How One Woman Went From Knee-Deep In Debt To Personal Finance Expert In Just 3 Years
Just a few years ago, Sha Nacino was buried in credit card debt with no way out. Only making about P15,000 a month, she could barely make a dent in her P80,000 credit card debt. “I was desperate,” she says in an interview with iMoney Philippines.
But three years later she was able to get debt-free, and now, she writes books about personal finance which come highly recommended by figures like Edward Lee (founder of online stockbroker COL Financial), and Edric Mendoza, host of ABS-CBN’s On the Money, among others. She’s also a highly-sought after speaker at financial seminars like Bo Sanchez’s Wealth Summit and has even been invited by the Office of the President of the Philippines to give a talk at Malacañang last December.
Today, she is pursuing her passions full time. She quit her job last August 5, 2013 and she now runs her own startup companies.
How did Sha turn her life around from debt to success, and what financial advice does she have for you? Find out in this exclusive interview.
Hi Sha! Tell us a little bit about your background.
I used to be an employee for 9 years, working for a bank. One year after I started working (in 2005) I got buried in credit card debts. That was the first time I thought about investing in my financial education. I was sick and tired of my job (I was doing a call center job). I wanted to resign but I couldn’t. Since the credit card was issued by the company, I had to pay off the debts before I could leave. I was buried in debt with no savings while doing work I didn’t love, even though I loved everything else about the company.
I was so desperate to get out of that situation, so I started to read books, attend seminars and seek mentors.
Finally after 3 years I was able to zero out my debts. I also started to save and invest. I realized that a lot of young people need to know this information. In one of the seminars I attended, the idea of writing a book came to mind. At first, I was hesitant. But I heeded the call anyway. In the process of writing my first book, I fell in love with writing.
Going back to your financial problems — when did you realize that your credit card debt was serious?
I realized it too late. I’d already maxed out the credit card limit of my two cards before I noticed ‘Wait a minute, I’m paying so much in finance charges.’ I would always work overtime, even Christmases and holidays, and my overtime pay would go straight to paying off my credit card debts. I owed P80,000 in credit card debt, and I was only making around P15,000 a month.
My big mistake was that I would only pay the minimum amount every month. It was only when I read financial management books that I realized I was draining money from myself at a really, really fast rate, over 42% a year. It was a foolish move for me to keep on swiping my credit cards. Because it was so cool, right? You just swipe your card and sign and you don’t worry until the bill comes.
So when you noticed the problem, how did you make the first steps towards removing your debt?
Well, it was hard because I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know anyone who’d been buried in credit card debts before. What I did was, I bought a small notebook and I started to track my expenses, where I was spending the most, and where I could save. I started to do what I called ‘statement of assets and liabilities’ which I did for quite some time.
When I started way back in 2005, my assets were 0 and my liabilities were mostly credit card debts and personal loans. In tracking my expenses I decided where to cut down so I could put that towards paying off my debts. And I literally cut up my credit cards to prevent my impulse on swiping the card.
When did you start making progress on eliminating debt?
In the first few months that I started tracking my expenses and liabilities, I noticed that the negative amount was slowly decreasing. I forgot the exact amount but at the start my net worth before was around -P150,000. One month later that became -P140,000, then -P130,000, and then eventually it became zero, and then it became positive. I don’t remember the exact amount, but I probably ended up paying as much as P160,000 on my original P80,000 credit card debt.
Which books did you find the most helpful for your situation?
I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. I also read Francisco Colayco’s books like Wealth Within Your Reach: Pera Mo, Palaguin Mo! Later on, I read all of Bo Sanchez’s books not just once but maybe twice or thrice. I especially love 8 Secrets of the Truly Rich and his books on the stock market (My Maid Invests in the Stock Market … and Why You Should, Too! and The Turtle Always Wins: How to Make Millions in the Stock Market).
How did it feel when you finally zeroed out your debt after three years?
I felt so free! And I wanted to share that information with a lot of people because a lot of yuppies were in the same boat that I used to be.
How did you go from eliminating your debt to writing books on personal finance?
I was so passionate to talk about money among my friends during our casual conversations. However, I noticed that my friends would shy away from the conversation. I realised that maybe because money is such a sensitive issue.
I had this message, nanggigigil akong mag-share but I had no listeners! So I started to write down everything I wanted to share, at first, without any plans what to do with what I was writing.
Later on, I attended a seminar, and the speaker said a lot of things but one thing remained: write a book, write a book, write a book!
I was hesitant at first because I wasn’t really a writer, and I didn’t know anyone in the publishing industry — I was a nobody and I had no money to publish a book. But I felt God was telling me ‘Sha, you need to write this book!’. So I studied how to write a book.
Sometimes, you just need to do the first step, and the rest follow. It took me three years to write and publish my first book. And then I met a young author who told me the steps I needed to take, and it just unfolded. And I just kept on asking people. I also studied how Bo Sanchez would write his books — I have all his books — and took lessons from there.
To date, I’ve written and published 8 books and I intend to keep writing books. I am also taking it a step further. I am now mentoring people how to write their own books through my 90-Day Book Writing Challenge. I shared the details at www.authorsha.com/write.
How did you get started giving seminars on personal finance?
The first major seminar I attended was the Money Summit organised by The Learning Curve. I attended in 2010. In 2011, they invited me to speak right after I published my first book Think Rich, Yuppies! I shared the stage with the big names in personal finance and my credibility was elevated, giving me a platform for my blog and my books. I’ve also been a speaker at Bo Sanchez’s Wealth Summit. I’ve been giving talks since 2011, but only started charging for them in 2014.
After these talks, people would message me on Facebook and send me emails about how they can zero out their debts, how they can save, how they can invest, and other financial topics.
What financial issue comes up the most among the people who message you?
Mostly zeroing out debts. Most of these people are on the verge of desperation because credit card debts are the cause of their stress.
When you’re dealing with people who are highly stressed because of financial burdens, you don’t give financial advice right away. What you do is to listen to them, let them vent their emotions, and then you encourage them first. You inspire them, tell them ‘yes, you can do it!’ … and only after that do you give the steps they need to take. If you give them the steps right away, it won’t register. What they need first is someone to tell them that they can do it, that they can get out of their terrible situation.
You need to be a human first before you can be a financial adviser.
What’s the most common piece of advice you give to people?
I would really advise them to invest in their financial education. I believe that is the #1 solution to all our money problems.
Read books about money, especially by Pinoy or local authors, because the things that they would share are common in the Philippine setting, so they’ll be more able to address your situation.
The author should also walk the talk. There are a lot of financial advisors who may not be practicing what they’re preaching. So before you read an author, you have to see whether he’s living by his own advice.
Can you share any success stories about people you’ve helped?
There’s one particular attendee from my 2014 seminar. She approached me and told me she’s been trying to zero out huge credit card debts for longer than she can even remember. And every time she would think about her debts, it would overwhelm her. So she would just discard the thought of zeroing out her debts and get on with her life. She said that she started reading my book Money & Me, and then three months after the seminar, she emailed me, saying that in the next six months she would zero out all her debts.
She followed the step by step instructions in the book and by June of last year, she was able to pay off all her debts!
What is your favorite money-saving strategy?
I like what Bo Sanchez teaches — 10% to God, 20% you save or invest, and 70% for everything else. I think that’s the simplest strategy I can share to your readers.
What financial instruments do you use now?
After I got out of my credit card debt, I started to invest in the stock market because it is the safest if you know where you’re putting money, and you know the companies where you invest. I think it’s the safest and simplest investment instrument.
I also invest in mutual funds.
What is the most important financial advice you would like to share?
Define your long-term financial goal. You have to be very clear about what you want. But a lot of young people’s goals are pretty short term, like “I want to travel” or “I want to buy this”. Instead of this, define your long-term goals. What do you really want? Do you want to be debt-free, or retire early, or something else?
When you’re able to define your long-term financial goal, you know the ‘what’ — the ‘how’ will follow. And this will inspire you to seek out knowledge, this will inspire you to save, and get your financial house in order. Once you have that goal in mind, the rest will fall into place.