The Debt Free Millenial
"I love creating content that helps others understand money."
Many students today graduate with student loan debt, and Justine was in that exact situation, except she decided to do everything in her power to get herself out of debt as quickly as possible. On an average salary of $37,000 a year, Justine paid off more than $35,000 in student loan debt in two and half years. After accomplishing this feat, she realized she just might have a knack for personal finance.
“When I started my debt free journey in 2012, I had a mindset that I wasn’t going to have debt payments ever again. I became fiercely passionate about money,” Justine explained. “Once I became debt free in 2014, I realized how much my knowledge could help others and it stirred something within me that personal finance was going to play a role in my career later in life.”
In 2015, Justine and her husband moved to San Diego, California, an area full of startups, online business owners and entrepreneurs. This attracted Justine because she wanted the opportunity to collaborate with others and stretch her entrepreneurial legs. And she did.
Justine is now running Debt Free Millennials, a business she created to help millennials learn how to pay off debt and become financially independent. Debt Free Millennials started as an online course and it has grown into much more. From live classes, YouTube videos and blog posts, Justine shares resources with her clients to help them understand how to manage their money.
Since launching in January 2018, Debt Free Millennials has impacted more than 1,300 people and there’s more on the horizon. “The sky is the limit!” Justine said. “I plan to push Debt Free Millennials into a larger YouTube presence and I am expanding my services through speaking events. My mission is to provide financial knowledge to millennials in a way that’s relevant, fun and friendly.”
In addition to creating her own company from her personal finance savvy, Justine was recognized on the Dave Ramsey Show, a radio show all about taking a disciplined approach to finances. Justine had the opportunity to share her story with more than eight million listeners. She describes the experience as surreal, nerveracking and surprisingly easy. She was thankful for the opportunity to share her story with others in the hopes of helping and inspiring them.
With the opportunity to share her story and help millennials through her business, Justine says she aims to provide people with money tips and strategies to live a debt free life. “When you no longer have debt payments, you can move across country, travel internationally without guilt, even start your own business.”
Why do you love what you do?
I’ve always been a creative individual. When it comes to personal finance, I love creating content that helps others understand money without it being stuffy or boring. The best part about running Debt Free Millennials is when I have students who tell me that they have just paid off their car or paid off a credit card. I love that this work is changing financial lives so that more millennials can truly find their passion without worrying about debt payments.
How did you discover your passion for your job?
When I started my debt free journey in 2012, I had a mindset that I wasn’t going to have debt payments ever again. I became fiercely passionate about money, and I ended up talking about my plan to friends and family. Once I became debt free in 2014, I realized how much my knowledge could help others and it stirred something within me that personal finance was going to play a role in my career later in life.
How do you define success?
Success is defined by making an impact those that you serve. I have always thought of myself as having a servant leadership style when it comes to running an online business. The more that I can help people, regardless of revenue, the more successful we all become.
What motivates you?
Other professionals and influencers in the personal finance space often motivate me to continue creating and serving others. I am deeply motivated by my husband, too. He really pushed me to launch Debt Free Millennials. I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for his support.
How did you go from working so hard to paying off your student loan debt to launching your business?
Nearly three years went by after I paid off my student loan debt and launching my business. To be honest, Debt Free Millennials wasn’t even a gleam in my eye until I had started my own marketing consulting business in San Diego and received hands-on entrepreneurial experience. It helped me pivot to where I am today. Mindset is a huge factor in achieving both of these goals. I try to start every day with meditation, a quick five-minute yoga session or reading a verse from the Bible. Filling my thoughts with positive affirmations and requesting feedback from my tribe has been instrumental in reaching my financial goals.
Why did you choose to move to San Diego and how did that help you find your “entrepreneurial legs?”
My husband went to a job interview in San Diego for fun. He was not interested in west coast life, but I told him it could open doors for both of us. When he received the offer, he asked me if this is where I wanted to be. I took a chance, said yes and six months later we were road tripping our way across the Midwest to San Diego. His job was a reason to move, but it was my curiosity that led us to the west coast.
San Diego is full of startups, online business owners and entrepreneurs that frequently collaborate to share ideas. I have met founders of biotechnology applications, fitness and health businesses, online business owners who create passive income streams. San Diego has become the mecca for business ideas. Because I have met other entrepreneurs, I have created mastermind groups that allow us to share strategies and ideas. My entrepreneurial legs have really strengthened by being out here.
What was it like being interviewed on the "Dave Ramsey Show?"
Surreal. Nerve-racking. Surprisingly easy. I was extremely nervous to be on air with more than eight million listeners, but I knew my story would help others. Dave gave me plenty of air time to tell my story and I didn’t know this while I was there, but after I screamed, “I’m debt free!” he went on to talk about how diligent I was with my debt free goal. I listened to it after the video was published on YouTube and I freaked out. It’s very cool to receive praise from such a well-known financial expert.
Where did you grow up?
Where do you live now?
San Diego, California.
Who is your role model?
What are four things you can't live without?
Coffee, books, my laptop and my stove.
Have you already attended FinCon this year? What did you learn there?
FinCon is simply incredible! This was my first year attending and I couldn’t believe the amount of encouragement, support and love that I felt from a group of money nerds. It sounds weird, but everyone who attended the conference is extremely supportive of one another. The idea is to collaborate, not compete. I learned that I really have to find my uniqueness in how I talk about personal finance. My biggest takeaway is finding my pillar platform to build content around. Be on the lookout for more YouTube content!
Could you tell me a bit more about the blog you wrote about what you wish you knew about student loan debt? What do you wish you knew?
The idea behind the post was to talk about student financial health and literacy. We aren’t really taught about these principles in school. I expanded on the things that I either didn’t know or didn’t educate myself on. For example, I didn’t grasp the difference between unsubsidized and subsidized loans. Had I known that I was accruing interest on unsubsidized loans immediately after disbursement, I would have been more inclined to apply for more scholarships. I also wished that I would have kept track of my income and expenses using a written budget so that I could have lessen the burden of student loan debt while in college. Most people laugh this off, but student loan debt is incredibly frustrating to deal with after graduation. Graduates are getting entry-level jobs with entry-level salaries while upgrading their lifestyle and starting to pay back their loans. Pretty soon, income is swallowed up by rent and happy hours when graduates could still live like they did in college and put that extra income towards their student loan debt.
Would you be willing to share a few tips with our members as to how they can best manage their finances?
First things first, you absolutely need at least $1,000 in an emergency fund. If your car breaks down or you need emergency dental work, that $1,000 is going to save you from going into debt. Next, you need to have a written budget in place that tracks your monthly income and expenses. Use a Google spreadsheet or a budget-tracking app to start holding yourself accountable to your spending habits.
Finally, create a plan to pay off debt using one of two methods. Either pay off debt according to highest interest rate or by smallest amount owed. Both methods are extremely effective at kicking debt to the curb in the fastest way possible.
What does a regular day at work look like for you? Is there a “regular” day?
I wish I could say there was a regular day being an entrepreneur, but every day is a little different! I typically start with a fresh cup of coffee, yoga pants and start to work from my home office. I typically host virtual meetings or attend a local San Diego meet up to network. Every day I create new content in the form of a YouTube video, blog post or social media post. I’m constantly engaging on social media about money management, too.
Do you have multiple employees or is it just you right now?
I have a phenomenal college intern who helps me with my social media posts and blog editing. I also have sub-contractors for graphic design and web development. I am the only full-time employee.
Do you have any big plans for Debt Free Millennials on the horizon?
Absolutely! The sky is the limit. I plan to push Debt Free Millennials into a larger YouTube presence and I am expanding my services through speaking events. My mission is to provide financial knowledge to millennials in a way that’s relevant, fun and friendly.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given about finances or entrepreneurship?
Move as fast as cash. If you don’t have the money upfront to do something, you need to find alternative ways to make it happen. If you want to start a YouTube channel but don’t have the funds for a camera, use your phone. If you can’t afford a trip to Mexico with your friends, start a vacation fund and contribute to it monthly until you have the cash saved up. If it requires you to borrow money, don’t do it! You end up spending more money than if you had waited and saved up for your goal.
What about the worst advice?
Open a credit card in college. That’s probably the worst advice I ever received. When you’re in college, your income fluctuates. Expenses are up and down. We forget that swiping plastic is actually spending real money. Learn how to be responsible with cash first before you learn how to use a credit card.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your business?
I aim to provide millennials with money tips and strategies to live a debt free life. When you no longer have debt payments, you can move across country, travel internationally without guilt, even start your own business. You can find me over on the Debt Free Millennials channel talking about all things millennials and money.
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