: I calculated I was going to be taking on way too much student loan debt so I decided to come up with a plan. By getting an apartment and having a roommate instead of staying on campus, I realized I could decrease my school bill by $8,000 a year. If I can get a job making a certain amount a week, I can pay and save for the rest of my tuition balance. My Junior year, first semester, my scholarships covered it and second semester I had to pay out of pocket. Then, the money I saved for first semester covered what I owed for second semester. I then saw that if I took a summer course at a community college, it would be 3x less than what OSU was offering for same math class. OSU had 4-week free classes and so I did one of those classes for credit. By doing that, I was able to graduate a semester early saving another $5,000. I also took on 3 jobs to make sure I could pay all my bills and pay the remainder of my tuition balance. This was all part of my strategy from the summer to have smooth sailing from financial perspective.
Rod: You also have your own business now called Impact Financial Counseling. How did that start, what do you do, and what are your plans for the future with this business?
Ashley: I started it so that I could make sure that I got out of debt and was managing my money correctly. Then friends saw I had done it for myself and asked me to teach them how to do it. I started researching and saw a staggering number of people who didn’t know about personal finance and the amount of debt that people have. I saw an opportunity to help educate people and help them learn just like I did. It started off as a page on Instagram called My Finance Secrets and sharing what I had learned. When strangers started contacting me, I realized it could be a business and I saw a way to further it. Impact Financial came from the goal of wanting to “Impact” people even if I’m not getting paid. I’ve also been asked to speak at conferences and universities. After I graduate Law School it’s going to be a full-blown business. Currently, I am working on a simple money management book.
Rod: Why do you feel like having debt is such a bad thing and why has it become such a normal thing in society?
Ashley: Debt is not yours and if you come to a hard time and if you’ve been living way above your means, they can take it away from you. If you miss a couple car payments and can’t find another job that is paying what you made in enough time and if you don’t have savings for emergencies, they can come and repossess your car and same for a house. Credit card debt is outrageous because people overconsume. They think because they work hard they deserve those things. You worked hard but not smart which is why you have to rely on credit cards.
Debt is one of two things, you didn’t have enough patience to save, or you didn’t have a proper plan for emergency savings. For student loans, if I would have applied for more scholarships and planned to have savings before going in, I wouldn’t have taken on student loans. Everything is a choice. Some debt is smarter than others such as a mortgage and student loans, but every debt can be avoided with proper planning.
Debt wasn’t really popular in baby boomer generation. Even though cost of living has gone up and not kept up with inflation, they lived on what they earned and even if they didn’t have a lot. If they didn’t have it, they didn’t have it. For us we want instant gratification, social media plays a role in that. Buy things that generally make you happy, not to keep up with everyone else.
Rod: Why is it important to have a plan and lay out goals and actually stick to it?
Ashley: Having goals is a mindset. Nobody is naturally driven to do certain goals, you have to tell your brain and make yourself do it. By not achieving your goal, you are telling your brain it’s okay to be mediocre, to not be successful, to not have a lot of wins in your corner. Dreams will remain dreams unless you have goals and actions behind it.
Rod: Talk to me about financial literacy for young people, why it is such an important skill to learn and why it is not taught to the masses from an early age?
Ashley: As you get older and start having kids your focus isn’t necessarily learning good money habits, you are just going to rely on what you have been doing. It’s important to learn when you have the most freedom and these things will not only benefit you, but also your family. I have talked to a lot of millennials that have been to college and don’t even know what a 529 plan is and that is something that is important to know and learn about when you’re younger. After college you are going to have a salary increase you might go from making $10/hr to $30/hour and you need to know how to handle that difference. You need to know how to tackle debt, how to save and invest.
Rod: As black people, how do we start to reverse the script and help more black people build wealth and not just spend and be consumers?
Ashley: Starts by changing the behaviors in the individual’s homes. I believe ignorance is a choice because we have too many resources out there to still be broke and in poverty. One of the main ways black people get their information is through social media. As a culture we are more likely to share videos that are funny and entertaining, then read posts that are meaningful and have substance. We have to change the narrative and show that reading is just as important as making money. Who you are today is a result of the decisions you made yesterday and the more you invest in yourself, the more likely you will succeed later on. If not, we will continue the cycle and we will be living broke.
Rod: If someone is trying to change their current financial situation today, what are 5 things that they can start doing right now?
Look at how you spend your money and track your spending
Create an accurate budget
If you have debt, pay it off as quickly as possible
Start reading books on investing, learn about diversification, follow financial experts
Start doing research and never stop learning
Rod: In what ways and areas do you think I will be able to help people with my blog and what advice would you give to me?
Ashley: Meet people where they are. Know who your target audience is and stay patient, the following will come. Feed the audience and what they want to see. Never stop learning how you can better improve your craft.
Rod: How can people reach you if they want to learn more:
I hope you guys enjoyed reading this interview! I had a great time talking to her and I'm glad I was able to share her story. If anything significant stuck out to you, leave a comment down below!