In this interview, we take a look back with Tonya about what inspired her to want to lead the conversation about personal finance with women of color.
When did it first become important for you to be financially savvy and why?
I was led to personal finance after working with low-income women at a non-profit in Brooklyn. Most of the women were pre-retirement age and some of them were well into their retirement. Some of them hadn’t adequately planned for their financial futures and as a result their comfort during retirement was compromised. Some of the women were begging on the street because social security wasn’t cutting it while others were taking trips to Europe and Asia. I of course realized I wanted to be the latter so I decided to get my financial life in order and later became a Certified Financial Educator to help others do the same.
What inspired you to to become a Certified Financial Educator and to begin sharing with others what you'd learned through your personal process?
I decided to become a financial educator because I felt like there weren’t a lot of people speaking to my peers and me about finances in a way that we could understand and enjoy it. I wanted to share my perspective as someone who has never worked in the finance industry. Someone who struggled with math growing up but was able to establish financial freedom.
I understand that as people of color a lot of our money management issues come from our experience, and our decisions are based on the ideas that we hold and were taught, so I approach it from that aspect. I don’t want to be that financial educator that puts a Band-Aid on someone’s finances for the next year. I want to shift the reasons that they are having financial issues in the first place so that it’s less likely to show up along their journey of life, and so that they can also impart healthier habits to their children.
What is the most common problem you see young women of color dealing with when it comes to their finances?
I think the thing that hinders most of us is a lack of understanding of what our real priorities are. We are bombarded with media messages on a regular basis and that compromises our own ideas of what our boundaries are and what’s important to us. We become so accustomed to living for the “now” rather than finding ways to enjoy the now without forsaking our future.
Also there aren't a lot of financial professionals in our communities that we can turn to so we often don't feel comfortable making important decisions, and we put it off.
What are some of the ways you balance being fabulous with living a financially responsible lifestyle?
Smart money management in my daily life means really asking myself “What does this purchase mean to me?” “What does it mean to my budget?” and “How does this impact me in the long run?”
I don't believe in deprivation. But I also don't do overconsumption. You can have a few loves in your life such as shoes and travel, but you can't love everything. Choose what you love the most and let everything else go. Create barriers between you and your money. Just because you can, doesn't always mean you should.
Tell us about your professional style. What does "work wear" look like for you?
I am at an interesting point in my professional career since I'm transitioning to working for myself full time. I love dresses though. They are so easy. I don't like complicated, uncomfortable clothes.
Do you have a "five minute face" that works well for getting you out the door quickly in the morning while still looking pulled together?
Yes. I will not leave the house without my brows penciled in, lip gloss, BB tinted moisturizer, under -eye concealer, pressed powder, and mascara. My hair is another story. I'm natural and it's almost never 5-minute hair.
What 3 items are in your Ultimate Beauty Arsenal--those Holy Grail items you just can't live without?
Just 3!!!?? Aveeno Positively Radiant Cleanser, Chapstick and bobby pins for those "unpredictable" hair days lol.
To learn more about being fabulous and financially responsible, head to Tonya’s website and keep up with her on social media via Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.