A conversation about getting out of debt and back to enjoying life with personal financial assistant Ansley Fender of Fender Financial Services.
Tiller: How do you describe what you do?
Ansley: I offer two services: consulting and comprehensive personal financial assistance. As a consultant, I help individuals learn how to create a usable budget that allows for lattes, video games, and whatever else you value.
Most people have some sort of debt, so I also assist clients in designing a debt repayment plan and negotiating down their interest rates. As a personal financial assistant, I handle the day-to-day management of your finances.
We are all busy; between work, children, hobbies, and occasional sleep time, many people feel as though their finances are a chore, and thus, their finances take a backseat. This can be extremely detrimental in the long-run. That’s where I come in.
By handling budgeting, debt repayment, and monitoring spending and saving, I allow you to forget about your finances and focus on what is most important. Think of it this way: if you are the CFO of your life and family, I am your secretary.
What was your path to this calling?
I grew up in a household in which money wasn’t really discussed, mostly because we didn’t have any.
When I was in college, I attended a personal finance seminar mostly by accident. It was eye-opening. Personal finance was completely foreign to me up to that point. At the time, I spent (read: wasted) every penny I made. When I graduated and received a sobering student loan bill, I became really serious about untangling my financial life. But the more I talked to people in similar situations, the more I realized they either didn’t know any more than I did or were too embarrassed to speak about their finances.
To make matters worse, there wasn’t an industry focused on helping the average income earner succeed financially. As I began to learn more, I realized a huge need for personal finance education and training, which is why I started Fender Financial Services.
What are some of the common money problems you see people falling into?
A lot of people don’t think about saving until an emergency arises. Unfortunately, these situations can lead to poor decision making in the form of personal loans, payday loans, maxed-out credit cards, retail therapy, etc. You cannot finance your life with debt.
The modern version of the proverb “to err is human” is “to get trapped in debt is human.” Why do you think this happens?
I think we live in a society that feels devoid of something. Peace, a higher power, happiness, time. Call it what you will, but I believe every honest person feels it at least to some degree. This has led to an unbelievable rate of consumption of cheap crap we don’t need. And when the money to buy the cheap crap runs out, what do you do? Charge it to your credit card, get a loan, borrow from your mom, and on and on.
I think the desire to fit it and to feel whole is human and that desire leaves us wanting. The wanting is what eventually traps us in debt.
Do you feel that some people are “clueless about money.”
This is a bold statement, but I think everyone in debt is clueless about money to some degree or they wouldn’t be in debt.
Here’s an example: the only debt I have is student loans, which some could argue is “more harmless” than, say, credit card debt. It certainly has a lower interest rate, and the debt was taken out for a “good” reason.
But here’s the thing, I have a degree that I will never use because I don’t like the subject matter, but I went to college right out of high school because that’s the way it’s done. If I had been wiser about money, I would have gone to an in-state school, and I would’ve worked to pay my way.
In fact, I probably would’ve started working full-time after high school until I found a career I really loved. Then I would’ve pursued my degree. So, does taking out those loans make me clueless about money? Yes! If I had known what it would take to pay them off, I never would’ve applied for them.
What financial advice do you hope to instill in your children?
Money is a tool; it isn’t the end goal.
Money is a finite commodity. If you consume it now, there won’t be any to consume in the future. BUT, there a wonderful little principle called compounding interest in which you basically are paid to delay your spending. Take advantage of it.
Grass is never greener on the other side of the street; in the same way, becoming wealthy will not fix your problems.
Have you seen people turn their lives around after a period of financial mismanagement?
Absolutely! I have seen a client who was $60k in debt pay off 3 credit cards in 3 months just by coming to terms with how much money he was wasting. Once you can get past the shame and embarrassment of past financial mistakes, your financial future is wide open.
Why do you choose to use Google Sheets in your work?
Mostly because I’m a hyper-organized spreadsheet nerd. Seriously though, Google Sheets allows you to take your budget on-the-go. At any given time, you know exactly where you stand financially.
You don’t need a check register, bank statements, or apps for all your financial institutions. Google Sheets (with a heavy dose of Tiller magic) puts all that information in one place.
Finally, do you think it’s useful and possible to move beyond societal taboos about talking about money?
I believe it is essential to remove past societal taboos surrounding money. I think as we open up about our finances, we realize that many of us are in the same position. The beautiful thing is that each of our experiences provides invaluable lessons that can prevent each other from making the same mistakes.
The first step is talking with our children about money. Be open and honest about the mistakes you’ve made, invite your children to be part of financial discussions and budgeting, and teach them to manage their money either by giving them a modest allowance or encouraging them to work.
Finally - and totally optional - do have a photo of yourself that we could run with the article, along with a link to your website or any social media?
You can contact Ansley at firstname.lastname@example.org or her website fenderfinancialservices.com.