Grab Your Slice with Monica Scudieri

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Today, our host is Dr. Disha Spath. She has a fantastic conversation with Monica Scudieri. Monica is a personal finance coach, author, and blogger who has over 10 years of experience in the FIRE movement through her own journey. She’s the author of “Grab Your Slice of Financial Independence” and writes at thepieceofthepie.com. Monica shares her story of going through a divorce and being a single parent in debt with no job to having a healthy net worth with multiple real estate properties and ultimately living a life she loves with her family.

Monica, tell me about yourself. Tell us about what your background is and what brought you here today.

Wow. So, you got divorced and became unemployed at the same time?

How was that? That had to be so scary.

Tell us what your field of work was before this time.

You had a steady job where you were employed and now you’re doing more part-time work, and your whole life has been restructured and you’re trying to find a good fit for your family. You’re trying to make ends meet. You write about how this was a pivotal moment for your financial awakening where you really got your financial house in order. Tell me about that. What was the process where you kind of sat down and realized that something needed to change, and how did you change it?

Wow. You took this time to really learn and expand your mind. What did you decide to invest in? What next steps did you take?

What an important reminder of how important relationships are in money and life. The fact that this person was really able to advocate for you is huge. Tell me a little bit about your thought process. You got divorced, you were unemployed, you had kids, and yet, you made some really bold moves. You downsized. That probably wasn’t easy on your kids or you, and then you made a huge bold move again to take out that HELOC to buy a rental property in cash, get these people on your side, and move forward. What was it that helped you break the analysis paralysis and take that bold step? What was the dream that you were working toward?

I can imagine.

Let’s talk some specifics about what you just shared. What was your financial independence number when you first started your journey?

I agree. It happens quicker than you realize. It’s going to happen. And when it does, it seems very abstract. Tell me a little bit about the cash flow number that you needed. What monthly cash flow did you realize you needed, and how did you make that?

I totally know what you’re talking about. Same thing happened to me in my upbringing when we moved here from India, and we started over and penny-pinching and stuff. Then, I had kids, and I realized whereas before I was living more of it, once we got more cash flow, we were spending it. We had the kids. We had realized that we really need to get our stuff together for these children. I need them never to experience what I experienced. I never want them to be in a completely broke position. I’m sure life will happen, but I’d like to do whatever I can to make sure that they don’t have to go through the same thing I went through.

It’s a challenge when you get in that single-minded mindset to, ‘OK, I’m going to pursue financial independence or enough passive cash flow that I don’t ever have to work.’ It’s tough, because you’re working so hard. How do you balance working hard and achieving these goals and then actually spending time with the children that you’re doing it for?

Absolutely. My kids respond so well to just giving them a goal of a routine. I drew out for them, this is what I want you to do. I want you to brush your teeth. Then, we’ll have two minutes of playtime, then they do 30 minutes of book time, two minutes of cuddle time, and then it’s lights off. And they love that. They do love that structure.

Absolutely. That 4:30 awakening or 5:00 awakening, if you can get it, it is so helpful. If you get that parent time, this is me time, no one else is awake, everybody’s quiet, and I just get to do what I need to do, answer some emails, write a post or so or work out. It’s so important for mental health.

We talked about working out. You’re making time for working out, you’re making time for your own mental and physical health during this process, and you also start writing about it.

That reminds me of an article you had on your blog that was titled “Which Would You Rather Be Rich or Wealthy?” Tell me about the distinction you made there between richness and wealthiness.

And feeling satisfied at the end of the night, not living in that moment where you’re just wondering in that scarcity, in that fear, but realizing how good you have it, taking that moment to realize it.

Absolutely. And spending money doesn’t make you happy.

That’s fascinating. Jim Dahle, the founder of this blog, always talks about how giving away money also feeds back to you and lets you know that you have enough, that you are able to give. That gives you the satisfaction of helping someone else out. It can actually be a selfish thing from a certain perspective. But you are helping the world. You’re helping people around you, and you’re giving yourself the signal that you do have enough. If you’re able to give and still feed your family, you certainly have enough. I think that’s a wonderful reminder.

You’ve done so well. You made it through so much adversity. You got divorced and were unemployed at the same time, but here you are on the other end. You have several rental properties, you have cash flow, you have net worth, and it sounds like you really have it all together. What advice would you give to other single women or men out there that are going through divorce? What are some things that they have to do in order to follow the same path as you and get out of it on the other side?

Thank you for those wonderful pieces of advice. Really great reminders of giving yourself some grace and then also finding the balance and getting through it on the other side. Tell our listeners where they can find you if they want to hear from you more or see more content from you.

Thank you for coming and sharing your knowledge. We really appreciate it. I so enjoyed having Monica here today, and I’m so glad she took the time to do this episode. Not once, but twice with me. It’s so nice to have the perspective of a single parent who went through a really difficult time in her life and came out of it not just surviving, but thriving.

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This psychiatrist shares that she was almost surprised when she realized she had reached this milestone of a half a million dollar net worth. When combined with her spouse, they are officially millionaires. What are some of her tips for success? Have detailed financial discussions with your partner so you are on the same page, pay off debt, max out retirement accounts, and know what you value.

Transcription – WCI – 299

Intro:
This is the White Coat Investor podcast, where we help those who wear the white coat get a fair shake on Wall Street. We’ve been helping doctors and other high-income professionals stop doing dumb things with their money since 2011.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Hello and welcome to another White Coat Investor podcast. I’m your host Dr. Disha Spath. This is episode 299 – Grab your slice with Monica Scudieri.

Dr. Disha Spath:
This episode is sponsored by CompHealth. When you’re exploring career choices, consider locum tenens for the sheer number and variety of options. You probably know locums is great for short term commitment, but do you know all the other ways it provides flexibility?

Dr. Disha Spath:
The best way to research the vast world of locums is to talk to an expert. CompHealth created the locums industry, so they’re the most experienced in helping physicians and other providers find the best fit.

Dr. Disha Spath:
They understand you have unique lifestyles and needs. Medical careers are hardly one size fits all. Whether it’s an assignment close to home, across the country, or across the globe, go to comphealth.com to find what’s right for you.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Here at the White Coat Investor, we’re often busy making content for you, our valuable listeners and readers, but now we want to hear from you. Your opinion is so valuable to us. So please take the time to fill out the White Coat Investor survey. It goes till the end of this month. Help us serve you better by giving us your feedback at www.whitecoatinvestor.com/survey. We’ll give out 20 t-shirts and a free CFE 2022 course in a random drawing. So, make sure you fill out that survey and get entered.

Dr. Disha Spath:
The quote of the day today is “The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity” by Amelia Earhart. Now, while she wasn’t a finance expert, I totally agree with this, and I completely think it applies to finances as well, because so often we get stuck in analysis paralysis, which is the state in which we are so stuck on trying to figure out everything that we don’t actually make a move. Making that decision to finally act, to make an investment, to open that account, that’s the hardest step. Everything else, as Amelia Earhart puts it, is simply tenacity.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Today I’d like to welcome Monica. Monica is a personal finance coach, author and blogger, who has over 10 years of experience in the FIRE movement through her own journey. She’s the author of “Grab Your Slice of Financial Independence” and writes at thepieceofthepie.com. Welcome, Monica, how are you today?

Monica Scudieri:
Thank you. Thank you, Disha. I’m great. I’m great. How are you today?

Dr. Disha Spath:
I’m good. I’m fine. It’s really nice to have you here again.

Monica Scudieri:
Yes, absolutely. Thank you for having me again.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Funny story, we actually recorded this once already and the entire time we had a wonderful conversation. I was so excited to share it with you and we didn’t record it. I forgot to press record.

Monica Scudieri:
It was a great conversation but the pressure is on to duplicate it. So, I’m excited we’re going to do this again.

Dr. Disha Spath:
We just had extra practice. It’s going to be lovely.

Monica Scudieri:
Yes, yes.

Dr. Disha Spath:
So, Monica, tell me about yourself. Tell us about what your background is and what brought you here today.

Monica Scudieri:
Yeah, absolutely. I’m first generation. My parents came from Italy and my dad was called for work, and both their families, they didn’t have a lot of money growing up. They come from blue collar families. And so, they came to this country for opportunity, like so many immigrants come here.

Monica Scudieri:
We were raised in with a lot of the Italian culture, but living in the United States. And my mom was growing up a financial magician. She knew how to really stretch dollars and they both worked very hard in their business. They had a small business they shared.

Monica Scudieri:
But growing up, I got my first job at 15 and I was a spender. I didn’t have the appreciation to worry about a roof over my head, clothes on my back. So, money came in and I would go out, I would buy clothes and go out to eat with my friends. And when I got older, I did traveling and having a really good time. And a few times I had dipped into having some debt.

Monica Scudieri:
And then as I got older, I got married and had kids. And that changes. You change your mindset a little bit, but we were still traveling and having a good time and inviting friends over and going out to dinner, never really having those money conversations that couples should have.

Monica Scudieri:
And then we went through a divorce and I ended up with six figure debt, the kids, the house. And I lost my job. And so, that is where my FIRE journey began, was when I started over after the divorce.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Wow. So, you got divorced and became unemployed at the same time?

Monica Scudieri:
Yes.

Dr. Disha Spath:
How was that? That had to be so scary.

Monica Scudieri:
Yeah, it was. It’s definitely a somber moment. And it’s the kind of thing where it’s like you know this is not a good thing because there weren’t a lot of jobs. And especially when you’re a single parent, you cannot have a long commute. You have to have the short commute, the kids are in before and after school care, they need some flexibility because your sick time is for three people now. I couldn’t do overtime. I couldn’t do weekend work.

Monica Scudieri:
And so, if there was a job to apply for, chances were not very high I was going to get it because there were many other people who didn’t mind working overtime and putting in whatever they needed to or even drive further. So, it was hard.

Monica Scudieri:
You get very creative when you’re in those shoes. And the debt, it was half mortgage, half I call it other, because it was just a mixture of all kinds of foolish decisions that we made as a couple. It was a quarter of a million dollars of debt, just $257,000. I ended up at one point rolling it all into one mortgage payment to try to make it a little easier.

Monica Scudieri:
But to make ends meet, I cooked for other people. I house sat. I sold furniture out of the house. We would do spring cleaning and just sell things just to make ends meet. And then I would get contract work here and there. Those first five years, it was hard. I was unemployed for almost two years of the first five years with contract work in between.

Dr. Disha Spath:
And tell us what your field of work was before this time.

Monica Scudieri:
I worked in IT. I did work like project coordinator, project manager, assistant to the project manager, agile coach. I did those kinds of things.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Okay, great. So, you had a steady job where you’re employed and now you’re doing more part-time work, and your whole life has been restructured and you’re trying to find a good fit for your family.

Monica Scudieri:
Yes.

Dr. Disha Spath:
And you’re trying to make ends meet. Now, you write about how this was a pivotal moment for your financial awakening where you really got your financial house in order. So, tell me about that. What was the process where you kind of sat down and realized that something needed to change and how did you change it?

Monica Scudieri:
Yeah. Before the divorce, we did not do any budgeting. We did not track really anything because we both had good jobs. And so, the bills were paid every month for the most part. And so, there wasn’t any of that structure that we had. We didn’t put much in the way of 401(k) savings, but after the divorce, when I had all that debt, the kids and I lost my temp job, it was suddenly the understanding where I need to start figuring out where my money is going so that I can be more like my mom and stretch all my dollars.

Monica Scudieri:
And I had a friend of mine who was actually really good at tracking. And so, he started to teach me a little bit about how to track your cash flow. And that was really helpful. I would do one month and then I would compare the second month of first one and third one to the second. And then it started turning into a little bit of a game of how can I feed the three of us for the month and then maybe spend a little bit like $25 less or can I stretch in another category to give a little bit more here kind of thing. So, it started to turn into a little bit of a game.

Monica Scudieri:
The other thing I did after the divorce was I looked at my credit score and I pulled my credit history. That was just more information to know what my starting point was. And the credit history is the debt that’s listed on my name, is that really mine? Do I need to dispute anything there and start that process if I did. And so, those types of things really helped to lay a good foundation.

Monica Scudieri:
And then the last thing I did was I calculated my net worth, which is painful when you have so much debt and really any assets you have is really just one thing. It’s the house you live in. So, it’s not like it’s cash flow, there’s nothing there that you can pull from. But I did it anyway because it was really all these things that I was doing. The cash tracking, my cash flow, calculating in my net worth, pulling my credit score and pulling my credit history. All of those things were what I call the foundational pieces so that I had an understanding of where I was.

Monica Scudieri:
And I think the part that really helped me was doing that, understanding it, but also knowing that it’s a point in time and that I have the power to make it better. And so, those first five years, even though I didn’t have steady work and I was penny pinching and didn’t have a lot to play with, what it taught me was I had time to read, research, look at different ways to earn the money and income.

Monica Scudieri:
And that’s what I used that time for, was just educating myself so that when the opportunity did present itself, I was prepared, I knew what I wanted to do next and how I was going to invest my money moving forward.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Wow. Yeah, you took this time to really learn and expand your mind. What did you decide to invest in? What next steps did you take?

Monica Scudieri:
Yeah, that’s a great question. Those first five years, even though I would get these temp jobs, they did offer 401(k), but there was no matching. I decided to put a very small percentage of my paycheck into their 401(k).

Monica Scudieri:
And the reason I did that was because that was part of my “building the muscle.” That’s something that I was doing and I’m glad I did because even though it really highlighted how such a small amount of money can really grow to a few thousand dollars in a very short period of time. Because those contract jobs were six months, eight months, nine months. But even with that, it really showed how and it gave me a little bit more confidence. So, that was one thing I did.

Monica Scudieri:
And the other thing I did was I did a lot of reading and research about real estate. And so, in my area, there were some opportunities that if I was interested, I could get into once I could downsize, once I had some available cash. And I spent a lot of time reading and researching. I checked out different neighborhoods. I talked to my tax accountant, my financial advisor, my real estate person, because at the time I needed to sell the house and downsize because I couldn’t afford to live in it.

Monica Scudieri:
But I couldn’t sell the house because the market was so dilapidated, for lack of a better word. And so, I had to wait a few years to wait for the market to come back enough. It’s not that I wanted to make some sort of a killing on the house, but I told my realtor, all I want is to make enough money off of this house so that I can downsize and put a good down payment down so that my mortgage is small. And that was what all my only goal was.

Monica Scudieri:
Doing all those things put me in a really good position so that when I finally was able to sell the house and downsize and move into my new house, I was able to open up a home equity line of credit. And I used that home equity line of credit to buy my first rental property for cash.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Wow.

Monica Scudieri:
Yeah. And then I was able to turn around and go back. So, I had a pre-approved loan that I would hold onto because I definitely didn’t want to buy anything without that. I would buy the house for cash, then I would turn around and go and open a loan out for 80% of the purchase price, and then I would pay off the 20% that was left on my home equity line of credit.

Monica Scudieri:
And what that did was I was able to do quick turnarounds. I was more favorable to sellers because they knew they would have cash on hand on the day of the sale of their property to me. And I only needed two weeks to do turnaround time just to get the paperwork in order. There was even a shorter period of time. And that made me very attractive over other people who didn’t have that kind of flexibility.

Monica Scudieri:
And so, that’s where I started. But I will say one thing, which is really important, especially when you’re starting out and when you’re a single parent, is that it’s very hard to establish that you are a good risk to a bank. And what saved me was I had a very good relationship with my banker for many years. And he knew me and knew the character that I have, and he went to bat for me and took a chance.

Monica Scudieri:
I think had that one person not taken a chance on me and given me that opportunity, I don’t know that I could have started in the real estate side of things. As far as the banks are concerned, none of the banks wanted to give me a pre-approved loan. None of them would work with me.

Monica Scudieri:
In a way I can understand because I didn’t have a steady job. I was a single parent. I had really no assets. And all I had was child support, which ironically that is considered income. So, they could see that. But I said I don’t understand how child support can be income. If their dad loses his job, well then, he’s not going to be able to pay child support. And they said that that’s true, but it’s still considered good income.

Monica Scudieri:
And so, even though it wasn’t enough income, that was still something, at least on my side. Between trying very hard and pushing and having that one-person advocate for me, I was able to get the pre-approved loan. And that is where things really started to turn around and very quickly.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Important reminder of how important relationships are in money and life.

Monica Scudieri:
Yes.

Dr. Disha Spath:
And the fact that this person was really able to advocate for you is huge. Now, tell me a little bit about the thought process. What you did, you got divorced, you were unemployed, you had kids and you made some really bold moves. You downsized.

Monica Scudieri:
Yeah.

Dr. Disha Spath:
That probably wasn’t easy on your kids or you, and then you made a huge bold move again to take out that HELOC, to buy a rental property in cash, get these people on your side and move forward. What was it that helped you break the analysis paralysis and take that bold step? What was the dream that you were working towards?

Monica Scudieri:
My dream as a single parent was that I never wanted to be in a position where I was vulnerable and so dependent on a paycheck. I just never wanted that anymore. And I wanted better for my kids. And having that and knowing that it’s not just me that I’m responsible for, but I have two kids that I’m also responsible for, really was a wakeup call.

Monica Scudieri:
And it really forced me to turn a lot of things around. And I will say it wasn’t like we were penny pinching and kept the lights off and ate chips and whatever. I stretched all my dollars with the groceries and we made homemade pasta and I had the kids in the kitchen trying stuff. We still bought out the pizza. We put another family, we split the pizza cost.

Monica Scudieri:
But it’s the kind of thing where when you’re a single parent, it’s hard with kids. It’s hard when you’re married and raising children. The parent thing is hard. And I just really felt I just need to do better. There were no other options. I have to do better.

Monica Scudieri:
There were times, especially those first five years where the car broke down and I was talking to my mom on the phone and she goes, I’ll just send you the money to get the car fixed. And it’s very humbling when you are an adult, and you have this job or you have a career and you’ve got kids and you’re like I can’t even make ends meet. It’s a very humbling thing to have to go back to your mom and then she sends you money.

Dr. Disha Spath:
I can imagine.

Monica Scudieri:
That was where my strength came from. I was just wanting more, a better life for the kids, a better life for me that I felt like I deserved that. And that’s what drove me.

Dr. Disha Spath:
And so, where are you now? Were you able to create that better life?

Monica Scudieri:
Yeah. Once you have it in your head and you have that foundation of really understanding where the money comes and goes, because everybody’s house is different. It’s families with five kids, families with one, single people. Your budgets and your spending and cash flows are all going to be different. And so, understanding that really made a very strong foundation that I could build anything on.

Monica Scudieri:
And so, in the second five years of my journey, I was able to buy five rental properties. And they are all fixer-uppers. I was able to do all the repairs. I still had a day job. And I maxed out my 401(k). I put money in my HSA, my Roth. I was really working so hard to pay myself first.

Monica Scudieri:
And not only that, but the other half of that is investing it. And investing it in ways where you feel like I’m going to see returns on that so that it makes things a little easier. And so, I look for ways to make passive income and when would that be available to me?

Monica Scudieri:
And that was the other part that I didn’t understand. But when you’re putting money in your 401(k) and your IRA, these are all great things, but realistically, you’re not going to see that money until you’re 59 and a half, when you get to that point. So, if you’re looking to do early retirement before that, you have to think about, “Okay, looking down the road, but also looking for today.” And building those passive income streams that would be available to you today.

Monica Scudieri:
It was really like a two-part thing. And so, I was just head down for those next second five years of making all of that, put that together. And then before I knew it, because I calculated my net worth at the end of every year, in 10 years, I was in a great position. I was in a completely different place. I was able just to grow the net worth, but it’s just more than the net worth because net worth doesn’t mean that you can. If you have a high net worth, it could be all in your house. And that isn’t going to give you really the money you need, the cash flow you need to pay expenses unless you’re Airbnb, your bedrooms or your car like all those kinds of things.

Monica Scudieri:
And so, there’s a lot of different pieces to it that I realized that there’s so much flexibility and even in today’s world, there are a lot of different ways, dozens, hundreds of ways to make extra money outside of your day job. So, yeah, it’s a lot of trial and error.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Right. Yeah. Let’s talk some specifics about what you just shared. What was your financial independence number when you first started your journey?

Monica Scudieri:
Yeah. Not knowing a whole lot, I decided that my financial independence number would be a million-dollar net worth.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Okay. And did you hit it?

Monica Scudieri:
Yes, and I did hit it. And then when I hit it, I realized, “But what does that even mean?” My house was in that million-dollar, so I took the house out. Well then, it’s not a million dollars anymore. Now it’s gone down.

Monica Scudieri:
And so, what does that really calculate to on a monthly income? How do I pay my bills when I have a million-dollar net worth? That was a whole other journey for me to understand that because I came from a lot of debt and now, I’ve paid that debt off and then I’ve built a net worth. But now how do I have that pay my bills every month, and how do I take a vacation?

Monica Scudieri:
I did hit it, but it was great and a little bit surreal because it was so head down just working toward this goal and it came so quickly because I was so focused on it that it was surreal. It was a very surreal thing.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Yeah. Yeah. I agree. It happens quicker than you realize. It’s going to happen. And when it does, it seems very abstract. So, tell me a little bit about the cash flow number that you needed. What monthly cash flow did you realize you needed and how did you make that?

Monica Scudieri:
Yeah. For me, specifically in our house, it’s around $3,000. It’s just for the monthly expenses. Groceries, going out once in a while for dining out, kids’ clothes and little things like that. And so, roughly like that. So, if I just generated that, I’d be good. Then what about vacations? So, I’m like, okay. I want about $4,000.

Monica Scudieri:
But I’m a very conservative person. Just because of what I’ve been through, I like to have a more of a cushion in my emergency fund. And so, I have that, plus I generate probably $4,000 or $5,000 a month. It’s what I generate in cash flow. But I really only need $3,000. If I don’t pick a vacation and I’m just kind of hanging out at home, $3,000 is going to cover everything and it’s fine.

Monica Scudieri:
I like to have that buffer though, because I’m always worried about it. It’s kind of a funny thing because you have so much, and then it’s all taken away seemingly overnight, and then you don’t have it. It changes a person.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Yeah. I totally know what you’re talking about. Same thing happened to me, in my upbringing, when we moved here from India and we started over and penny pinching and stuff. And then I had kids and I realized whereas before I was living more of it, once we got more cash flow, we were spending it.

Dr. Disha Spath:
We had the kids. We had realized that we really need to get our stuff together for these children. I need them never to experience what I experienced. I never want them to be in a completely broke position. I’m sure life will happen and there’s always an option, but I’d like to do whatever I can to make sure that they don’t have to go through the same thing I went through.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Now, the problem though, not problem, but it’s a challenge when you get in that single-minded mindset to, “Okay, I’m going to pursue financial independence or enough passive cash flow that I don’t ever have to work.” It’s tough, because you’re working so hard, how do you balance working hard and achieving these goals and then actually spending time with the children that you’re doing it for?

Monica Scudieri:
Right. Yeah. And that’s a great question. It is a balance. We’re big on routines here. So, my two kids, my son has Asperger’s and ADHD, so he is neurodivergent. And so, routine is very important.

Monica Scudieri:
Our routine in the evening, most of the time would be I’d pick them up after-school care, we’d come home, everybody put their things away, start making dinner. They may be helping me or not because they were in elementary school at that time. We all hang out and have dinner together. That was always very, very important to me when they were growing up.

Monica Scudieri:
So, we’d have dinner together, we’d talk about our day, what they like on the table, what they don’t like. We always talk about food a lot. I’m Italian. We’d have those conversations and then they would take their plates, put them in the sink, they’d go upstairs. They’d have their bedtime routine. I’d do the dishes, I’d go upstairs. We’d have bath time and then get their jammies on. We’d have story time. I’d read sometimes, I’d do little voices with characters, which my son did not appreciate. Those were the times, oh my God, that could be a whole other conversation right there.

Monica Scudieri:
There were things like that. On Wednesdays, a lot of times if it was a really beautiful day, we’d go to the park right after school and get a pizza, and then just spend time there. On the weekends, sometimes we’d go to the library or the bookstore. We’d go to Barnes & Noble, if it was like 95 degrees outside. So, they were growing up and are into books. And so, we do a lot of things like that.

Monica Scudieri:
And then plus there’s always around town free stuff going on. We would do things like that. We definitely try very hard to spend time together as much as possible. But when you’re working and you’re trying to get rid of debt, build, yeah, it can definitely get hard. But the routine definitely helped me for sure in being a parent. And I think it helps them too.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Yeah, absolutely. My kids respond so well to just giving them a goal of a routine. I drew out for them this is what I want you to do. I want you to brush your teeth. Then we’ll have two minutes of play time, two minutes of and then some. And now they do 30 minutes of book time, two minutes of cuddle time, and then it’s lights off. And they love that.

Monica Scudieri:
Yeah.

Dr. Disha Spath:
They do love that structure.

Monica Scudieri:
Absolutely. Absolutely. We never had the problem of “I want to stay up later. I’m not tired, I’m going to run around.” No, I never had that. We just had our routine. That’s what we did. And then they would go to bed and then I would read for a while or whatever I was going to do. But that was my quiet time.

Monica Scudieri:
And then in the morning, just for your own as a parent, just some of your own mental care, I would get up an hour before the kids and I’d have my workout, my coffee. I’d get things ready, and then I would go wake them up. And then do the herding cats thing of getting them ready. You make it work where you can in the day and then make the weekends count as much as you can.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Absolutely. Yeah. That 04:30 awakening or 05:00 o’clock awakening, if you can get it, if you get that parent time, this is me time, no one else is awake, everybody’s quiet, and I just get to do what I need to do. Answer some emails, write a post or so or work out. But it’s so important for mental health.

Monica Scudieri:
Yes. Yeah. Absolutely, just that little time for yourself. And I will share one other thing because I was actually talking to a friend of mine who’s a grandpa now. And I was saying how it can be hard when you’re a single parent.

Monica Scudieri:
And I said one of the things I would do, and it wasn’t very often, but every once in a blue moon, it’s like you had a bad day at work and you pick up the kids and you’re still just kind of, “Ah, I just can’t believe that happened today.” You pick up the kids. And I would tell the kids, I’m like, “You know what? Mommy needs a timeout. Mommy just needs three minutes where you are just not going to talk to me right now.” And my son would be like, “Oh my god, mommy needs a timeout. This is not good.”

Dr. Disha Spath:
That’s brilliant.

Monica Scudieri:
But I tell you, just give me a minute. I’m home. Let me just change my clothes, let it go and then we can get on with our routine. It’s a little thing like that. It’s just a few minutes. But yeah, it would really help a lot.

Dr. Disha Spath:
That’s huge. So, we talked about working out. You’re making time for working out, you’re making time for your own mental and physical health during this process, and you also start writing about it.

Monica Scudieri:
Yeah, I journaled a lot and I kept track of everything. That was really my way. Because sometimes I’d go, “Ah, I’m not getting any traction here. I’m working so hard. I’m trying and nothing is happening.” And then I would look at my goals, I would look at my journal and look back and I’d say, “Oh yeah, I really am getting things done. But it may not manifest in cash flow, but other things are getting done and those things are as important.”

Monica Scudieri:
In the early years, my cashflow actually went down a little bit each time because it was just really hard in those days. But that didn’t mean nothing was happening. I was reading like crazy, all different kinds of books on personal finance and people’s stories, articles, podcasts, blogs, you name it. Talk to different people and their journey, and really just educated myself.

Monica Scudieri:
But it’s so funny. Even though I did those things where I was exercising, I was eating right and all those things, but the stress of those years did for me take a toll. And I ended up suffering from thyroid disease. I absolutely believe that was just from the stress of those years of trying to make ends meet and trying to build what ultimately came to where I am today.

Monica Scudieri:
But I think that I was so focused and so driven and just trying to make everything work that you do take that all in physically, and you do sometimes can put yourself on a backseat even though you’re trying to do all the right things. But sometimes it’s best just to be still. Just be still and just breathe and it’s good and just give yourself that grace. Where for me, my mindset was I can’t believe you let things get so bad. Shame, guilt, shame, guilt and push, push, push to make it better and drive and drive and drive. And it didn’t take many years, but you do cause yourself a lot of stress doing it that way. So, there’s a balance there too.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Yeah. That reminds me of an article you had on your blog that was titled “Which Would You Rather Be Rich or Wealthy?” Tell me about the distinction you made there between richness and wealthiness.

Monica Scudieri:
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It’s a great question because sometimes we look at the Tom Cruises out there or Oprah today and this incredible life of jet setting around and eating fancy foods and fancy clothes. People look at that and they’re like, “Ah, I want to be rich. I want to be rich like that.” But the truth of the matter is, I think what most people really want is really to be wealthy. And to be wealthy is beyond money.

Monica Scudieri:
Wealth is wealth in relationships, wealth in being happy with who you are and what you’ve contributed to the world to make it better. Wealth is raising good kids. It’s that satisfaction of having lived a good life, not necessarily a flashy one or the fancy car and the big house, but it’s living a good life. And that is wealth beyond measure.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Yeah. And feeling satisfied at the end of the night, not living in that moment where you’re just wondering in that scarcity, in that fear, but realizing how good you have it, taking that moment to realize it.

Monica Scudieri:
Yes. And appreciate what you do have. Absolutely. Absolutely. And that’s something I think we forget sometimes in all the noise of the world. I think sometimes we can easily forget that, but just be happy with what you’ve done and appreciate that you’ve lived a good life, not necessarily a flashy one or a fancy one. Because at the end of the day, just because you’re a rich person doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a happy one or you have a happy life.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Absolutely. And spending money doesn’t make you happy.

Monica Scudieri:
It doesn’t, it doesn’t. I was just listening to this book on my phone, and they were talking about how there was this experiment done where you had two groups of people and in these groups each person was given a hundred dollars. And the first group, they were told spend the hundred dollars on yourself. In the other group, they were told give the hundred dollars away.

Monica Scudieri:
And what they learned was that the people that gave the money away to a friend, a cause, a sick relative, whatever it was, that they were much more happy and satisfied than the people who bought stuff for themselves. Which is really interesting because that’s what it goes back to is having that full life and making the world a little bit better. It sounds cheesy, but that’s really what it comes down to, is just having good relationships and helping each other out. And I think that’s really what it just boils down to at the end of the day.

Dr. Disha Spath:
That’s fascinating. Jim Dahle, the founder of this blog, always talks about how giving away money also feeds back to you and lets you know that you have enough. That you are able to give and that gives you those satisfaction of helping someone else out. It’s actually a very selfish thing. It can be in one perspective. But you are helping the world. You’re helping people around you, and you’re giving yourself the signal that you do have enough, and you in fact do. If you’re able to give, and still feed your family, you certainly have enough. I think that’s a wonderful reminder.

Monica Scudieri:
Absolutely.

Dr. Disha Spath:
You’ve done so well. You made it through so much adversity. You got divorced and unemployed at the same time, but here you are on the other end. You have several rental properties, you have cash flow, you have net worth, and it sounds like you really have it all together. So, what advice would you give to other single women or men out there that are going through divorce? What are some things that they have to do in order to follow the same path as you and get out of it on the other side?

Monica Scudieri:
Yeah. I would say grace for yourself. I think a lot of times when we go through a divorce, at least I’ll say for myself, there is that sense of feeling like a failure. That a chapter has closed. But I would encourage people to let that go and move on, partner with your ex as much as you can to raise the kids. It is not divorce that ruins children. It is not marriage. A good marriage and a good divorce can get kids through anything. A bad divorce and a bad marriage can be very hard for kids. And just to remember that. Be that person for your kids, be there to support them and raise them.

Monica Scudieri:
But on the money side, I would say that yes, it is hard when you are a single parent because your time is so precious, but leverage the skillset that have come natural to you and find ways to earn a little extra. Find ways to cut your budget. These are two things that we have control over. It’s easier to cut out of the budget than it is to try to earn more income. And I would encourage people to look at that.

Monica Scudieri:
And the last thing I would say is it’s not enough to just save but invest that money. Invest in things that you’ve researched, you believe in, you have that timeline and those things are important. And having a team to help you out with that kind of stuff.

Monica Scudieri:
When I started real estate, it wasn’t just me. I have a tax accountant because I’m terrified of being audited. So, I have a tax accountant. You talk to your financial advisor if you have one of those, your real estate agent, if you’re going to go into rental properties. Make sure that they know rental properties.

Monica Scudieri:
Buying a house for yourself to live in is a completely different skillset than buying rental properties. And so, having a real estate agent that understands both of those markets and where you want to go, and they understand what your goals are. And building that team and having people around you that support you, your goals, and are there to rah-rah you on those days, when you are just really tired. Because you do, you get tired. And then just some grace and appreciate every baby step you take towards your goals.

Monica Scudieri:
And you can do this, you can do this. Single moms, single dads, man, God bless you, because that is hard. Raising kids is hard. Raising kids as a single parent is very hard. Absolutely. So, God bless you.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Well, thank you for those wonderful pieces of advice. Really great reminders of giving yourself some grace and then also finding the balance and getting through it on the other side. So, Monica, tell our listeners where they can find you if they want to hear from you more or see more content from you.

Monica Scudieri:
Yeah, yeah. I have a blog called The Piece of the Pie. So, you can find me there. It’s an easy way to contact me right through the website. I have blog posts there. I offer coaching, the book is there if you’re interested in the book. And this year I’ll be working on the workbook to go with the companion for that book. I would love to hear from people. Feel free to reach out and thank you.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Thank you for coming here and sharing your knowledge. We really appreciate it.

Monica Scudieri:
Thank you very much. Now this has been a lot of fun, again.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Again. Thanks for being a great sport.

Monica Scudieri:
Yeah, absolutely.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Well, I’ll talk to you later, Monica.

Monica Scudieri:
Take care. Thank you. Bye.

Dr. Disha Spath:
I so enjoyed having Monica here today and I’m so glad she took the time to do this episode. Not once, but twice with me. It’s so nice to have the perspective of a single parent who went through a really difficult time in her life and apparently came out of it not just surviving, but thriving.

Dr. Disha Spath:
She gave us important reminders about what to do in this situation, such as checking your credit score and making sure that all the debt listed under your name is in fact yours and taking the time to contest that if necessary. She taught us about how to achieve financial independence, not only with investing in retirement accounts, but also with investing in real estate and the importance of having good people on your side and building a team.

Dr. Disha Spath:
And she taught us about work-life balance and how to be there for our kids while we are pursuing financial independence or whatever other goal that we want to pursue to make our lives better for our kids. I think this was a wonderful conversation. I’m so glad I was able to have it, and I’m so glad you’re here listening. Let’s talk about who made this episode possible.

Dr. Disha Spath:
This episode is sponsored by CompHealth. Locum tenens is a smart way to pay down student loan debt or make extra income. It also gives you freedom and flexibility for a better work-life balance. If you’re at the start of your career, you can test out different practice settings before making a long-term commitment.

Dr. Disha Spath:
CompHealth is a leader in the locum tenens industry and can help you navigate a myriad of career options. They have access to thousands of jobs including telehealth, medical missions, and even permanent placement.

Dr. Disha Spath:
CompHealth experts give you personalized high quality service and help you with your CV, interviewing, contract negotiations and more. Find out more or search jobs now at comphealth.com.

Dr. Disha Spath:
All right, guys, don’t forget about our WCI survey. It goes until the end of this month. Help us serve you better, and please fill it out at www.whitecoatinvestor.com/survey. We will give out 20 t-shirts and a free CFE 2022 course in a random drawing if you just fill the short survey out as a thank you.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Please leave us a five-star review and tell your friends about the podcast that helps us get the word out and helps us help more doctors and high-income professionals just like you.

Dr. Disha Spath:
Here’s a recent review that we got. “Best podcast in its class. I really enjoy listening to this podcast twice a week, a definite bright spot during my long commute. I have learned so much from these episodes. I started with the original White Coat Investor book and I am so grateful for the lessons learned by listening to this podcast as so many financial principles are reinforced every week, especially the Q&A where many interesting scenarios are discussed. Thank you so much for what you have done and continue to do!”

Dr. Disha Spath:
Head up, shoulders back, you’ve got this, and we can help at the White Coat Investor. Thanks so much for listening.

Disclaimer:
The hosts of the White Coat Investor podcast are not licensed accountants, attorneys, or financial advisors. This podcast is for your entertainment and information only. It should not be considered professional or personalized financial advice. You should consult the appropriate professional for specific advice relating to your situation.



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