Interview with Rita-Soledad of Wealth Para Todos
In honor of April's Financial Literacy Month, we talked with Rita-Soledad Fernández Paulino of Wealth Para Todos.
Rita-Soledad of Wealth Para Todos
In honor of Financial Literacy Month in April, spoke with Rita-Soledad Fernández Paulino, founder of Wealth Para Todos, an educational platform and community devoted to helping BIPOC, women, and LGBTQ+ folks grow their money and develop financial wellness by starting with self-care. Founded in 2020, Wealth Para Todos has grown into a multi-six-figure business.
We sat down with Fernández Paulino to talk about her self-care centered approach for financial independence and wellness.
Learning to budget as an adult
When Rita-Soledad Fernández Paulino was 32 she developed an autoimmune disorder. At the time, she was a public-school math teacher and married with two kids. Her partner's workplace was shutting down and the only income she was receiving was disability checks.
To make those checks stretch, Fernández Paulino tasked herself with creating her first budget. Prior to that, she had always been working multiple side gigs on top of her day job and had plenty of cash flow.
"I've always been able to save and never had to create a budget, I just lived below my means," she says. And while she implemented a monthly household budget, she realized that she was a natural saver, most likely because of intergenerational trauma from parents who struggled financially.
"Growing up as a first-generation immigrant, I think the trauma of growing up under someone who struggled financially caused me to be a natural saver, but it's almost like I was saving from a place of anxiety."
The path to being debt free
Interestingly, because she was able to keep her expenses low and had stopped spending money on getting her nails done and eating out, Fernández Paulino decided to aggressively pay off her student loans—while on disability checks. I said, 'If we pay off our student loans, then we could live off of one income.' Then, let's see if I go back to teaching."
At the time, Fernández Paulino had about $23,000 in student loans. That's when she decided to be debt free within a year's time.
Once her husband landed another job after getting laid off, they were able to put the "extra money" toward paying off student debt and her medical bills. And while it was incredibly difficult for someone who had been financially independent for most of her life to rely on her husband to be the breadwinner, she needed to take the time to heal from her condition.
Building online community
Once that debt was paid off, Fernández Paulino was excited to share that story with her friends and family, however, nobody responded to her text messages. And when she posted on her Instagram stories that she was debt-free, not one person responded. "No happy hands or the little party hat, or those cheering emojis," she recalls. "And I thought, 'Man, I'm the only one. I must be the only one, it must not be a big deal. Everyone else must have been debt free.'"
Years later, Fernández Paulino discovered that everyone ignored her because they were embarrassed. "It was like 'Wait, Sol has her act together. Sol actually looks at her numbers. Sol actually knows this is actually facing it. Sol's not avoiding it.'"
The isolation stemming from guilt and embarrassment made her feel lonely, so she wanted a community where she could talk openly about money. She then started posting and sharing her financial journey no social media. "At the time, I had become debt free, but then I was on my way to building an emergency fund, and I wanted to learn how to invest."
Regaining her health and being debt-free, Fernández Paulino started working less and was able to enjoy home life and being able to do things with her kids.
Building a business in the middle of the pandemic
Then the pandemic happened. Stuck at home during quarantine and feeling overwhelmed, the former workaholic used wealth as a way for her to deal with uncertainty in the world, and in 2020 her business, Wealth Para Todos, was born. "It was my distraction," she laughs. "It was no surprise to me that I built a business in the midst of a global pandemic."
Through one-on-one coaching, monthly workshops and an online academy, Wealth Para Todos (which means "wealth for all" in Spanish) is a platform founded to help with financial wellness in underserved, often misunderstood groups.
If you're struggling to build wealth as a first-gen BIPOC woman, here are the steps she recommends taking:
Self-care comes first
It turned out the autoimmune disorder stemmed from PTSD and Fernández Paulino was using work as a way to cope and disassociate herself from her trauma. Her condition worsened to the point where she was bedridden for six weeks. "My kids couldn't even hug me," she recalls. "I was having to take steroids shots to reduce the inflammation because I couldn't breathe. I couldn't walk from my bedroom to the bathroom because the inflammation in my lungs was so bad."
Bottom line: going through the motions of financial wellness but knowing that in order to build wealth and be financially fit meant taking care of herself first.
"When I started sharing my story online, I was talking about my financial journey, but I was also talking about this healing journey," she says. " And for me, a big thing was I want multiple streams of income and I want multiple streams of healing. I want to figure out how to self-care myself to financial independence. That's because an old version of me knows very much how to achieve multiple streams of income—I mastered that. But not the multiple streams of feeling."
In turn, she went to therapy, hired a business coach, and worked with a healer. In turn, she recommends creating a self-care spending plan. This should be a non-negotiable expense.
Create a self-care spending plan
First, start with your self-care expenses. This might include going to therapy, working with a wellness, coach, a nutritionist, a couple's therapist, or an occupational therapist. "How are you using your money to learn skills that make you feel powerful, capable, and deserving? That's self-care to me. So be proactive with your self-care because you don't want to end up like I was— ultimately, I ended up having to pay thousands of medical bills because I wasn't being proactive about my self-care."
One's order of expenses should like this this:
- Self-care expenses
- Fixed expenses
- Variable expenses
- Debt payments
Self-care and financial wellness are intertwined
As a financial coach, Fernández Paulino's clients came to her asking to create a budget, to pay off debt, to save, and how to invest. But, as she explains, the blocks to help them maximize their extra cash flow was the inability to engage in self-care.
"My clients are already in therapy, but they also need to be willing to understand what coping mechanisms they've developed that have turned into habits that are now getting in the way of the financial goals and the financial milestones they want to reach.”
"I took all my experience of the ways that I had been learning to deal with my PTSD," she adds. "I explained that maxing out your Roth IRA becomes very easy when you are consistently engaging in self-care, and you're talking to yourself so kindly and you're making sure you get the rest that you need, and you're setting boundaries around people who are draining your energy. All of a sudden, you can start thinking about ways to increase your income."
In the financial literacy world, it's often advised to automate savings. Set it and forget it, money nerds and financial advisors alike will tell you. Fernández Paulino suggests also automating certain behaviors and habits that can benefit your emotional and mental health.
For instance, automate how you talk to yourself. Plus, automate how you set boundaries with other people around you, and how you decide whether you're going to hold space for your emotions. "Are you going to push through instead of pause to engage in self-care," she says.
Increase your cash flow
Instead of decreasing your expenses as a way to maximize their extra cash flow, focus on earning more, Fernández Paulino suggests. That's because scaling back isn't sustainable, and it causes you to be in this cycle.
So, once you've got your self-care plan intact, drum up ways of raking in more money. A lot of the people Fernández Paulino serves in her community underestimate the skills they can monetize. "Whether that means negotiating a raise, going for a promotion, job hopping, starting a side hustle, starting a small business. I want your energy to go there."
And don't be afraid of investing in the support that you need. Whether that support is a therapist, childcare, a business coach, or a career coach, many people see those things as a luxury. She adds: “But in reality, it's the only way that we develop the skills to really maximize our extra cash flow."
So why is financial literacy so important? It's the only way for you to set yourself up to take care of future you. So don't delay. Make moves to improve your financial well-being today.
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