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Ep. 150: How this former Instagram employee become a remote financial guru inspiring people of color to learn financial literacy with Berna Anat

In this week’s episode, I speak with Berna Anat who is a financial hype woman. 

Berna is the creator of a financial literacy media series for young people that lives at @HeyBerna all over the Interwebz. 

After slaying her $50,000 debt, she saved up to quit life and has been traveling the world trying to make money fun again ever since. 

Listen on to find out how Berna has been able to pay off her debts and travel the world as a financial guru!

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Transcription :

Debbie:

Hey everyone, thank you so much for joining us. I am so excited to be here with Berna. Hey Berna, how are you?

Berna:

I am awesome. Debbie, how are you?

Debbie:

I am wonderful. So, can you tell us a little bit more about you and why you live an offbeat life?

Berna:

Sure. So my name is Berna Anat. You can find me on the internet as “Hey Berna”. And my obnoxious tagline is “I’m a financial hype woman” and just the phrase alone is pretty offbeat. I think people get sort of like, “Wait, putting the words “finance” and “hype” and also “woman” together”. Like those are three things you don’t usually see in the same sentence.

So, the whole sort of motivation behind my work is pretty offbeat. It’s basically trying to teach people, and when I say people I really mean is like women and people of color, any kind of marginalized group that hasn’t been taught about personal finance, teaching them about personal finance in a way that is not horribly boring.

So, I’m teaching people about budgeting, debt, saving, investing, how to use credit cards. But I’m using video, I’m using humor, I’m using internet speak, then I really try to speak from the place of what does that mean when you are a woman or a person of color and you’ve been historically kind of shut out of the conversations about money, especially in terms of American wealth, wealth-building, and investing for the future – things like that.

So, I tried to put an offbeat in an industry that’s sort of been on this very kind of consistent beat of, to be honest, like rich white people, old white dudes. It’s the same six people that everyone recommends when you want to get into personal finance. Dave Ramsey, the Warren Buffett, and the Tony Robbins, I’m like, “No, this track needs brown people. That’s one offbeat; it needs women, it needs perspectives from marginalized groups, perspectives from all the intersections of life. And that’s how I try to like “Ricky, Rick, Rick” inside them – inside of the finance world.

Debbie:

Well, I love your content Berna because it is really offbeat. It’s so different and it’s also really hilarious because it’s entertaining, so it’s easier for us to digest your advice and, you’re right, it’s really hard for women to kind of accept that it’s okay to say an embrace that we work for money, not just for the love of it.

And one of the things that is really annoying to me is when I hear women say, “I don’t work for money. It’s just for the love of it.” I’m like, “That’s totally BS”, right? And I’m like, “I hate it.” It’s like “I don’t think about money, I work because I love it.” And I’m like, “Yes, we work because we love it, but it’s also because we need that money to live”, like “Don’t kid yourself guys.”

And it’s really horrible when I think about that because it also stops us, women, from really getting what we deserve because we’re not – they’re asking for it, right? That’s why I love you so much and what you do.

Berna:

Thank you. I 100% agree with that. I think especially when you’re looking at the sort of social media landscape of other creators and entrepreneurs, they do love to say that they love to say like, “I don’t get into this for the money. I follow what I love and the money comes after that.” And like, “You cannot pretend you paid your rent last month on love, okay? You didn’t pay for that outfit that you got from Rent the Runway and then, the main take that got you to Bali on love. That’s somebody’s money, that’s your money or money that came from somewhere.”

And I think all that comes from this very deep-rooted fear, that’s especially present in women and people of color, to admit that we like money, we want money, we want a lot of it if we really want to. It’s difficult to admit that because the cool kid thing to say is, “Oh, I don’t care about money. Money doesn’t affect me. It’s an energy exchange that I’m not part of, I separate myself from that.” When in reality, the reason that a lot of us become solo creators, entrepreneurs is because there’s this intrinsic belief that you can get money a different way.

remote financial guru

It doesn’t have to be from the nine-to-five job and it doesn’t have to be from a corporation. You can create your own path in making money but let’s not forget that you didn’t do this just so you can live off of what crocheted dollar bills. That’s not what we’re getting into. What you do has to do with the money flow.

And I think the more that we can hear other women say, like you and me, like, “I love money. I love when I get it. I want more of it. I do what I am doing because it brings money in.” And like that the more that we can be honest with ourselves. Money’s necessary also, it can be great. Let’s stop it.

Debbie:

Yeah, I really agree with that and I think when we have that mentality, it puts a lot of fear into it too. And I notice for myself, especially when I was first starting to have businesses and I definitely failed, it was because I was not necessarily loving money and loving what I do but it was just because I was like, “No, I’m not doing this for the money. It’s just for the love of it.”

I mean it’s just for the love of what I’m doing and I wasn’t focusing on monetizing anything and that’s a huge problem. That’s a huge, huge problem. And now with my business right now, because I love what I do and I’m also loving making money while I’m doing it, it’s growing. So, guys don’t fall into that trap. Love what you do and love making money while you do it.

Berna:

Yes. It’s important that you say the word “trap” because I think we trap each other in the idea that like, “When you love what you do, the money just kind of organically comes and it shows up.” And then when it doesn’t, you blame yourself for not loving the right thing or not loving hard enough when really it’s, about what you’ve just said, monetizing what you love to do.

That is what we do. We monetize what we love to do. We love to do it, sure, but we need to crank some kind of lever so that the money comes out. And also the idea is that you enjoy the cranking of that lever so that the money comes out and you need the money to come out and we need to admit that we need the kind of money.

Because I think what also happens, another chapter is that a lot of women, entrepreneurs, and creators become hesitant to ask for what they’re worth, right? Like we’re always talking about, “Ask for what you’re worth.” The more that we say to people like, “I don’t do this for the money, this is just for the love.” The more that we’re going to create people who don’t know how to ask for money and how to value what it is that they do. Like if you write, you have to know the value of your writing and the value of your audience in order to charge someone what you think your writing is worth and get paid what you’re worth.

If you’re always working from the place of like, “Oh, I just do this for love, it’s okay,” then that’s where it leads to the conversations of like, “Yeah, that horribly low-ball prices totally enough?” Or like, “I don’t really know how to negotiate further from my work because I’m supposed to just be doing this for love, so thanks so much for the opportunity”. When the conversation should sound more like, “Yeah, this is what I do and I love it. Also, I know the worth of it and this is how much it is I’m going to push for that worth, I’m going to ask for it and I’m going to get paid and I’m going to love it.”

It just really creates a negotiation problem for a lot of us when we just lean on the “It’s okay, I love it. It’s fine. I’m a fairy who loves work and money just falls from the sky,” – it’s not true.

Debbie:

Yeah. I wish that was true. I wish we all just loved what we did and had money falls from it. And I think also, especially for people who are creatives, right? Because when we get into this, I think we’re all taught that when you’re a creative, when you’re an artist, it’s not about the money either. I know that for a fact, again, because I was saying for a really long time, “I’m not doing this for the money. It’s because I love it.” And then, of course, I was broke the whole entire time while I was saying this, “There’s no love for the money.”

It’s just really, like you said, switching that mentality that we have. Now, Berna, I know you come from an Asian family, right? So it depends. We’re Filipinos and I feel like with my family at least, we don’t really talk about financial stability in a lot of sense. And I think especially for women it’s a lot harder, right? You’re not educated in this school and then, most of the time you’re not educated at home. How did you get this love for financial everything and learn it for yourself?

Berna:

Sure. So this love actually came from a place of anger – funnily enough. My financial background is zero. I have no finance degree. I always tell people at the beginning of speaking engagements and workshops, I’m like, “There’s no legal reason you should be listening to me. So, thanks for being here. I’m not a certified financial planner. I have no finance degree, no financial background. Never worked at a financial place.”

And my family… I’m first-generation Filipino, full Filipina. My parents were born and raised in the Philippines and immigrant family, they do what they can, did what they needed to do to survive. And that did not involve learning how the American financial system works and learning how to invest and build wealth generations like a lot of our sort of American counterparts.

And so, I grew up thinking money has always been and always will be beyond me. I don’t understand it but like it’s okay to not understand it. And I think what comes from a lot of Asian-American families especially, I mean of course, you and I can speak to Filipino and Filipino-American families, is you get a lot of very mixed messages about money growing up.

With my family, especially, if you’re kind of lower middle class, you get a lot of messages of like, “No, we can’t afford that. We can’t do that. Who do you think we are? Put that away. We got rice at home.” Like bring food into the movie theater, like whatever – extreme frugality. But also when it comes to talking to each other, it’s a lot of flexing as I like to say, like I will brag about bringing the Louis Vuitton purse to the holiday party, family party or we’ll post about our expensive vacation on Facebook and there’s lots of weird kind of flexing, resentment and showing off money that you don’t have.

And so growing up with that, you just adopt very conflicting money styles. And so, I was all jumbled up before I got into the personal finance role and what got me into it was when I got one of my first sort of big curl jobs with a paycheck that would come every other Friday. Can you imagine? I was like, “If I don’t burn the building down, the paycheck will just come. That’s amazing.”

At that point I had like $12,000 in credit card debt and about $38,000 in student loan debt. And I was like, “Maybe I should learn this whole…,” I would call it like the ancient Caucasian art of budgeting, “Maybe I should learn this whole like ancient art of budgeting.” So, when I started to Google, we’re internet children, so we learn everything from the internet if we can’t get it from our friends and family.

And everything I found was really, I like to say “hella male” and “hella pale”, like really, really male. Lots of, lots of white voices, lots of privileged white voices coming from people who are like, “Oh, I work on wall street, or my dad’s an investor. My mom grew up as a financial planner.” And I was like, “Wow, cannot relate.” Not only can I not relate, but like, I don’t know any other Filipino-American who can relate to any of this.

And there’s an obvious lack of women voices, obvious lack of voices from people of color. Even being in the industry, I’ve seen maybe one indigenous or native American voice in the finance world, which is wild because we all touch money and this is not like a white male problem. This is for all of us.

So, I got into it with anger. That’s what really made me kind of start to talk about personal finances just being like, “This is wild. How is it that we don’t talk about this out loud?” I started talking about it just obviously, in the very millennial way, putting it on Instagram and just like, “Hey y’all, I’m starting to learn how to budget. Here’s what I’m doing. What do you think?” And then there’s this deluge of people being like, “Oh my God, we can talk about money. You have that problem too. You’re in the five-figure personal loan debt. You got $12,000 in credit card debt too. I know. We can talk about that. Your break isn’t real, but let’s talk about it.” And so that’s sort of how it started just from outrage. But it’s turned into this very joyful conversation.

Debbie:

I think there’s a huge taboo for it and you’re definitely right. We often see huge financial gurus that are predominantly white males. You’ll see a white female here and there, but it’s predominantly white males that we have to listen to because that’s really our only option that we have. And it’s really sad because it is still a huge taboo. I know a lot of people are afraid to talk about it. And if, God forbid you said something, it’s like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe you don’t burn up when you said that.”

Berna:

I know…

Debbie:

And if anything, we should be talking about it. And this is how you educate young people not to be in debt, not to leave school and be in hundreds of thousands of debt and be smart about it. And I think that’s one of the biggest education we could ever have as students, as human beings. And it’s so unfortunate that we are not getting that at all. It’s really, really sad.

Berna:

Yep. That’s totally right. We get it from where we can which is the way that our families teach us about money. So, what I always like to say in conversations about financial literacy, the phrase “financial literacy” makes me kind of cringe a little bit because it’s not that people like you and me were financially illiterate. It makes it sound like we did not know at all what was going on with when you have a function.

The truth is our families and our environments taught us a certain way how to function with money, it’s just that it doesn’t work for the way that the American financial system kind of rewards people. For example, in the Filipino-American community, there’s a lot of distrust amongst banks in older generations. I think maybe like four or five years ago there was a world bank survey and like 59% of Filipinos worldwide don’t use banks.

They don’t use banks at all and have no bank accounts and that’s the kind of thing that makes you go like, “That’s why I don’t know a lot about money.” You know what I mean? Like we’re starting from a zero place, we’re starting from an uneducated place. But at the same time our families, like my family for example, immigrant family, they came over here and they figured it out financially in a way that makes sense to them with a mix of what they learned in the Philippines and what they learned here.

And it’s just that the habits and kind of rules that they made for themselves don’t exactly scale up. Like for example, I always grew up believing that you should have like a pretty heavy balance on your credit card because banks like that for some reason. They like to see that you use your credit card, they like to see that there’s always a balance. So, you should always keep a balance in your credit card. That is not true if you’re trying to achieve a good credit score or if I listen to like my grandparents they’d be like, “Take your money out of the bank. Don’t put your money in banks. Don’t organize your money.” So, like if they had it their way, they’d like put their money in socks, right?

There are systems in place that we know about how to move financially it’s just that they don’t benefit us here. And also, like you just said, no one is telling us how the rules work here and if they are telling us, if the information is out there, podcasts, books or whatever. One, as a lower middle class working family, who has time to read that shit? Who has time to listen to the podcast when you’re an immigrant parent trying to provide for your family? And two, it doesn’t sound like anything that is relevant to us. The voices aren’t coming out of brown faces. They are not coming out of the brown person experience or the immigrant experience or the woman and the female experience even.

So, the information out there is just tone deaf as hell. And it’s no wonder that it’s not reaching us ’cause it wasn’t written by us and it’s not reinforced either.

Debbie:

And that’s why someone like you, Berna, who has the background and your family and what you’ve gone through to sharing your experiences and what’s worked for you is so much more valuable than someone who is so out of reach. And their backgrounds are not anything like ours. And I definitely get where you’re coming from. Everything you’ve said about your family is pretty much how my family is.

Berna:

It’s really crazy because we learn it as we go and we learn all of these different information whether our parents or grandparents are right or not until we get to that point and we’re actually like, “Okay, I’m trying to buy a house and my mom said that put so much money onto there that I need debt. But then, okay, my lenders telling me that my credit score is not good enough because I have so much that. Oh shoot! I have to like pay this off.”

Right, exactly. And it’s like these conflicting voices that we always have to deal with this sort of mythical tales of how money works on one side, like maybe older generations are telling us it works one way and then you’d talk to a lender, you get to an adult point of your life where you’re like, “All right, well, I am now 30 and I need to do a big girl thing, but my financial brain is still like five years old. And also educated by the way that money used to work with our immigrant parents, not the way that money works now.”

And so a lot of us come to adulthood and we’re like in panic mode, like “Oh shit. I need to buy a house. Turns out in order to have successfully set myself up to buy a house, I should have learned how to manage my credit. I should’ve learned how to save money. I should’ve learned what a credit score even means, how much money even costs to buy a house where I am.”

We find all of the holes in our financial education kind of too late. I don’t necessarily want to say too late as in can’t learn anymore but we’re up against major life choices and it’s then when we realize like, “I didn’t actually learn how to budget, I actually learned how to save, but now I gotta make this giant leap into adulthood and that’s what creates a lot of anxiety.”

We blame ourselves for a lot of that missing information; we blame our families, I mean there’s so many reasons, so many places to put the blame, but also that information was never, like I said, catered or formed or set out of the mouths of people who have our experience. And so we’re kind of working from zero and having to do a lot to catch up.

Debbie:

Yeah, it’s really unfortunate. But at least now we have someone like you who is out there and speaking the truth and speaking from different perspectives that we have never gotten before. Like you said, like somebody from an immigrant family, it’s not going to be the same. It’s definitely not going to be the same.

Berna:

So, Berna, I know that you worked in your nine-to-five before and then you left to start your own company and your business now that you’re doing, how did you prepare for that journey and to make that huge leap?

It’s so funny that you bring that up, Debbie, ’cause it was still like, “Oh I did do that didn’t I? So naughty.” Probably lots of folks who are listening can relate to, I’ve always been in a position of someone managing me. Like we’d go through school and there are teachers, we have our parents and then we go into our first internships, we went to our first jobs.

And I always remember the fact that like I used to always tell myself, “Oh, I’m never going to be an entrepreneur. I’m never going to start my own company. I love to be a worker bee. I love to have a manager.” And then, cut to today when, yeah, I get up, like, “Have you said that? I guess I did quit to run my own company. That’s so wild.” Currently it’s a company of like two and a half people, but here we are.

But what I did to prepare for that is a mix of some preparation but also some like jumping off into the deep end on purpose. So before I quit my job, I used to work at Instagram for two years here in San Francisco and a wild ride I gotta say. And it was around then that I’ve started to learn how to budget, learn how to save, learn how to get myself out of debt and things like that.

But I also met my partner, Peter, who works for nonprofits and we both sort of plotted like, “Hey, how about you and I get really into personal finance together? And then, pay off our debt. And then when we pay off our student loans, let’s do something crazy. Let’s quit life and just travel. So that’s what we did. We paid off our loans around the end of 2017. We both quit our jobs and we traveled for all of 2018.

And so I had saved up enough. We both saved up enough to pay off our loans, build emergency savings and also build enough savings to travel for a year. And so all of 2018, I sort of excused myself in the working world and we just traveled, which is a humongous privilege. But I also had all that time to sort of sit and be like, “What am I going to do when I get back? Am I going to go back to the nine to five life or am I going to kind of see what this entrepreneurial freelance life is all about?” And so I was able to emotionally prepare myself for the jumps.

By the time we got back this past January, I was like, “Okay, I think I’m going to try it because I can, because being debt-free and having emergency savings gave me that privilege and freedom of choice and option to go, “Yeah, I think I’m going to try this thing.” That said sort of took care of the emotional side, it was a long time of thinking on it and being like, “I think I’m ready to take this leap.”

Financially, what I had to do, kind of like I said, I built a personal emergency savings, which is absolutely key to being able to make the decision to make the leap and live an offbeat life. And I feel very comfortable sitting on top of my six months of expenses. I know that if the bottom were to fall out of my life, I can coast on these emergency savings that’s sitting, by the way in a high yield savings account, very important, and I can access that at any time. So that makes me feel a lot more confident to sort of choose the offbeat life.

remote financial guru

And then in setting up my actual financial life for starting a business, this is all lessons that I learned of course, along the way. Debbie, you and I were talking just before this about like, “The lessons we learned, we learned them because we failed and we learned them because we just bang our heads against things.”

But something that I learned to do right now, teaching other beginner entrepreneurs to do, is first thing you gotta do is you have to separate your business money from your personal money even if you’re like, “I’m just going to start to kind of freelance write a little bit” or “I’m just going to start to maybe take brand money to do these little things on the side.” The second you decide that you are a business and so your business life should have its own financial entity, its own financial structure.

And so, find yourself an online checking and savings account that is business specific. And by business specific, I said usually, literally, banks will have regular personal savings and checking and they’ll have business, personal savings and checking. Business, personal savings and checking usually offers a lot more transactional flexibility. So, like money can move in and out a lot faster and a lot more easy in a business as opposed to a personal savings and checking, getting all my words mixed up.

And it’s also important when you’re looking for business bank to find something that is primarily online. Like for example, Debbie, you traveled a ton for work and I would never recommend that you put your business money in a local credit union because if you are abroad, like if you’re in Bali and you need to access your business money, you can’t call up your local credit union in the middle of the night ’cause usually there are a lot more sort of local brick and mortar. You want an online-only bank that offers really robust online customer service and you can access your money in your funds and help at any time.

Debbie:

Yeah. Well, it’s going to be really hard to do too because it’s like if you don’t have an app or you’re in the middle of nowhere and you want to access your money or do anything, it’s going to be really hard. But we’re going to talk more about this actually on the extended interview because you’re going to tell us how to financially prepared to be a remote entrepreneur.

And that’s so exciting because all of the things that Berna is talking about, and she will be talking about more. I definitely wish I had known before I started any of my businesses and I learned all of this stuff actually because I failed so much and we talked about this and I was like, “Oh my gosh! Everything you’re talking about makes sense. But only because I failed three businesses and now it makes sense to me.”

Berna:

We learn by banging our heads against stuff.

Debbie:

Oh my gosh. It was a hard lesson to learn. But these mistakes are all lessons that we learn, right?

Berna:

Absolutely. I mean it’s hard lesson learned but then you learn them and you’re like, “Well I’m never going to make that mistake again. There it is tattooed on my brain now.”

Debbie:

I know. You never forget these types of mistakes. Now, Berna, when you finally left your nine-to-five and you came back from your travels because you know when you’re traveling you still feel good, you’re seeing new things. But when you come back to reality, what was your “what now?” moment like because I’m pretty sure you had it ’cause I definitely did and it was eye-opening.

Berna:

Yes. Oh my gosh. It’s funny ’cause it feels like my “what now?” moment was an extended period of time. There wasn’t a moment where I was like, “Okay, what am I doing now?” It was 10 straight months of travel through Asia together and then we got back around Thanksgiving time. And so it sort of felt like when you skip a rock over a body of water.

We were just sort of skipping from place to place once we landed back in the U.S. We’re like visiting my partner’s family in Michigan and visiting my family here. Now the Holidays kind of feel like a weird upside down, not real-time. So, you’re sort of like popping around to when to visit friends in LA.

We went on vacation a little bit with family and then it wasn’t until maybe like mid December to mid January that I really started to go outside of the holiday buzz go like, “Okay, wait, so what am I doing now? When did I decide what we’re doing? Am I going to go hit up my friends again at Facebook and be like, “You can hire me again, please God…” Or am I going to really try this thing for real?”

And that feeling kind of spread itself out over periods of me going to leaving my house. We’d been renting with my family since we’ve gotten back or moving out soon, but I was in my house and I was like, “I feel like I can’t think about this while I’m inside of my family’s house where we just like kick it and lay back all the time.” So, I was doing a lot of going to public libraries and pretending I was in a coworking space basically and being like, “Hmm, what do I want to do with my life?” Just sort of sorting out emails, trying to see if I could pick up freelance work and spend a good month, maybe month and a half solidly just like, “What the heck, what does this mean?”

And also, like you said, after travel, your perspectives are blown open, your perspective of the world is a lot wider. Of course I met tons of other digital nomads and remote workers along the way who just blew up dope with what they were doing. Some of them were translating work while they were traveling, some of them are writing, some of them making videos, some of them literally travel to earn money and I was like, “Do I want to do any of that?”

But I know also over the year that I was traveling I was sharing a lot more personal finance details and the reaction from that was so strong and it really told me like, “If you’re going to go after anything in this freelance life, it’s going to be this money conversation, especially money with women and other women of color.” And there was a specific moment where I was like, “Oh snap, I think I’m deciding right now if I am going to go freelance, like really do this thing for real or go back to the corporate nine-to-five life.”

And it was when one of my mentors, you probably know her name is Gloria Atanmo, The Blog Abroad. She was an incredible travel creator and we connected over my year while I was traveling and she had emailed to be like, “I’m doing this retreat…,” I think it’s called The Sisterhood Circle Retreats. “I’m Doing this retreat in different countries where we’re going to sit down, I’m gonna take a small group of people and we’re going to sit down and go through all my business secrets of how I’ve created this business on my own and do you want to come?”

Of course, it’s paper but you want to come. And then I was looking at that and did this like “gong” went off in my head I’m just like, “This is where you decide.” Because the trip wasn’t until May and I think it was December at the time and it was like, “If I buy into this trip then that means between now and May, I’m going to have to have something to show for it and I’m going to have to commit at least for these five months of like trying to be a sort of solo business owner.”

And that’s when I was like, “Do I want that?” I’m kind of making a decision for myself five months into the future, like five months later me, “Am I going to wish that I did this? Am I going to have something to show for it to Gloria by the time I get there?” I was like, “You know what? Let’s try it. And so, I purchased it with the very last of my travel savings and was like, “I think I just made this decision.”

So it was a mix of having thought about it over the year of travel, but also kind of throwing myself an accountability date in the future and being like, “Just go until then despite what happens in May.” And kind of giving myself a deadline, a sort of a deadline and a method of accountability, “Did you see what I got in five months?” That’s how it started.

Debbie:

Well, that is a really incredible journey and you took so many different chances in order to take that chance on yourself. And I think we often underestimate what we’re really capable of. And if you just give yourself that chance, you will really know what you made out of. And I think it’s such a great lesson to learn and really know yourself, also.

Berna:

Yeah. And for me, I knew that I was getting lots of advice of just like, “If you want to be an entrepreneur, you should just take the leap. You should just try it. You should just go for it. Give yourself a chance,” – things like that, right? And I was like, “I don’t know what that means.” I do know what it means it’s just like, “Do I just do it tomorrow? Do I just tell everyone, “Hey, I’m an entrepreneur now.” I’ve decided so, no one headhunt. I’m going to take my resume off the internet or what? What does it mean?”

And it was really helpful for me to have a tangible thing. Not only was I putting a date towards like, “May 12th I am going to Zanzibar on a business retreat and I’m going to call myself an entrepreneur by that day and I have something to show for it,” it wasn’t just a date, but it’s also money. This was something that I put the rest of my travel savings into.

And I really kind of learned to understand money as, I guess, an energy exchange but like an emotional commitment exchange where I’m not only committed a date in the future but I committed my money that I earned. I invested in it and I’m in it now. This isn’t just an inspirational quote that got me going, this is not just lots of good people’s advice, this is my hard-earned money went into a thing and it set a date for me, a hard date for me to kind of show up by.

So, if anyone is out there kind of feeling stuck and not sure how to make yourself take the leap or what’s the mechanism that’s going to push you, I would say honestly, find a cool retreat or a event or even a conference that you buy into sometime in the future to say like, “Okay, I’m literally pressing the button to exchange my money and say this is happening now and between now and that time, whatever happen in the future, I’m going to call myself an entrepreneur and I’m going to see what shows up for me between now and that date.” It’s really helpful. I mean, it moved my lizard brain, I was like, “Oh shit, I gotta get my shit together now, I just spent 2000 bucks. We gotta go.”

Debbie:

Well, also, it’s not just spending money to spend it, right? You’re spending it to really educate yourself. And nowadays this is how we learn – through these retreats, conventions, and all of these different conferences where there is really valid education you can get from.

Berna:

Yes, absolutely. And connections that you could make, right? I sort of thought of myself as an entrepreneur kind of freelancer – I don’t know what I am doing. But then, when I showed up to that retreat, which was in Zanzibar, I’m saying that you should all buy a ticket to Zanzibar to force yourself to call yourself an entrepreneur, but when I showed up there, I was showing up with other people who are calling themselves entrepreneurs. And that was showing up to a mentor who is an experienced entrepreneur.

So, it forced me to embody that label and also to face-to-face talk with other people who are actually going through all the same problems that I was in the last five months. And so, showing up to a conference, showing up to retreat, showing up to a meetup like a free meetup of other entrepreneurs and other remote workers. We’ll get you to feel like, “This isn’t just a concept in your head. This is like a community of people that I talked to. This is a world with faces, voices, and identities, people I can get beer with that I could start to see myself in,” – super important.

Debbie:

Well, because it’s also a really lonely road to be in, especially if you’re going to be doing this. It’s such a lonely thing to be and having people around you like that will be so helpful.

Berna:

Yes. I mean I’m sure you know… To be a remote worker can be incredibly isolating, especially when you’re used to water cooler talk with coworkers and kind of half-forced happy hours or whatever. That’s stuff that I miss so bad. Like the other day, ’cause I go there every Wednesday, and I was telling my therapist a few months ago when the sort of joy of entrepreneurship goes up and down and I was in a down place and I was telling her like, “I feel so lonely as an entrepreneur and solo creator.”

On my way to therapy, I saw a truck, I think it might’ve been a plumbing truck that said “we’re hiring” in the back. And I had this random fantasy of just like, “Oh they’re hiring, huh? They must have orientation, an orientation packet, and an orientation leader. And they must like whoever they hire, they must give them a manager. That sounds nice. Maybe there’s an HR department. Ooh, that’s nice. Maybe there’s a legal department to help me. Man, that’s so nice.” Like I started to fantasize about being hired by this random company and this goes to show how lonely it can be and that’s a hurdle to get over for sure.

Debbie:

That’s why having a community around you when you’re going through this, that understands, is really helpful and a lot of times really crucial to this journey as well. So now, Berna, let’s fast forward to 50 years from now and you’re looking back at your life, what legacy would you like to leave and what do you want to be remembered for?

Berna:

Wow. Okay. So in the future I will be 80, Lord… This is exactly who I want to be… Have you ever been to camp? Like a summer camp?

Debbie:

Yes.

Berna:

I want to be the like 80 year old retiree who’s just everyone knows as the grandma of camp and like she goes around and like, “There are certain traditions that we only let grandma do because she’s been here for so long. But she’s kinda the heart and soul of the camp.” I say all this because my ultimate dream is to earn enough so that I can just work at summer camps all the time. I’m a huge, huge youth camp nerd.

Debbie:

Really?

Berna:

Yeah, huge youth programming nerd. So before I got into this I was working for the YMCA, I was a teen camp programs director for three years there and an afterschool program director as well. And that is still, to this day, one of the best jobs I’ve ever had in my entire life. Obviously one of the most lower paying jobs because of the state of education in the country.

But I was so obsessed with empowering youth and empowering teens and doing team leadership programming specifically for 15 to 17 year olds. Pretty much everything I do, in terms of business building, is so that I can free myself up financially and, like time-wise, to work all my summers at camps and I don’t care what I do there. Like I could be arts and crafts, I can be like hold up the net for the volleyball – I don’t care.

Debbie:

You could honestly do a summer camp for kids to teach them about finances ’cause you know they don’t teach that in school.

Berna:

Exactly. So what I’d like to do, my fantasy 50 years into the future, is I already have an established camp program. Whether that’s having brought that program to existing camps ’cause there’s so many incredible existing camps in the U.S. that don’t get enough love and like I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Maybe it’s something I’m bringing financial literacy to a bunch of different camps or I’ve parked myself at a camp that I love and I offer financial literacy for the kids there. I’m almost like the camp dog, they just sort of let me hang around – I’m there.

remote financial guru

And my vision 50 years into the future is that all year round, I have spent making videos. Not in the summer, like the school year, I’ve spent the year making videos about personal finance, creating whatever the latest fun, stupid, funny media is but about personal finance. Now, it’s like video and TikTok but who knows what it’s going to be 50 years in the future. But I spend all your making fun media about personal finance and I spent all summer at this camp like being camp grandma.

That is my vision 50 years… Maybe this camp is on the moon – I don’t know. But wherever young people are and like learning to be better versions of themselves, that’s where you will find me in the summer. And then you’ll find me doing basically what I’m doing now all year around.

Debbie:

That is such an awesome and unique way to do it.

Berna:

It’s so specific and it’s sort of comforting ’cause I’m like, “I don’t think I’m competing with a lot of people to be financial camp grandma. So, cool! I’m in my own lane.”

Debbie:

You’re the only one.

Berna:

Oh, I’ll probably be the only one, I’m currently like to say that out loud. People are like, “What are you talking about?” I’m like, “Perfect! Great.” I don’t want people talking about I’m making my own land and my own thing that makes me happy. Great. I’m just going to keep swimming, 50 years from now you’ll see me at some camp – basically just a tree there.

Debbie:

So, what are you currently working on that is really exciting to you?

Berna:

One thing I’m working on is something that I called Budget Camp. Surprise because I’m camp-obsessed. I’m just always trying to find a way to bring the camp obsession back into my life. So, I just started an online course in community called Budget Camp and we just did sort of first session.

So session one, summer camp, you’ll have like different weeks and different sessions. I’m calling it session one because this is the very basics of what you need to know about yourself and your financial brain and your financial history before you even start budgeting. And so I’m working with my very first community for that. I sold out of my course the beginning of October which is exciting. And so right now, I’m working on relaunching a second version of that in December; understanding what it means to run an online course to be like a course mom and what I want my like online camp to be.

And I’m also working on ideas for video series. So whether that’s a video series that gets picked up by an online network or picked up by a sponsor or it’s just a video series that I do for free by myself in my bedroom, which is usually what it is. I really want to get back into regular video creation.

And then the third thing is I’m working on actually bringing financial literacy, financial empowerment workshops to companies here in the Bay Area, San Francisco. There are tons of tech companies around here as we all know, but I’m actually getting tapped by a few of those companies. They’re like, “Come on in and teach our new grads how to manage money, teach our new grads how to budget, how to save.”

Obviously a lot of these folks are suddenly earning tons of money right out the gate, but they don’t know what to do with it. And it’s a little bit like, “Oh, first world problems.” We were just talking about, Debbie, like we need to be comfortable with the fact that we liked to earn money and we like to receive it from where it’s coming.

And I think if these larger companies are going to pay me to come educate their young people about how to manage their money, I will take that money. I’m happy to take that corporate money. I am happy to take those corporate funds so I could continue to make the free things that I make, which is like my lower cost online budgeting course, my free newsletter, my free social media stuff for videos, and all that. So, twerk in all those places.

Debbie:

Well that’s amazing and you have so many things that you are really doing to help people, which is a definite bonus so that’s always exciting to hear about. Now, Berna, if our listeners want to know more about you, where can they find you?

Berna:

Oh, you can find me being real obnoxious on Instagram – always. My Instagram is @heyberna, note my DM’s are a garbage fire. So, if you have something greater question to ask me, definitely just email me. My email is also on my Instagram, it’s berna@heyberna.com.

Every Friday I do, I think we’re naming and Money Moves, I’ve been doing it for a while and I recently pulled my community like, “What are we calling this?” Every Friday I get on Instagram stories, I remind everybody to put at least 10% or whatever they earned that week into a savings account. And I’m always like, “Tip yourself before you go and tip a bartender or a waitress or like a stripper tonight, whatever.”

And then I also ask people what their financial win was for the week. What did they do with their money that made them feel good and a song request. And I will pick a few of those financial wins and like dance and tag that person and like celebrate for them. So, if a Friday is coming up, come definitely follow me on Instagram and watch the shenanigans occur because it’s a mess, it’s a fun time.

Debbie:

Yeah, we definitely want to see you be a mess on Instagram.

Berna:

Yeah. 24/7 I’m a mess on Instagram for sure.

Debbie:

Well, thank you so much, Berna, for talking with us and for sharing with us your journey. I am so excited for everything that’s going to come your way, especially you being at Camp Grandma. Thank you so much.

Berna:

Yes, thank you. Thank you for embracing my Camp Grandma vibes. It’s so weird to describe, so I feel very, very welcomed in this space, Debbie, thank you for having me. Thank you for talking with me.

GET THE EXTENDED INTERVIEW WITH BERNA WHERE SHE SHARES HOW TO FINANCIALLY PREPARE TO BE A REMOTE ENTREPRENEUR.


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Show Credits:

Audio Engineer: Ben Smith


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