On November 30th, The Financial Diet is kicking off their nationwide book tour for The Financial Diet: A Total Beginner’s Guide To Getting Good With Money in New York. Join us when the tour hits your city and don’t forget to pre-order the book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or iTunes, to be released January 2, 2018.
Mint wanted to give you exclusive insight into TFD and its founders, Chelsea Fagan and Lauren Ver Hage, so we asked Chelsea a few questions on the genesis of their popular website and YouTube channel in addition to their top advice for managing finances. Check out the interview below.
What’s the story behind The Financial Diet? Where did the idea come from?
TFD was a simple idea, a personal blog I created while working for another media company to track my budget. I was someone who had gone from “absolutely horrible with money” to “earning decent money, and therefore less horrible than I was before, but still largely clueless about how to actively manage my money in an intelligent or proactive way.” So I started TFD to keep myself accountable, and at first, I imagined it would be just a little personal thing I did for myself — but my now-partner Lauren emailed me three days in from the desk of her advertising agency job and told me she wanted to design it into something nice-looking. And the rest is history, I guess.
What are your two biggest money-related surprises since launching The Financial Diet?
It’s really two sides of the same coin: I am constantly shocked at how simultaneously taboo and engaging money is for so many people, especially women, who make up the vast majority of our audience. Money is truly more fraught than sex for most people, and we have found that people tend to either be truly headfirst in talking about it, or utterly paranoid about the topic even arising. Generally, our audience is one that wants to talk about money (obviously), but even in my personal life, I constantly find myself accidentally shocking or embarrassing people when I speak casually and openly about money because I’ve become used to it. Once you are liberated in discussing money freely, you can’t get enough of it — but for so many people, it’s still the one subject you can’t talk about.
What is the biggest issue people seem to face when it comes to managing their personal finances? What advice do you give people when they are facing this issue?
The biggest issue, I find, is thinking that you have to have a certain amount of money before you can start managing it in earnest. So many people view the act of “managing one’s money” as exclusively the domain of the wealthy, and to some extent it is, but even if you have five dollars coming in each month, you can still create a detailed spreadsheet with what you are doing with those five dollars and your plan to maximize that income for yourself. So my advice is to do just that — no matter how much you are taking in, no matter how much debt you have, start meticulously tracking your money and managing it as actively as if you were a millionaire. You would be shocked at how much that accomplishes just by its own inertia.
Is this the piece of advice you find yourself sharing the most? Any other pieces of wisdom you pass along that seems to resonate with people?
I definitely give this piece of advice a lot, but another one I find really resonates is just the general advice to start talking about money actively in one’s own life, with their friends, with their partner, with their family. One of the biggest steps not just to liberating ourselves and using collective wisdom and transparency, but to getting over the fear of money, is to start talking about it in an everyday, non-judgmental way. Money has the weight we give it, and the more we fear it, the longer it will take us to do what we want with it. Sharing salaries, getting strategies, learning about the markets around you, and even just using the language of money — all of this is what allows us to empower ourselves in the tangible, literal sense.
Do you have a personal “financial fail” you’re willing to share??
So many to choose from! I’ve ruined my credit, I’ve been fired multiple times, I’ve been arrested for unpaid tickets which led to a suspended license and registration, I’ve been totally broke multiple times and had to use check-cashing places because my banks would have taken my money for the overdraft fees I owed — the list is almost endless. But I don’t particularly consider any of these “fails,” in the sense that I made them when I was a stupid, reckless, impatient person, and they were almost totally self-imposed and actively chosen. And having been through all of them gives me an immense appreciation for no longer being that person, and for taking care of myself in a way that used to feel impossible — it makes me (I believe) uniquely suited to talking about money in the way I do now. Nothing can shock me in terms of mistakes or bad decisions, because I’ve been there.
What advice would you give other women wanting to take the leap and start their own business?
Having a partner from the get-go was immensely helpful to the success of TFD, not just because it provides that extra set of skills, hands, eyes, and ideas that are different from your own, but because it’s an incredibly difficult thing to undertake, and having someone who is there to reassure, to bolster, and to understand — and you frequently switch off as to who’s taking on that role — is profoundly helpful. I couldn’t have done it alone, period.
Have a question for Chelsea or Lauren? Follow Mint on Facebook! We’ll be live with TFD on Nov 30th (4pm ET) as well as other book tour stops along the way.