February 16, 2015, Jacqueline and Dawn Major interviewed Kaleeda Jenkins, author of the book, “Hard Work Pays Off.” Kaleeda Jenkins is a Project Manager turned Author. In her book, she explains how she decided to say goodbye to debt and hello to financial security. Visit http://www.technologyexpresso.com for our podcast archive.
Transcribed and Edited by Anisah Muhammad
Jacqueline: Hello, and welcome to another edition of Technology Expresso Radio. This is Jacqueline Sanders, and my co-host is Dawn Majors. Hello and welcome, Dawn.
Dawn: Hello. How are you?
Jacqueline: I am great. It’s always a pleasure to do a show with Dawn. We’ve done a couple last year. We talked about Social Media, we did a tweet-up together, and one of the guests at one of our tweet-ups was Kaleeda Jenkins. She’s with us here tonight. It’s kind of a perfect segway, and I’m really excited. I’m always glorifying how important Social Media is, and this is just a prime example and a great story. Kaleeda came to a tweet-up. It was a gathering of women in various walks of life, whether they were representing their non-profits or whether they had their own businesses. Some of them were just curious, and that may be your story, Kaleeda.
What we found there was exposure and like-minded people. We stepped out and tried something new. As we explored, we ended up climbing some common threads. Through conversations and tweet-ups, some are writing books. We talked about financial freedom, people going through the struggle, security, and more. I know that my audience could benefit from that. First of all, we want to welcome Kaleeda Jenkins. Thank you for joining us.
Kaleeda: Thanks for having me.
Jacqueline: Absolutely. We’re going to jump in to your story. To my audience, I think you’re going to hear some things you can relate to. A lot of times, getting into financial trouble is an embarrassing area to talk about. It’s one of those things that you shouldn’t hide or be ashamed. Let’s just deal with it. Let’s just get it out there and deal with it. That’s what I love about your theme, Kaleeda. “If I can do it, you can do it.” You’re coming from a place of experience. This is not to shame anyone.
We invite our guests to tweet or email us your questions. Kaleeda likes questions. If you don’t ask questions on this show, we’re definitely going to tell you how to get connected with Kaleeda. On Social Media, you don’t know who you’re going to meet. One thing that can help you is continuing to keep your mind open, and continuing to stay connected. Use Technology Expresso as your source of information. I’m going to let Dawn start us on our path of Q&A with Kaleeda.
Dawn: Thank you. Kaleeda, can you tell our audience a little bit about your background?
Kaleeda: I’m originally from Pittsburgh. I moved to Atlanta in 2006. I started my career in project management when I moved here. I was making decent money right out of college, but I didn’t really have a financial education. I had all this money and didn’t know what to do with it. I pretty much abused it. All of those things culminated into me writing a book, and that’s where I’m at today.
Dawn: What inspired you to take what you went through from just a learning experience to putting it into a book?
Kaleeda: What really inspired me to write the book is kind of a combination between my personal story and my friends. When my journey first started out, it was all about me. That’s where my mind was, at the time. I was tired of living check to check, I was tired of being financially strapped and I was tired of having more mouth than money. I knew there was a problem, and every problem has a solution. I started looking for solutions, and I thought that if I made more money, all of my problems would go away. That wasn’t the case. I tried to find another job. I got involved with a multilevel marketing business. The online business worked for a little while, but I kept being blocked. Every solution I tried to come up with kept getting blocked.
As time went on, I became more and more frustrated. I was like, “God, what’s going on here? Are you going to help me out? I don’t understand. I’m trying to make moves, and everything keeps getting blocked.” True to form, when you ask, He answers. He responded, “Look, Kaleeda. I’m not going to get you out of this situation. You have to go through it, and you have to go through it the hard way. There’s no easy way out.” I took Him at His word, and I buckled down. I masterminded a plan and I was determined to work that plan. As I was working that plan, on Social Media I was chronicling everything that was happening. Every time I paid off a debt, I would post something like, “I paid off my car.” I had 3 credit cards that totaled $20,000 in debt. I paid off all 3 of those. When I paid off my third card, I made a post saying, “I can’t believe it has been 22 months, but I paid off all of my debt.” I don’t have any debt except student loan debt, but that’s another story.
A funny thing happened after that. My friends started contacting me saying, “Kaleeda, how did you do that? I would like to recreate that in my own life.” Next thing you know, I was having phone conversations about every other week with a different friend about how they can do it for themselves. That just snowballed into me writing a book. That’s what inspired me to write the book, because I realized that I wasn’t the only person struggling financially. It wasn’t just personal to me, but a lot of people struggle with it. Because it’s an embarrassing topic, we all suffer in silence. I also learned that there was a gap, a need, that needed to be filled, and my experience could fill that need. When you take all of this into consideration, it just developed into a book. That’s the last thing I thought about doing, but that’s what happened.
Jacqueline: I’m scribbling notes all over the place. I’d like to reinforce some really key points. Being a project manager, you have roadblocks and you’re trying to alleviate those roadblocks. I like that you said you tried a lot of different things, and none of those things were working. I think a mentality, especially in young people, is to make more money. Well, if you’re bad at managing a small salary, then you’re going to be bad at managing a big salary. There’s a lot of people who lose their fortune very easily. We like to talk about this celebrity or this star, “How can they blow through that much money?” You can do it. They go bankrupt and they file bankruptcy all the time. Money is one of those things you have to learn to manage.
I like that you, from a project management perspective, applied that problem-solving. You found out, “I need to back up to the root cause, which is how I’m using that money.” Once you gain the way, it takes even less to get back to where you were. I love that you used Facebook as kind of your diary or journal because that gets people thinking and influences them. You can use Facebook and Social Media for play, if you want to. There are many people using it for higher purposes. It was your launchpad. I think that is really cool, and I just wanted to reiterate it. I’ll let Dawn ask another question.
Dawn: I do, but before I get to the next question, I found it very interesting that we’re talking about something that some people are ashamed about or embarrassed to share. I think it’s great that you did not feel ashamed such accomplishments, and you even put out there that this is the debt you had and overtime you worked to get rid of it. You said this was something you were recording for yourself. How long did it take you to put it all together and write the book?
Kaleeda: When I started writing it, I was just like, “I’m going to climb up on my financial journey and see what happens.” I wrote the first half of the book. It took me about 2 weeks, but I got away from it. I was procrastinating. It wasn’t until my mentor sat me down and said, “Kaleeda, what are you doing? You need to finish this,” that I started back on it. I was a hermit for 2 months. It took, in total, about 3 months to complete the book, proofread it, and get it out there.
Dawn: Would you say it was your mentor who pushed you into saying this was something you wanted to take seriously and make into an actual book instead of just something personal?
Kaleeda: I definitely give her that credit. She actually works for me, and we went to Chick-Fil-A for lunch one day. She was asking me about the book, like, “What’s going on with the book?” She made it public. She was like, “I know you’re just writing to write right now, but it’s a need that you need to fill. I don’t understand why you’re sitting on your hands. You need to share it.” That’s what happened.
Jacqueline: What is the name of the book?
Jacqueline: Hard work pays off. Sometimes you just have to go through it and get what comes out on the other side. The things that you were going through was for your benefit, but there was a bigger purpose that other people could benefit from. It’s remarkable what you did. You got rid of $20,000 of debt in a 2-year time span. That is a lot of debt to get rid of in a short period of time. That’s amazing. The words that I keep hearing, whether it’s about knocking down your debt or going through it is just getting in there and being disciplined. We do a lot of inspirational quotes for our listeners, and sometimes you just don’t know all of what’s in you. When you’re first looking at that daunting task, you’re probably thinking, “I’m not going to make it,” yet, when you look back, you probably have a different level of confidence. That’s really exciting as well. Can you tell us again what the name of the book is?
Kaleeda: Hard Work Pays Off.
Jacqueline: You can get it on Amazon.com, and we’re going to go into the other areas where you can get the book as well. I’m going to give it back to Dawn.
Dawn: Were there any challenges that you faced when putting this workbook together?
Kaleeda: The biggest challenge was developing discipline. I had a hard time with being consistent. You have to do things when you don’t feel like doing them. If you only do things when you feel like doing them, they will never get done. A really big challenge for me was finding the energy. I work a full-time job, and on top of that, I’m transitioning into a new job. When I come home, my energy is spent. I had to find the energy to even write the book. On top of that, I had to write a book that was entertaining and informative yet simple at the same time. I never wanted to over-complicate what I was writing. I wanted to put it in a storybook format so that people would identify with my story. I wanted you to know who I was as a person. I’m a normal person. I have a decent job, and I make a decent wage. I’m going through everything that you’re going through. I wanted all of that to combine into the book, and I achieved what I wanted.
Jacqueline: You said it’s a workbook. Journaling allowed you to track your progress along the way. Was that an important part, for you?
Kaleeda: Yes. I think journaling is therapeutic. A large portion of the story-writing really just shows that. I noticed that when I was writing the first half before I took a break. A lot of my friends, when they would read the snippets that I was writing at the time, would say, “I had that same thought,” or, “I’m going through the same experience.” Their comments made me realize that we’re going through the same thing, and the more vulnerable, open and honest I am, the more they can identify, which makes it easier for them to put themselves in my shoes.
Jacqueline: Understood. Did you have some nights where you had to make a choice between going out and partying or staying home and writing?
Kaleeda: There were nights where I had to turn down fun. Knowing lots of people would benefit from the book was worth it. I have friends now who were a part of my first group who, in a month and a half, paid off a credit card or half a loan just from the lessons they learned from the book. It made it worth it.
Jacqueline: I want to welcome our guests on the phones or listening from their laptops. Thanks for joining us. If you have a question for Kaleeda, if you’re on the phone you can press 1 and we will open up your mic. If you’re one of Kaleeda’s friends, fans or success stories and just want to give her a shout out, you can do that as well. We hope to have Kaleeda join us in some of our Twitter chats. We met through a tweet-up, and we want to continue that conversation. A lot of times, we do the radio show to give people background, but we use Social Media to start some of that chatter and buzz. Sometimes it takes time for people to start asking questions. You’re definitely building a platform that is interactive. Not only do you have this unique content, but how you’re delivering it is unique. It’s a book, but the book is just one of the platforms. Can you tell us a little bit about the different platforms?
Kaleeda: The book is an e-book. That’s one platform that’s really being explored right now. A lot of people are moving to self-publishing. Not a lot of people like for their content to be changed, and I think even the audience doesn’t like for the content to be changed. To be able to go online and publish without having any costs is amazing. It’s also what motivated me to launch an e-book. My mentor was instrumental in having me launch a blog. She also wants me to do a podcast and put together an audio book. Everything happened in steps.
The book was first. The blog came second. The blog is out there now. I’m using the book and the blog to compensate each other. They go hand in hand. Like Jacqueline alluded to earlier, the financial journey is in stages. You have financial struggle, financial security, and financial freedom. Personally, I’m in the financial security phase, but I’ve done enough research on the financial freedom phase that I can tell people what avenues to take in order to achieve financial freedom. I’m going to use the blog in my interactive platform to keep people up-to-date on where I am in my financial freedom pursuits.
Jacqueline: Absolutely. I’m big on, especially from a business analyst perspective, process improvement. That’s the same with this as well. You can very easily backslide or find yourself back in that position. You have to get out of the struggle and possibly break some bad habits. You enter into a place of security and maintain that for awhile. Then, you make your way toward freedom. Can you give some examples of when you were in the financial struggle phase?
Kaleeda: Well, the main one was, “If I just make more money, it’ll be ok.” I was disrespecting my money. I didn’t care about my credit score, and I thought that if I just made more money, I would just pay for it in cash. I was accustomed with living in debt. “It’s ok if I have a credit card. I can make the payment.” I was thinking about the minimum payment and not the endgame. I wasn’t looking at my credit card being maxed out and what it was doing to my score. I talk a lot about improving your credit score in the book as well. I know now how detrimental it is. Another thing, and you alluded to it as well, I had another mentor who used to say, “You can’t be a millionaire with a $40,000 mindset.” That was where I was. I had a $40,000 mindset. I had the millionaire vision with a $40,000 mindset, and I couldn’t transition from one role to the other if I didn’t change the way I was thinking.
Jacqueline: Absolutely. Financial struggle, security and freedom: Can you give us a baseline definition of what each one of those are? How do you know where you’re at?
Kaleeda: Financial struggle is when you’re living check-to-check. You’re barely getting by. You’re in debt, and debt is ruling you. You want to own your life, not borrow it. If you’re in the financial struggle stage, you’re borrowing your life. When you get to financial security, you’re no longer living by check. You’re putting money into your savings. Your credit score is improved, and you have an emergency fund. If something detrimental happens in your life, you’re not relying on credit cards to fix it. You’re going to have a little bit of debt because not everybody can go out and pay $30,000 for a car or $150,000 for a house, but if you have a $10,000 or $20,000 emergency fund, it doesn’t matter that you have those liabilities. You have backup in case you lose a job or somebody gets sick.
When I talk about financial security, that’s where I’m at. You get peace of mind, financially. Financial freedom is when you’re not working for money. You’re not exchanging time for money. We’re talking passive income. You’re moving from an employee or self-employee to the business owner and investor side. That’s financial freedom. I want to be at the stage where I’m making passive or residual income.
Dawn: I think this is a great dialogue. I’m learning as I’m listening.
Jacqueline: Absolutely. I referred to Kaleeda as an author, but I really should have referred to you as a blogger. You’re using the virtual world and leveraging technology. Can you talk about yourself as a blogger and about how you’re leveraging that platform? Also, how can people contact you and connect with you?
Kaleeda: Well, the blog is relatively new. It’s only been up for about maybe 6 weeks. I’m finding myself growing as I’m going. I just wanted to get out there and do it. I felt that if I kept researching and trying to figure things out I would get what they call analysis paralysis, and I didn’t want that. I started following other people’s blogs. I wrote a good book because I read a lot of books. I know what a good author writes about. It’s the same thing with the blog. I can’t really create a good blog without knowing what good blogs are like. I have to start following other blogs and interacting with them. I’m learning as I’m going. Because the book covered so much, I couldn’t go into as much detail as I wanted to. The book would’ve been over 100 pages long, and nobody wants to read that long of a book on a tablet. I use the blog as a backup to that. Anything I couldn’t fully explain in the book, I’m using the blog as an avenue to fully explain it there.
Dawn: Would you say the book and the blog go hand-in-hand?
Kaleeda: They definitely work together. I have an opt-in form on the blog as well if you want to get in on the newsletter or get weekly updates from me regarding anything financial. My email is email@example.com if you want to question me about anything I’ve talked about. You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook. I’m pretty much an open book.
Dawn: You touched on your newsletter. How often does that come out?
Kaleeda: The newsletter comes out once a week. An article might come out bi-weekly, but I try to send the newsletter out at least once a week so everybody knows I’m still alive. I try to keep the newsletter shorter than the blog articles. It’s just a way for me to share ideas with people and mindsets. Everything we’re discussing leads back to mindset. If your mindset is wrong, it looks bad for the whole team.
Jacqueline: We’ve talked about how debt is an embarrassing topic, and a lot of people are afraid to talk about it. I hope they take from you. You pushed past that embarrassment and put yourself out there. They, too, can come forward and get the help they need. Honestly, the people that are faking it are probably the ones worst off. I can relate to this because in the IT industry, you can make some big salaries. That’s just a lot of opportunity to get into a lot of trouble by going off and buying big things.
If I go back to when I was in college, we had the biggest salaries we had ever seen. I probably said, “You make more than I made throughout my whole time in the military for 25 years.” We were buying boats. My friend wanted to buy a Jaguar, and I was like, “I want to ride in it! Let’s do it!” In IT, core organizations have their ups and downs, and we ended up being laid off. People fresh into it buy townhouses and boats. You should always have that sanctitude and be prepared for life because you never know what might happen next. When you’re young, you don’t think anything could go wrong. Does that come up among your friends?
Kaleeda: It comes up more and more. Of course, the further we get in life, the more important having a backup plan becomes. Now, we start going through things. When you’re young, you feel like you’re invincible. The closer you get to 30, the less invincible you are. You’re in your 30’s and you’re like, “I’m not invincible at all.” We talk more and more about 401k’s and how much you should put in there. Sometimes I don’t understand when my friends have a 401k but not taking advantage. That’s free money. I strongly encourage them to do that. I encourage them to put away 3-6 months worth of expenses.
If you can’t save a whole bunch of money, we have what’s called a 52-week money shower. I actually found it on Facebook. You put in a certain amount of money depending on the week of the year. Week one is $1. Week two is $2. Week 3 is $3. Week fifty-two is $52. At the end of the year, you’ve saved up $1,378. That might not seem like a lot of money, but the average American only has $400 in savings. You’ve tripled that in a year by saving a little bit of money over a 52-week span. At least get started, because you don’t want to have an analysis paralysis or get stagnant.
Dawn: What’s amazing is at the end of the day, we just might get started. Nowadays, everyone needs to learn about financial stability and just know how to have an emergency backup plan. You never know what’s going to happen. You might have to take care of some family members who can’t care for themselves. It’s just good to have a backup plan.
Jacqueline: This is a little bit of a different topic, but we’re tying it in to how you’re leveraging and doing your blogging. I just want to comment on the fact that the younger you can sit around with your friends and start having this conversation the better. You should be able to, when you’re hanging out with your friends or at a frat party drinking wine, bring up the 401k. Have a challenge among your peers. If your friends aren’t talking about those types of topics, it’s time for some new friends. You can’t just sit around and talk about the latest car, this and that, this baller got that, and I’m gonna buy this. If that’s what they’re talking about, maybe you need to re-evaluate your friends. It’s time to mature your conversation.
If you do it younger, then you’re more ahead of the game. You don’t have to backtrack and catch up. You can, then, retire early. It is cool to talk about this in your 20’s. I know that not being able to manage money was a generational thing because your parents or grandparents didn’t know any better. Bad habits were carried on. I say the bus stops here because we have the internet. We have Kaleeda. We have bloggers who look like us. 20-year old’s should start having this conversation. Just think if you could go back and have this conversation with Kaleeda right out of high school or college how much further ahead you would be. They have that advantage. The internet has information out there. Social Media is not just for play. It’s for connecting. Whatever topic is important to you, you can search by using a hashtag and find it. All day today I’ve been hashtagging #FinancialFreedom, #FinancialStruggle, #FinancialSecurity, and whatever else I could think of. If someone right now was in financial struggle, what would you tell them the first thing they would either have to give up or cut back on? What reality check might you say to someone?
Kaleeda: My mom always quotes this verse where Jesus talks about how you can’t start building until you count the costs. If you don’t know where you are financially, you can’t get to where you want to go. The first thing I did was sat down and took an account of all my bills and debt. I had a financial statement in front of me. I had to write down my income, my expenses, my assets and my liabilities. That helped me to develop a plan. Step 1 is just knowing where you are and tracking your expenses. I basically tell everybody that the first thing you want to do is track your expenses for 3 weeks. Why 3 weeks? Because it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. By tracking my expenses, I was able to figure out what I was wasting money on. You don’t notice little $3, $5, or $10 expenses. I have friends right now who say, “I don’t know how to cut costs.” I ask them, “Did you buy lunch?” I pull out my phone and track my expenses. Knowing where I’m spending money, and knowing what my state of affairs is as a whole, allows me to jump start my whole debt journey, full battle.
Dawn: Would you say you were surprised at some of the things you were spending money on?
Kaleeda: Yeah. Little trips to the movies, lunch and just food in general were huge expenses. Gas. I was driving places I had no business driving. All of a sudden, I’m like, “I forgot to go to the store.” I decided to write down what I needed so that I’m not making 2 or 3 trips. Start being cognizant about what you’re doing. Some things you waste money on that you don’t realize you’re even wasting money on. By tracking it and seeing it accumulate on my phone, I learn what I need to re-evaluate. You have to know, first. You have to be aware.
Jacqueline: You said knowing. That’s important, because some people are in denial. It’s kind of your equivalent to your first AA meeting, when you have to sit down. Also, people think they’re entitled and, “I HAVE to have this or that.” We go here and there not thinking about how many times you’re blowing up your gas tank. You’re entitled to your Starbucks. This generation probably doesn’t even know that there are alternatives to that. It’s being creative and back to basic. Again, something we do as business analysts is question everything. Everything can be questioned. “Do I have to have this?” “Is this the only way?” It’s like a financial diet. You have to develop discipline and get in that maintenance mode. What was the hardest thing for you to give up?
Kaleeda: Movies. I’m a movie buff, and I used to go to the movies every week. I had to go back and start redboxing it. I didn’t have to go to the movies the day the movie came out. Everybody has a vice, and my vices are movies – and chocolate.
Jacqueline: I know you said that when you’re blogging, you want people to interact and share with you. It would be interesting if people wrote to you about the hardest thing they had to give up for their financial diet. It would be cool to accumulate those. We might have to do a tweet-up like that. Your goal is to build your audience. I like that you’re starting small, because you’re very accessible to people. There’s the big people on TV you can talk and hear that give great advice, but it’s always nice to have someone accessible, someone who has recently gone through it, and someone that looks like you. That’s what’s beautiful about your blog, website and book. The book is a workbook. People work through the different stages. Like you said, you couldn’t put everything in there. You get them past the struggle to the security. We are so excited about having you on the show, and we’re looking forward to you coming back. Keep us in the loops as far as what you’re doing and when you come out with a hard-cover book because we’d like to share with our audience as well. We’d also like for you to join us in a Twitter chat. It has been an absolute pleasure. We wish you the best of luck.
Go to http://www.blogtalkradio.com/techexpressocafe/2015/02/17/blogger-author-series-pt-1-kaleeda-jenkins-financialfreedom-freeinyoucom to listen to the full interview with Kaleeda Jenkins.
This interview was transcribed and edited by Anisah Muhammad. Anisah Muhammad is a 17-year old professional writer based in the Montgomery, AL area. She regularly writes for the Final Call Newspaper (finalcall.com) and she has published some pieces of poetry. To read more of her pieces, visit the website original7.wordpress.com.
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