On this week’s episode of the Wealthy Woman Lawyer® Podcast, we speak with Rho Thomas, an Associate Attorney at an Am Law 100 Firm, mindset strategist, and personal finance coach who believes true wealth is having control of your time. Her message is also broadcasted through her podcast, Wealthyesque, where she continues to help lawyers and other professionals reframe their mindset and manage their money in order to reach financial independence and create more control in their lives.
We chat about her family’s ongoing journey out of $670,000 in debt towards financial independence, as well as:
- Getting out of debt using the FIRE movement
- Shifting from no-money-management education to financial independence
- Common money myths
- Identifying the need for real self-care
- Making purchasing decisions that align with your core values
- And more.
Mentioned in this episode:
- Playing With Fire Documentary
- Rho’s Twitter Page
- Rho’s Facebook Page
- Rho’s Website
- The Wealthyesque Podcast
Davina Frederick: Hello and welcome to the Wealthy Woman Lawyer Podcast. We believe all women lawyers deserve to be wealthy women lawyers. Our mission is to provide thought provoking, powerful and practical information to help you in creating your own sustainable wealth generating law firm without overwork or overwhelm so you can live your best life. I’m your host, Davina Frederick, and I’m so excited for you to meet our guest today. So let’s get started.
Rho Thomas is an Associate Attorney at an Am Law 100 firm, a mindset strategist and personal finance coach. She believes true wealth is having control of your time. We’re so excited to have Rho on the Wealthy Woman Lawyer podcast today to hear her story about her family’s ongoing journey out of $670,000 in debt and into a life of financial independence. Rho’s podcast Wealthyesque, helps lawyers and other professionals reframe their mindset and manage their money to achieve financial independence and create more control over their lives. So we’re really happy to have you here today, Rho.
Rho Thomas: Thank you so much for having me, Davina. I appreciate it.
Davina: Great. So why don’t we start out with you telling us a little bit about your journey to becoming a lawyer and how your career has evolved?
Rho: Yeah, so I wanted to be a lawyer since I was seven. Yes, I went straight through kindergarten to law school. And it started with, like, watching shows, like, you know, Matlock, and law and order and things like that. And so like, you know, I had this picture of what being a lawyer was from what I saw on TV. And of course, it ended up not being that most of the time.
Davina: It’s disappointing when we find that out, isn’t it!
Rho: But, you know, I had had that dream for so long. And so when I got into law school, and started learning about all of the different fields of law, it was like, Oh, this is interesting. And I joined the ABA, like as a student member, and you were able to join like three or four different sections. And so I joined some, including the intellectual property section. And during that time, I was able to like read their publications and get their emails and all of that, and I fell in love with trademark law. And when I got into like, my summer associate programs, I mentioned that was interested in trademark law. But of course, I was open to other things. And in doing it in practice, I loved it even more. And so now here I am, I am a trademark lawyer. I do some copyright. But trademark is definitely the bulk of my practice. And so it’s just a lot of fun.
Davina: And you are working with still working in big law, what we would consider big law, especially with it an Am Law 100 list locker, right?
Rho: Yes, I am. I’ve been at the same firm since I started my career.
Davina: Okay, great. So how long has that been?
Rho: About seven years now.
Davina: Oh, wow.
Rho: 6 and some change.
Davina: Yeah. So here you are, you’re this attorney working for this big law law firm, making, you know, a decent salary. And and tell me what was the turning point for you to really start looking at your financial situation?
Rho: Yes, about four years ago, my husband and I had our first child. And at that point, I was just finishing up my second year heading into my third year of practice. And so as you can imagine, as a junior associate, I was pretty busy. So at that time, our minimum requirement for billables was like 1900. And I would easily do 2000, 2100, you know, and it didn’t really faze me because it was just my husband and me, you know, two adults who can both take care of themselves.
Rho: So then I have my child. And, you know, I’m here on maternity leave with my son. And my maternity leave was wrapping up. And I was looking at this baby who I’ve just been, you know, caring for, and thinking about going back to that life that I had been living before. I couldn’t imagine, like keeping up those same hours having a baby now. And so I was talking to my husband about it, we started looking at our finances to see if we could make some changes. And that’s when we realized that we were over $670,000 in debt. And to be fair, like, we knew that we had debt. So my husband’s a doctor, most of the debt is his I’m gonna throw him under the bus, but most of it was him.
But I had about 100,000 in student loans. He had like 350,000, we had a car loan, and then our mortgage, our mortgage was about 200,000 at the time. And so that’s what it all was, like, we knew that we had those debts, but we just kind of compartmentalize them, you know, it’s like, okay, like, mine is about this, like, it’s about that. And so adding it all up was a gut punch. Like how do we have$670,000 in debt. And so that kind of started us on our plan to work toward paying it off, because just having that much debt felt really uncomfortable. And when we were researching, paying it off, that’s how we learned about financial independence.
And so for anyone who is not familiar with that concept, it’s the idea that your assets can produce enough that you can cover your living expenses without earning a paycheck. And so there’s this whole, like, culture around it, this whole movement, and the full movement is financial independence, retire early. And we came across all of these people who are retiring in their 30s and 40s. And that part didn’t really appeal to us. But this idea that we could be independent of our jobs, and have more of that control of our time. Like that really appealed to us that really resonated.
Davina: Right, right? Yes, the fire movement, the fire movement is very popular in gaining more popularity. And I want to back up and talk about the debt amount, because what I find interesting about that is that a lot of people we care, try that debt as good debt. Like, if you’re putting things into categories of good debt and bad debt, you know, in a traditional way of thinking of a mortgage is good debt, because you’re buying your home, you know, which is an asset. And of course, you’ve invested in your education, and both of you are now moving on, you know, your high earning professionals. And so here, you were moving along, thinking, this is good debt, you know, this is what they tell us to do. Right? But then when you sit down with him after you’ve had the baby, you’re looking at it, you’re going, Yeah, didn’t feel so good.
Davina: Right. So did you make that distinction, you know, when you were sort of borrowing was that kind of the mindset was, you know, this will pay off one day. Because I think that’s the mindset for a lot of people with investing so much in their education. Is it we’re gonna make so much money, that we’ll be able to pay this off quickly.
Rho: You know I wish I could say that, that was the mindset. But honestly, it wasn’t like my husband and I, growing up didn’t learn a lot about money, we both come from household with single mothers. Like, we did not learn about money. And it was, you know, if we’re going to go to go, if we were going to go to school, then we need it to take out this, this money to be able to afford it. And I remember my husband telling me that he was in a program at one point, maybe in high school, and someone said to him, you know, it doesn’t matter how much you take out, you know, just take out the money that you need to get a degree.
So like, those were the types of messages that we had gotten. I had heard that distinction between like, you know, good debt versus bad debt. And, you know, mortgages and student loans are okay, but I wasn’t like that wasn’t necessarily the driver for me. I mean, I guess, on some maybe subconscious level, it was because it wasn’t like, oh, let me go take out 600,000 on a credit card, right. Like, that probably would have given me more pause than student loans. But that was not necessarily our thought process. I will say, though, that even though we didn’t learn a lot about money growing up, we had educated ourselves some.
And so we were doing the things that society traditionally tells you to do with respect to managing your money. So like, we did have a credit card, but we paid it off in full every month. And, you know, we would say we were maxing out our retirement accounts, like that kind of thing about the debt. It was just like, Oh, yeah, we’ll just pay the minimum, you know, it’s fine. That’s what people do with student loans. And so it never occurred to us to pay them off quickly. Because that’s just not something that we had seen until we started doing that research and coming across people who were doing that.
Davina: Yeah. So tell me what, tell me what changes you started to make at that point, once you kind of had this realization, and you discovered this fire movement? What changes did you start to make?
Rho: So one of the biggest ones I think, was eating out. And part of that, honestly, Davina was having a child. I will say that we were not, we weren’t fully prepared for having a kid like in our minds was gonna be like the same, right? Like, oh, yeah, life is gonna be the same. We’ll just have this baby. And so right before having him, you know, we would go out every week to some of the nicest restaurants around Atlanta, like that was part of our date night, all of that. And it was just like, okay, we’re saving over here. We’re saving for retirement. And so whatever’s left, we could spend and so I couldn’t even tell you what happened to the money that was leftover. You know, like, we just weren’t paying attention to it.
And so when we found out about it, people paying off debts quickly. And we found out about fire, we created a budget for the first time. And so that was really eye opening to see where our money was going, a lot of it was going to food. And so making those kinds of changes was helpful. Another thing that we did that I know, I think people kind of have like mixed feelings about, but we decided to drop our retirement contributions down, we had been doing the max. And so we decided to drop down to the match, so that we could take that extra money and put it towards paying off the debt. And then a final change. My husband was a resident at the time, he took on another job moonlighting so that we can bring in some more money that would also go toward paying off the debt.
Davina: Right, right. Now, did you go back to work full time? Or were you able to keep your job with the law firm and scale back your time? What did you do there?
Rho: Yeah, I went back full time, I wish that I could have done something a little bit different. But I went back full time, because of the financial situation that we were in, it didn’t feel like we had that kind of wiggle room. Like I remember, when we did our budget, and even with like cuts and things like that, that we were making, we had, you know, maybe a couple 100, leftover, like a couple 100 extra that we were putting on debt, which is part of how my husband ended up getting the second job to bring in some more income to get things rolling a bit.
But I also feel that I kind of got back into my groove quickly after I had my first kid. And you know, felt like I was able to manage things pretty well, even at 100%. And so it wasn’t, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Part of that was strengthening my boundaries and leaving when I said I was going to leave, I also started coming in a little earlier so that I could get things, you know, finish quickly, and get out in time to have time for my son and that kind of thing.
Davina: Yeah, I love it when you say strengthen your boundaries, because that’s so powerful. And I think, I think a lot of women in particular struggle with that, you know, especially early on in your career, when you’re working for somebody, and you’re you know, it’s important or even if you’re working for yourself, and you’re trying to do what you know, needs to be done. And you’re still trying to be everything to everybody. But at some point something has got to give. And, and so really taking a look at your priorities. You know, for you, you got laser focused on your priorities when you had a child.
Rho: Well, yeah, and like to your point about trying to be everything for everybody. All of that kind of came to a head for me after we had our second child. Because even though I you know, thought that I had pretty good boundaries, I was not doing a good job of taking care of myself, right. Like, even from the beginning of my legal career, I had a mentor who was a partner at another big law firm here in Atlanta. And she told me coming in that, you know, I’m in charge of my schedule, I needed to set my hours and stick to them and that kind of thing. So I was pretty good about that. I was bad about accepting things, even when I knew I already had a lot on my plate.
Like, I know what that I can do that you know. And then when I had a time in mind that I wanted to leave, it would often be, you know, 20 minutes, 30 minutes later, sometimes even later than that, that I would leave. So coming back after having my first son, I set those stricter boundaries around saying no more. Like, I don’t have the capacity to help with this project. But then also, I set I literally set a calendar alert on my calendar from I think it was like 4:30, so that nobody could try to schedule any meetings or calls or anything like that. And it went off for me to leave. It’s still actually on even though I’m not in the office physically now. It was off, like time to go, you know, so that was really helpful. But going back to what I was saying about having my second kid.
I remember being in a friend’s office and crying, because I felt like I was failing in all areas of life. And people had told me that going from one to two was a bit more difficult. But I again, you know, you can’t really conceptualize it until you’re actually in it. And I just like I felt like I was not managing well at all. And I ended up going to therapy and in our first session I was telling the therapist like I’m not being the wife I want to be or the mom I want to be or the lawyer I want to be. And she asked me what about the you you want to be.
And I had never considered the me that I want it to be apart from those other roles, right? And that’s where I realized like in working with her, I still work with her actually because I’m still obviously working on myself. That’s where I realized that even when I thought that I was managing well, with my first son, I was managing well, because I wasn’t taking care of myself. Right? I was too busy taking care of everybody else.
Davina: You were last on the list, right?
Rho: Yes, exactly.
Davina: It’s so common, especially with moms, because you do have little, you do have little humans that are physically dependent on you. I mean, there’s just no denying that infants and babies and little kids are, you know, they can’t survive without someone taking care of them. And that is on you. And so they make that a priority in your life, what was going on? They are a priority, because they just make themselves a priority. Right?
Davina: And I think a lot of women do what you’re talking about, which is, I feel like that they still need to keep, they still have to keep their lives or want to keep their old life intact, and do all the things that they were able to do before. And don’t really consider that, that they’re trying to, as I say, shove 10 pounds of potatoes in a five pound bag. Like you just don’t have the capacity that you used to have when you have a child that’s taking up all of that time. You know, and you kind of think, well, I can, you know, I managed it before I can manage it now. And it’s a real shock. And I know what you said about having a second child, I hear so many moms tell me that I’m like, Oh my gosh, the first one we sort of were able to sort of incorporate into our lives. The second one just changed everything. So what was that like for you in terms of your job and your career? How did you manage that we had a second child?
Rho: So having the second child and you know, coming to that realization that I had completely lost myself, I implemented like morning routine where I was getting up early, I still do this. I said in past tense, but I get up before my kids and my husband, the house is quiet. And that is my time for myself. And that’s a non negotiable for me. So I will use that time to read my Bible, to journal, to meditate, like all of those self care things. And then, you know, then I get my day started. And then on the work front, I was able to manage for a little while still at full time.
But my job offers a like reduced hours policy. And so I dropped down to 90%, to kind of take the edge off, so to speak, right. But then, you know, this pandemic, so all of this was summer 2019, is when some are at the beginning of 2019. So I was you know, kind of trying to work through all of that stuff in the summer headed into fall of 2019. And so I dropped down to the 90%. And then you know, a few months later, this pandemic hits, and my husband is still working outside of the home, because he’s still seeing patients. And so it’s me here with our four year old and two year old and trying to balance work at 90%. And then I also have my own business, and it was not working.
And so I’ve now dropped down to about 50%. So that I can better balance all of the things that I have going on, while still being able to maintain my sanity. It’s been, you know, it’s been amazing. But I am so grateful for just coming to that realization of having the $670,000 of debt four years ago, because if we hadn’t seen that, and we hadn’t started, you know, taking steps to improve it. I don’t think that I could have done what I’ve done now. Like four years ago, I couldn’t imagine being at 50%, because I didn’t think that we could make any moves at that time.
Davina: Wow. So tell me about the progress you’ve made in your finances. Kind of what it is, where you’re headed, where you’re headed. What’s the plan? Because you said the fire movement, you know, it is financially independent retire early, right. And so to retire early doesn’t appeal to you guys, you guys are just kind of at the beginning of your career spread that you’ve worked so hard to be and so you’re you’re loving that but tell me what how your mindset or thoughts have changed about that. And what that looks like for you going forward in terms of paying off his debt and still having a career you want.
Rho: Yeah so, we really enjoy what we do. Right? Like I told you at the beginning, I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since I was seven. My husband’s wanted to be a doctor for a very long time as well. He was I want to say something like 11 but so most of our lives, right we wanted to do this and we do like it and practice. I know for me, I enjoy the substance of what I do. I just would like to be able to do it a little bit less which I’m experiencing now and really am enjoying. So that is what I see for us like doing something more of a reduced schedule, part time kind of thing.
That opens us up to be able to do things like go to our kids games or other events without having that nagging in the back of my head, like, Oh, I should be billing or I need to do such and such when I get home. So that is really the ideal for me. And then as far as the progress that we’ve made, we are just under 280,000 now with the debt. We have paid off all of my student loans, we paid off that car loan, and then we’ve been working on my husband’s student loans, which were more than our mortgage at the time. And so now they are below, I think they’re actually below 100,000, now.
Davina: Wow, congratulations. That’s fantastic.
Rho: Thank you so much. Yeah, so we are looking to pay his off within the next 12 to 18 months, and then we think we’re going to turn to the mortgage. I don’t know if we’ll pay the mortgage off as aggressively as we’ve done the student loans. But we do want to pay the mortgage off early too.
Davina: That’s wonderful. And congratulations, that is no easy feat to do that. I know. And it’s an issue that a lot of attorneys and women law firm owners, I know that I hold people in my community. And the majority of them started their own law firm for the time freedom and flexibility. And of course, I work with them to help grow their firms so that they can create wealth that they want along with that, right. Why do you think lawyers should be seeking financial independence?
Rho: I think that financial independence is so important for every lawyer because you’re able to make decisions, then in your own best interest, right, you’re able to make decisions in line with the things that you want for your life, as opposed to doing something because you have to, you know, staying at a job that isn’t serving you, because you can’t afford to leave. So I encourage everyone to even if you don’t want to retire early, like you know, we don’t want to retire early. Having that cushion, having the the assets to be able to pivot, you know, I couldn’t have seen a pandemic coming. But because we are on this journey, even though we’re not quite there yet. It’s opened up options for us. So I think that financial independence is key for everyone. Because when you’re in a financially sound place, then you’re able to make the decisions that you need to make. And you don’t have to worry so much about what other people will think or what you know, your employer wants or that kind of thing.
Davina: Right? What mindset shift did you feel that you had to make to pay off your student loans? Because I know I’ve had a lot of conversations with women lawyers who kind of backburner the student loan, some just don’t pay them all. And some pay, you know, just the bare minimum that they have to and it just becomes a sort of feeling that well, I’ll be, you know, this is just going to be out there. So I’m in you know, 90, I’ll be paying that. So I’m just not going to make it a priority, I’m going to focus on other financial goals and just sort of let that hang out there and it is what it is. What changed your mind about looking at your student loans in a different way. And looking at the value of paying them off.
Rho: I think there are two parts to this. One is having our child and seeing the debt, not just something that we have, but now it’s kind of this block to the life that we wanted. That changed it from like, Oh, yeah, everyone has debt to No, I’m determined to do something about this. The second piece was, to your point about people feeling like they’ll just be 90 and never be able to pay off their debt. I think a lot of us have that. That feeling or belief that paying off our student loans is impossible.
And I love one of my coaches talks about the belief scale. And she says, you know, you’ve got impossibility, possibility and inevitability. And so for us, when we started coming across people who were paying off student loans, or even one story that was really inspiring for us, it was a couple, both of whom were teachers, they bought a house and paid it off in five years. And seeing that they were able to do that. Like we had never thought about paying off any debts early, let alone paying off a house in five years. Right. So seeing other people do that shifted us from that impossibility. Everyone has debt, you just pay on it until you die to like oh, it’s possible to pay this off. And then in doing that and taking those steps.
Little by little we did what’s called the debt snowball method, where you pay them off smallest to largest, so our smallest loan amount have been something like $1500. Right, we were able to knock that off pretty quickly. And then we just kept going from there, which built the momentum. And so now we’ve moved from possibility to inevitability, like, I know that we will pay this off, because I see how far we’ve come in the last four years.
Davina: And what’s the next step after the debt is paid off?
Rho: For us, it is building our investments, and then also continuing to work on well, I guess you’re when you say debt, you’re talking about all the debts. So it’s continuing to build our investments, and we’ll look from there with what we want to do with our lives.
Davina: So what do you think hangs most people up? When it comes to creating financial independence? What do you think stops them?
Rho: I think for a lot of people, it’s just not knowing, you know that this is not something that we’re taught. Most of us. And so that’s part of why I want to spread the awareness of the fact that you can do this, like there is a different way that you can manage your money, you don’t have to do the things that society says that you have to do, or, you know, buy the things that society says that you should buy, you can make different choices. And one thing that I always tell my clients is, you know, look at what you value, make a list of the things that truly bring you joy. And when you are spending, make sure you’re spending in line with the things that you actually care about, and not just spending to spend.
I think a lot of times, especially in our profession, we get caught up with keeping up with what others are doing in our profession, like keeping up with the Joneses thing. And I think that if we align our spending with the things that we care about, and this is not saying you know, cut everything and only eat ramen noodles, or you know, whatever this is I care about, for instance, for me, I care about fashion, I like buying, you know, clothes and shoes and that kind of thing. So I’m going to buy that. But I don’t care about my car, for example. So I don’t have a super fancy car, I drive a Honda Accord.
And that’s fine for me. So I think that having that knowledge, and then really looking at what you care about, which I think for a lot of people is, you know, it’s things like spending time with your family, your friends, experiences, but when you look at the way that we’re living our lives, a lot of us are not living in, in line with that.
Davina: Right. So I think something that’s interesting that stood out to me is, you’re a woman after my own heart, because you you have therapists and coaches along the way too. And you’ve made those investments. I have done the same thing thoughout my life, because what was more valuable to me than a thing or than stuff was evolution and growth, and working out the things in my own mind my own limiting beliefs and the things that hold me back. And so it’s interesting, because you have you, it’s not like you are saying, we’re going to live this Spartan lifestyle, and there’s never going to be any joy. And there’s never going to be any investment in, you know, self development or betterment, or whatever. It’s just about making a choice that is more in alignment with where you want to go, right?
Davina: So what advice would you have for other people who want to start changing the trajectory of their finances, and, you know, attain financial independence? Where would you tell them to start?
Rho: I think the first thing is to look at what it is that you value, you know, you can make a list of the Top 10 things that bring you joy, and look at where you’re spending your money, and see if it lines up with what brings you joy, because for most of us, it doesn’t, I don’t think many of us are being very intentional with the way that we spend our money. So that would be the first step. The second I would say is take a look at your spending for say the last three months and see where your money is actually going. Because once you have that awareness, then you can make the changes that you want to make if it’s not in line with your spending.
And the final thing is when you are trying to reach financial independence, the guideline for financial independence is that you’re financially independent once you have 25 times your annual expenses invested. And so if you’re looking at your spending for the last three months or so, you can kind of extrapolate it out to what a year’s worth of expenses are for you. And of course it’s not going to be exact, but that gives you an idea. And so multiply that by 25 that will let you know your financial independence number. How much you need to have invested and then from there, you can make tweaks, again, looking at what you actually care about what you value, what you’re spending on, if you want to continue spending on those things and see how the numbers change.
Davina: Right, right. I know some people who are, you know, who are following the fire method are even relocating to other countries or other places in the country where the cost of living is better, easier. You know? Have you guys considered that or thought about that? Or is that a part of your plan?
Rho: No, that’s not a part of our plan. We really like living in Atlanta. My husband is from New York, actually. And a lot of his family has moved to Atlanta over the years, like since we’ve gotten married. So we’ve got family here, we really like our jobs. We like the city. So I don’t see us moving. But I do know exactly what you’re talking about. And I’ve seen people do just that there’s actually a documentary. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with it, but it’s called Playing with Fire. If any of your listeners aren’t familiar with the fire movement, I think it’s a really good kind of overview of it. But the couple in that documentary did that they moved from, like, somewhere in the Bay Area, maybe to like Oregon.
Davina: Yeah. The Bay Area is one of the most expensive places to live, right?
Rho: And you know, I will say, it does not take such drastic measures. Like, you don’t have to do that. But that is a consideration for sure. Because there are the three largest expenses for most people are housing, food and transportation. And so if you can get wins in those areas, then things like your $5 latte don’t really matter as much. Right?
Davina: Right. Right, right. It really is about mindset shift in your mindset about taking conventional wisdom and tossing it out. And what is it that high wants, and what is most valuable to me. And like you said, I love when you use the word intentional, and intentionality in all aspects of life can make such a difference. Because I think most people don’t realize how we function on automatic and on beliefs that we don’t even know the source of we don’t even know where we got these beliefs. We don’t stop to reflect and say, who first told me this? Or, you know, where did that lead come from? beliefs being thoughts that we just think over and over again, right? And to question that, and say, Is this really what I want? Or am I just functioning on automatic? To me sounds like what a lot of this is about saying, I have a choice? In what to do. I’m going to have more choices. If I get rid of debt
Rho: Yes, all of that. Like everything that you said, just I was nodding along.
Davina: So the question I mean, I know that people are going to be there are going to be some people that listen to they’re going to go, Oh, my God, I just sound like so much work. Her husband took an extra job. You you’re working in a big law firm? And can we have money and still have time to enjoy life? Can you? Are you guys living a miserable life? And where you where you’re not enjoying life, the way that you’re functioning? Or are you finding it to be more joyful, or not? Neutral?
Rho: I’d say that things are more joyful, especially because we are being more intentional about what we care about and putting more time and money towards those things. I think that for many of us, like you said, we are living on autopilot doing things just because that’s what we’ve been taught to do. And when you sit down and really think about what you want for your life, and you start taking steps towards that, then you will find that so much more opens up for you. And you have so many more options. And to your point about, you know, it seeming like a lot of work and you know, my husband taking on another job and all of that. You don’t have to do that. Because the guideline for financial independence is tied to your expenses. And so if you cut expenses that you don’t care about, then you’re going to be that much closer to financial independence, even without taking on a second job or things like that.
Davina: Again, this is one of those things where the two of you sat down and said, what do we want and make those decisions together in a very intentional way. Was it hard to talk with your spouse about this? Did you guys were you guys always on the same page with this? Or did one of you have to convince the other? Or what was that conversation like?
Rho: Yeah, we were absolutely not on the same page.
Davina: Oh really?!
Rho: Yes, it was. So before my son was born, I was already into you know, personal finance and that kind of thing. I told you, we were doing the things that you’re supposed to do paying your credit cards off in full and saving and all that stuff. I had told him told my husband that I wanted to pay off my student loans quickly. And he was like, Oh, yeah, sure. This was before we were married, before we were even engaged, I think. And I was like, Oh, yeah, I’m gonna pay these off, you know, quickly. And that’s that, you know, and he was just kind of like, Oh, yeah, everyone has student loans.
Like, I don’t, I don’t see the need to do that. And we just kind of started living life, like you said, You know, I got my job in big law. And, you know, he ended up he was still actually in medical school when I started in big law. But you know, he ended up in a residency program that he loved. And we were, you know, living the life. Honestly, we were going all the restaurants and we took like a nice trips, our honeymoon was in St. Lucia. And we went to Paris and went to London, like, you know, all of the things. And, like, my whole thought about paying my student loans off quickly, just went out the window. Honestly, I was not thinking about it at all.
Davina: You were having fun with your mai tai’s.
Rho: But it was having our first child. I think, having him helped me to articulate what I was trying to explain to my husband, when I was telling him about wanting to pay the student loans off, like you said, it’s that freedom, like the, the giving you options. And so having our child and being able to explain to him like, Hey, this is what I envisioned for our lives. And I don’t see us being able to do that when we have all this student loan debt. And that helped to get him on board like him understanding the why behind it, as opposed to me just telling him the what, which was what I was doing, like, Oh, yeah, if we just cut this, and if we just do that, then we could pay this off.
And he’s like, yeah, I’m not really seeing it. I don’t, I don’t think. But then like getting at the dream piece about what our lives could be, and the changes that we could make. If we got our finances in order, and you know, the types of parents that we want it to be for our kids, we both want it to be really present and able to go to the different events and all of that, and seeing that having the student loans, and all of this weighing on us would make that harder, I think helped him to get on board.
Davina: Right. Right. I love that. I love that story. And I’m glad that you shared that because I think that’s such an important piece for people who are part of a couple is how do you get somebody on board with your way of thinking, to create financial freedom? Because a lot of times, like you said, it’s a lack of knowledge, it’s kind of looking, you know, the way it’s always been in my family. It’s kind of where people come from, and, and to be able to share a new vision. And I love what you talk about when you’re saying it was really important that you share the why. For him, what the dream what what your, your big dream was, you know, I’m super excited for you guys, that you were able to do that.
Rho: Thank you. Yeah.
Davina: So is there anything that you would, before we wrap up that you want. A word of advice, or just something for people to think about? If they’re facing this sort of conversation with themselves or with others? What would you, what would you what thought would you want to leave them with?
Rho: The biggest thing that comes to mind is giving yourself grace. And just taking things one step at a time. I know, when we first started out, and I saw how much debt we had, you know, I was kind of like, oh, how do we do this, I can’t believe it and just kind of resisting it and wishing that we were further along and all of that. But you know, it took a while to get into debt. And so it’s gonna take you a little while to get out. But if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, you’ll get there. One big tip that I have with staying motivated on that is if you make some sort of chart or like something that kind of visually represents the progress that you’re making. So for us, we’ve got a chart of all of our loans, and we’ve listed them smallest to largest. And then as we pay it off, we mark that one in green. And it’s just an Excel spreadsheet. So I think I’m gonna sound like it was fancier than it is.
Davina: Hey, it still works.
Rho: Like, yeah, marking that row in green, and like seeing the green start to take over the spreadsheet over the years has really motivated us to keep going. So if anyone is in that debt payment plan, having some sort of way to track your progress. So when it feels like you’re not making progress, or this is going to take forever, you can look back and see how far you’ve come. And it will motivate you to keep going.
Davina: Right. That’s great. That’s a great idea, a great tip. I also I think you bring up a really good point when you talk about sort of looking at the debt and saying, Oh my god, how did I let myself get into this and beating yourself up over where you are and the importance of taking a step back and letting that go and saying, you know, this is what it is like the past, I guess I did this thing. And maybe it wasn’t the smartest thing. But here we are, you know, here we are now, and I can’t change that. And I’m also not a bad person for having made choices, when I didn’t really understand the consequences.
Rho: Yes, I mean, I think that last part, especially, like, the choices that we make, don’t make us bad people. And, you know, you made the best decision that you knew how with the information that you had, and so to go back, and you know, kind of beat yourself up about it, it’s not productive, and it’s not going to lead to the result that you want. So, you know, just take it one step at a time you’re here. And I would even say, for us, like finding ourselves and all that debt, you know, four years ago, felt awful, you know, it felt terrible. Not gonna lie about that. But had we not been in that position?
Then, you know, I don’t know, Davina that we would have met. I wouldn’t have started my own podcast trying to teach other lawyers about these types of concepts. You know, I don’t know that we would have made these like intentional decisions with our life, because we would have just been going along like, Oh, yeah, it’s fine. So there are good things that come out of things that feel really bad. Right. So I think your point is spot on, like, you know, we’ve we’ve done what we could, and now that we have more information, then we can do something different.
Davina: Exactly, exactly. I think so much of that is I mean, I know for me, I’ve definitely, I’m a little bit older than you are. And I and I definitely have had a lot I’ve made a lot of bad financial decisions in my life. In some of the out of money stories, I was telling myself based on how I grew up, and some of it in making some of the relationship decisions I made, which also probably weren’t that great.
And so all of those decisions lead you to becoming the person you are today, all those decisions, and all the other decisions that you may have made were better decisions lead you to becoming the person that you are today and put you in the position where you are today. I think both of us do this work that we do talking about money, with women, with entrepreneurs, with professionals, and lawyers, specifically, because of what we have experienced in our own lives. And because of that, we’re able to maybe have a greater impact and stop people from making decisions that we made, you know.
Rho: I think that’s exactly right. Because I think that in this space, really, in any space, people are looking for someone who they can connect with, right, like someone who, whose message resonates with them. And so for us to have the experiences that we have had, we will be able to connect with maybe a different set of people than someone else in the money space or in the entrepreneurial space or whatever because of the experiences that they’ve had. And so I think that the more people who are sharing their own experiences and the lessons learned from them, then the more people we can help.
Davina: Right. Absolutely. Absolutely. I thank you so much for being here today. I have really enjoyed the conversation. It took us a while to get you on the calendar. And I’m so glad we were persistent. And we did and because it’s been great to talk with you. And if you could tell us how we can find out more information about you, where we where we can find your podcast. I know a lot of people are going to want to listen to wealthyesque, and any way they can connect with you.
Rho: Yes, absolutely. Well, thank you again for having me. This has been such a fun conversation. And I’m glad that we were finally able to sync up our calendars. I know if anyone would like to learn more about me you can head to my website rhothomas.com and Rho is spelled R H O, that has the links to my podcast to all of my social media. I will warn I’m most active on Instagram. My handle there is @Iamrhothomas, but I just look forward to connecting with anyone who wants to connect.
Davina: Great. Great. Thank you so much, Rho, it’s really been my pleasure.
Rho: Thank you again, Davina.
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