"During our parents’ generation, they could stay at a job for 20 to 30 years, but now it's not like that. You're at a job, maybe, one to three years and then there are layoffs and you have to find your next thing to do."
By Abigail Bliss
Navigating the ins and outs of personal finance can seem daunting to millennials saddled with student loans, but self-dubbed “personal finance friend” Candice Marie is here to help. Since crawling her own way back from a negative net-worth, Marie has shared her story and expertise with others through researching and writing personal finance e-books, promoting smart saving and spending tips on her blog, Young Yet Wise, and one-on-one debt coaching. Her first e-book was The Young Urban Investor: How to Start Investing in Stocks. She says that the people who bought this book, though, did not start investing, as they were saddled with debt, so she wrote a second e-book: The Debt Slaying Challenge: How to Pay Off Debt Fast.
Marie encourages her clients to leverage their skills through side-hustles for the sake of their savings and security, and she’s put that advice to good use herself. In addition to debt coaching, Marie is a Pinterest consultant and a freelance graphic designer whose long list of past and present pursuits only keeps growing. I recently sat down with Marie in Cambridge’s dynamic Kendall Square to find out how and why the field of personal finance has changed since our parents started saving at our age.
Would you state your current gigs?
My most recent gig is some freelance work at an ad agency. I also do Pinterest design and Pinterest management for online entrepreneurs. I’m also a debt coach. I help millennials with their finances by helping them create a budget and a plan for their debt. I feel like I'm missing something…Ad revenue from my site youngyetwise.com. E-books. I think those are the top ones right now.
Are there overlapping skills between your many pursuits?
Graphic design – that’s what I have my degree in – is a big one. People skills. Being disciplined.
I also like technology, in general. When I started doing Pinterest, I didn't know that other people needed help with their Pinterest feeds. It was something that came easily to me, and I was getting results, and people started asking me questions. So, I thought, ‘Maybe I could charge this and help other people grow their Pinterest accounts and bring traffic to their websites.’ Now, I’m designing pins. I’m adding them to their pages. I’m using top SEO keywords to bring traffic to their websites.
I encourage people looking for a side-hustle to think about something they do that people are always asking them about. Maybe that's something you could turn into a side-hustle.
What type of people are your Pinterest clients? I always thought of Pinterest as having a different function in the home décor or craft space.
My clients are mostly people in personal finance. People that want to manage how to pay off their debt, how to save more money, how to be frugal. People pin those posts!
What was the motivation behind YoungYetWise.com? What need were you trying to fill?
YoungYetWise.com started off as a college project. I would go around asking people, ‘What's one thing you wish you knew when you were eighteen?’ And, a lot of people kept bringing up the topic of money. They wished they would have saved more. They wished they would have paid off debt. So, I decided to create a blog to help people manage their finances.
It's definitely grown from just a blog. Now, I'm re-launching a monthly subscription – that's another line of revenue: a monthly subscription for the members – and conducting debt coaching calls.
My clients are usually people who have a lot of student loan debt. They don't know how to create a budget, they’ve only graduated, and they're entering adulthood or are starting to take their money more seriously. I want to say their ages range from 26 to 35 years of age.
Where did you get your expertise?
I'm self-taught. I read a lot of different money books, and I actually document my own money journey on my blog. I used to have a negative net worth and have shared my journey from the negatives into the positives.
I now have about $7,000 of my student loan debt left to pay. When I first started paying off my debt, though, I was about 23, and my cousin said, ‘If you're 23, you should have at least $23,000 worth of assets,’ and I had nowhere near $23,000. I was in the negative. So, it was just me crawling my way out to have my assets outweigh my debt. Right now, I'm 27 and I have much more than $27,000 in assets.
Who are your mentors in the personal finance area?
There are a lot of voices out there to whom I turn. I recently read Erin Lowry’s Broke Millennial. I look to a lot of other personal finance bloggers like Tiffany, The Budgetnista, The Finance Bar; Tonya from My Fab Finance, Dominique Brown. Oh, also J Money from Budgets Are Sexy.
Why is personal finance so challenging, now more than ever?
I feel like student loan debt is a big part of the problem. We don’t realize how much debt we sign up for in our youth. When I graduated high school and was accepted into different colleges, I wasn't really looking at my financial-aid package. I thought, ‘I’ll pay for it later. Just throw it on my credit card.’ It wasn’t until four years later, when I graduated and saw how much debt I took on, that I wondered how I was going to pay it off. My parents’ generation didn’t have as much debt as we do. Every year, college gets more and more expensive.
The first book that I wrote was about how to get started investing, and I would reach out to people who bought the book, saying, ‘Have you started investing yet?’ And, they’d say, ‘No, I have all this debt. I don't really have money to invest.’ So, I think that was hindering people – the feeling that they didn’t have enough money to invest, or that they don't have enough money to save.
How is the gig economy changing the way people manage their money?
When I had a nine-to-five job, I wanted to make extra money on the side so that I could use that money to pay my debt and save up so that I could eventually work for myself. It’s important to create some kind of side gig to bring in that extra income, so that you can be able to put more money towards your debt, put more money towards your savings, and travel more. It is about really living life on your own terms.
Do you see a real risk in only having one source of income?
I’ve heard people say to focus on one thing: ‘Find one job, one skill. Focus and grow.’ But, you never know if that one thing is going to go out of service, you can get laid off. Always have a backup plan because your nine-to-five could be gone tomorrow, and you want to make sure that you're protecting yourself and your family. I think it’s smart to not have your eggs all in one basket.
Let’s say one month I don’t have as many debt coaching clients… How am I going to pay the rest of my bills? Having multiple sources of income helps me feel secure.
What are other common mistakes millennials are making?
I think living for the moment and not thinking about their future is a common mistake. When people think about their future self, they actually think about a different person; they don't even relate themselves to their future selves. So, it's easier to spend money without asking, ‘Do I have enough for retirement?’ or ‘Am I saving enough money?’
When we're young, we want to live. We put off our financial goals for later because it seems like it's so far away, and that's what gets a lot of us in trouble. It’s important to sacrifice today to get the life you want to live tomorrow.
Is this a problem specific to our generation?
Our parents didn't really have the choice to side-hustle. They had kids at an earlier age. They didn’t worry about finding things that made them light up or things that they were passionate about. It was, ‘How can I pay these bills? How can I provide for my family?’ For our generation, we'd rather be happy doing something that we love or something that brings us joy, even if it's not making us as much money.
Also, during our parents’ generation, they could stay at a job for 20 to 30 years, but it's not like that now. You're at a job maybe one to three years, and then there are layoffs, and you have to find your next thing to do.
When people come to you as a debt coach, how do you talk about hard subjects like negative net worth?
I think that I come off as a friend. I even sign off my emails, ‘your personal finance friend who wants you to win this year.’ I want to be this person that people feel inspired by, and that's why I'm sharing my story and my numbers. Personal finance is personal. People don’t always want to share their numbers, but I feel like me being open about my own money situation allows other people to come in and work with me.
But, it is tough. I reminded a client once to bring a piece of paper and a pen to our meeting, and she replied, ‘You forgot to add the step where I bring my tissues.’ She actually canceled our meeting, saying she wasn’t ready to face her debt. Eventually, she ended up meeting with me, and afterwards she said, ‘Okay, now I feel relieved just knowing that I have plan to move forward.’ Sometimes, people are simply overwhelmed, but when you write down everything that’s in your head, it’s not as bad. You have a plan. You have a path to move forward.
Would you describe those first hard conversations?
At first, I have a ten-minute consultation call with them to go over their goals and to see if I'm even the right person to help them. Then, after that, we book a one-hour session, where I help them map out a budget and figure out which debt they're going to pay off, in what order.
How do you foresee the personal finance landscape changing in the coming years?
People are still going to college. People are still going to have debt. People are still going to buy things that they don't necessarily need. Debt is always going to be something that people need help with.
More people are getting into the side-hustle, though. People are traveling more. They’re waiting to buy a house and to get married because they’re still trying to figure out their life and pay off debts. That’s how personal finance is changing: people want to wait to make bigger decisions later on.
When and how can we incorporate personal finance classes into education?
Kids should start thinking about money in the first grade. They should know the value of hard work and that you can't get everything you want because you see it in the store, because you see it on TV. Even in high school, I didn't save any money. I remember one year I made $10,000, and then at the end of the year when I got my taxes, I had nothing in my bank account. I had all this jewelry, I had clothes, but I didn't have any real assets or anything to show for my hard work. That was when something changed: I couldn’t keep paying my taxes, seeing how much I was making, but not having any assets or any savings to show for it.
It's especially important at the high school level, when it’s not only about shoes and clothes but, as you say, where you’ll go to school.
Exactly. Some people say, ‘I don't want to go to a state school,’ but in the long run, it's probably better financially.
You work remotely. Have you found a remote-worker community?
No, I haven't. I found a community through different Facebook groups with other personal finance bloggers that I see online, but I haven't found a Boston-based community.
Is that a tradeoff? By working remotely, do you miss important aspects of the workplace community?
I do feel like there is a tradeoff. Sometimes it does get lonely working by yourself at home. Also, especially when it comes to design, it's helpful to work with others that are better than you, so that you can grow through seeing them use skills that you're not using. If you're by yourself all the time, you're not really getting to learn and grow. I do think that community is important, but I haven't found one, yet.
And lastly, your favorite café?
I'm going to say Jaho -- or it might be Jabo. I'm going to Google it. Look, it's my favorite, and I don't know how to spell it. Yeah, Jaho Coffee. I like the vibe; the music in there is chill, and it's not too crowded.