How to Achieve Financial Freedom: Jen Sincero & Vivian Tu | Spotlight Convo

Vivian TuJen SinceroWhat does it take to build real, generational and life-changing wealth, and achieve big, meaningful things. On a level that most people feel they either don’t have the access or the information or the support to achieve? Turns out, these things are way more accessible to way more people that most of us realize. And, to both prove what’s possible and show us the way, we’ve got a fun blended episode, featuring wisdom from Jen Sincero, #1 New York Times bestselling author of You Are a Badass and You Are a Badass at Making Money, and Vivian Tu, finance whiz behind the viral Your Rich BFF empire and now author of the new book, Rich AF: The Winning Money Mindset That Will Change Your Life.

Both Jen and Vivian have empowered millions of people to gain financial freedom and live purposeful lives. And, what I love is that they come from very different places, backgrounds and stages of life. Yet their accomplishments and insights on not just how to build wealth, but also live well along the way are so valuable. Their incredible journeys show that with the right mindset shift and money moves, anyone can transform self-doubt into personal power and build real wealth. Not just to be rich, but to have more options, control and agency in your life, even if that means then giving much of it away.

In our conversation, Jen and Vivian get honest about conquering financial struggles, share their secrets to financial success, and provide practical tips to help you play the long, real-world, non-extreme or delusional money game, then tap what you’ve built to design your dream life. Whether you seek financial confidence or personal growth, this episode will give you the motivation and know-how to become, in Jen’s words, a money “badass.” 

Episode Transcript

You can find Vivian at: Website | Instagram | Listen to Our Full-Length Convo with Vivian

You can find Jen Sincero at: Website | Instagram | Listen to Our Full-Length Convo with Jen

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photo credit: Heidi Gutman


Episode Transcript:

Jen Sincero: [00:00:00] I want the good people of earth to make a lot of money. We need the altruistic, big-hearted people of Earth to make a lot of money, because that’s power. And that’s how your voice can get heard. And that’s how the things that light up your heart happen on this earth really is by having money. It’s not everything, but it sure as hell helps.


Jonathan Fields: [00:00:18] So what does it take to build real generational and life-changing wealth and achieve big, meaningful things on a level that most people feel they either don’t have the access or the information or the support to even think about achieving, let alone actually making happen. Turns out, these things are way more accessible to way more people than most of us realize, and to both prove what’s possible and show us the way. We’ve got a fun blended episode featuring the wisdom of Jen Sincero number one, New York Times best-selling author of You Are a Badass and You Are a Badass at Money and Vivian Tu, the finance whiz behind the viral your Rich BFF empire. So both Jen and Vivian have empowered literally millions of people to gain financial freedom and purposeful lives. And what I love is that they come from very different places, backgrounds, and stages of life, yet their accomplishments and insights on not just how to build wealth, but also how to live well along the way are so valuable. Their incredible journey show that with the right mindset shift and money moves, anyone can transform self-doubt into personal power and build real wealth not just to be rich, but to have more options, control, and agency in your life, even if that means giving much of it away. In our conversation, Jen and Vivian get honest about conquering financial struggles, sharing their secrets to financial success, and providing practical tips to help you play along real-world non-extreme or delusional money game. And then tap what you’ve built to design the life you want.


Jonathan Fields: [00:01:47] Whether you seek financial confidence or personal growth, this episode will give you the motivation and know how to become, in Jen’s words, a money badass. So excited to share this conversation with you! I’m Jonathan Fields and this is Good Life Project.. So our first guest today is Vivian Tu, founder of the viral finance platform, Your Rich BFF, and the author of the book Rich AF The Winning Money Mindset That Will Change Your Life. So Vivian is on a bit of a mission to make finance accessible and fun for everyone. She grew up in what she describes as a modest family of immigrants who worked to earn every dollar they had, following their example. She worked super hard through school and budgeted every dollar and then after graduating, ended up heading over to Wall Street to be a trader. But everywhere she went, friends were asking her about money, and she realized she had a lot to say based on her deeply held values and hard-won Wall Street wisdom. So she took to social media and began sharing her take, rapidly becoming a leading voice in personal finance and amassing over 6 million followers. In our conversation, Vivian shares the money lessons she learned working in finance, bust myths about who can get rich, and provides practical tips to start growing your money. Today, she’ll teach you how to think differently, to develop smart financial habits and retire and live in style. Here’s Vivian as a kid. What were the conversations around money?


Vivian Tu: [00:03:13] Oh my gosh, my parents are very frugal. Let me put that out there. They have been frugal for as long as I can remember. They’re still frugal today, and their financial situation looks very different now than it did when I was younger. Growing up on evenings, my mom would take safety scissors and I would get the pair of safety scissors, and she would get the regular pair of scissors, and we would sit while we were watching TV or like hanging out for the evening after dinner, and we would clip coupons. And she was like, Vivian, you see, like anything with this, like dotted black line with the scissors around it, like you’re cutting that. And then she would review the coupons I had cut and put them in her little coupon holder. And there was a huge emphasis placed on saving, budgeting. Um, there’s a Chinese phrase in Shanghainese. That’s where my family’s from, Shanghai. It’s essentially translates to money has to be used on the knife’s edge. And it really meant if you can avoid spending your money, do so. So money was really only used for necessary purchases. I think it developed a pretty like big scarcity mindset in my head that I never knew where the next dollar was coming from. I had to squirrel away all of my savings for later in case of a rainy day, so I’ve always been really good at that. But there were certainly no conversations around investing or growing my money, or demanding my worth and asking for more. Like my parents were there to survive. They were not there to make waves or ask for more. They were happy to just get what they could get.


Jonathan Fields: [00:04:45] So when you come out of college then and you end up in JP Morgan Chase as an equity trader, what’s going through your mind when you say like, this is the path I want to step into?


Vivian Tu: [00:04:55] Like, mama, I made it like, right? Not just that, like I had made it, but like, this is the American dream, right? Like daughter of two immigrant parents. I went to public school. I did not have a college counselor helping me write those essays. I go to the University of Chicago. I get this fancy degree. I get the fancy job. Like I made it. I felt like I had won, like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Golden Ticket style had found my one way into being a rich person. I really, genuinely that’s what I thought.


Jonathan Fields: [00:05:28] So two and a half years into that fantasy of being a rich person.


Vivian Tu: [00:05:33] Fantasy is a great way to put it, right, right.


Jonathan Fields: [00:05:36] Everything kind of implodes because like, the money is there.


Vivian Tu: [00:05:39] Oh, frankly, it wasn’t.


Jonathan Fields: [00:05:40] Right because that early in that career it probably like you’re not quite like at that place yet, but um, two and a half years in, like, you have this dream job, you have the thing where you’re like, like you just described. Mom, I made it, right? Yeah, but something is going so wrong. Yeah, that you decide you have to exit this so you end up, as you described at BuzzFeed. Um, from what I understand, um, digital sales. And while you’re there, you start to realize, wait a minute. All my colleagues are, like, asking me all these money-based questions.


Vivian Tu: [00:06:08] Yeah. You know, I was one desperate for friendship because I didn’t know anybody. So I would sit with a random group of people every single day at lunch, ingratiate myself, be like, what are your names? What do you do? Like try to learn as much about people as I could, and they would ask like, oh, like, what company did you come from? And their assumption was that the answer would be something like, oh, like a, I came from vice or now this or other, you know, a competing media company. And when I would say, oh, I came from Wall Street like I was a trader, they’d be like, what? Like that doesn’t make any sense. And I would explain my career trajectory. And then the immediate follow-up question would be, can you help me rebalance my 401 K? Or should we be buying our company stock options? Or which health insurance plan did you pick? Can I just see what selection you made for open enrollment? I’m just going to copy yours. And it was so funny to me because this would be the same three questions that I would get from people who were young. Younger than me, fresh out of college, but also people who were well into their 30s and 40s and very senior making way more money than I was. And I’m like, wait, you probably make like two, three, four times as much money as I do. How do you not know this? And it made me realize that nobody really gets the financial education that they deserve and or need.


Vivian Tu: [00:07:28] And the only reason that I had gotten it wasn’t even because I’d worked on Wall Street. It was because my very first manager, my very first mentor, the Asian woman I mentioned, her name is Jean. She took me aside and she took me under her wing and basically asked me all of these questions like, are you contributing to your 401 K? Are you using the company benefits to pay for your health care? Are you doing this? Are you doing that? And obviously I wasn’t, but she walked me through it and I almost joke that instead of a rich dad, poor dad situation, I was like, I had a rich mom, poor mom situation. And that, like, my parents were able to really teach me about that saving and budgeting piece. But Jeannie was the first person to show me how to grow my money, how to hit conventional wealth in a way that, you know, we envision showed me how to invest, showed me how to do all those things. And now I was able to then pass that on to my co-workers. And what I ended up doing is putting it on the internet, because I was getting the same question so many times. I didn’t want to repeat myself, but little did I know, more than just my coworkers needed that information.


Jonathan Fields: [00:08:34] Yeah. I mean, so you start posting. It sounds like pretty quickly a lot of people start paying attention because we have this conversation. You’ve built a global community where you’re in there serving every single day and answering a lot of questions. One of the things you also talk about is really just riffing on what you were talking about is this notion of knowing your worth, you know, understanding that there’s a value that I bring to the table. And it’s interesting, right? Because in the last 3 to 4 years, there’s been this huge shift in power dynamics in the workforce and during the pandemic, and sort of like the emergence the last 2022 ish, a lot of power still remained in the workforce. And because there was a shortage and now I feel like the pendulum has started to swing back, you know, and now people are in this really funky moment where they’re like, ooh, you know, like there’s there was a year and a half to two years where people were tripping over themselves to find people like me. And I could basically say, this is what I want. And people would say, yes, please start tomorrow. And now a lot of people are feeling the pendulum is swinging back where the power is shifting again. So we’re in this really funky moment. So when you talk about, you know, the importance of knowing your worth and then asking for it and negotiating it, how do you think about this moment?


Vivian Tu: [00:09:52] I think these macro trends are always going to be occurring. Either it’s going to be mid great resignation, where everyone can basically say, I want $1 trillion and their boss will say, fine. Or to your point, as the pendulum swings the other way right now, where it feels like almost like, you know, the great layoffs, people feel very, very worried about job security at the end of the day, what I like to remind everyone is that the top performer never gets fired. Never. If you are performing at that high level, if you are out selling, outperforming the people you sit around, the people who are in your team, you will always be safe. And it’s really important to acknowledge that even during times of instability at a broader level, if you are a strong performer, you can still ask for more money because you still have value and you still have worth, and you are providing something that that company needs. And I think it’s okay to ask, because even if you get told no, you’re no worse off than you were 20s beforehand. And so I think regardless of the year, regardless of the environment, you can still ask and I recommend people ask for 10 to 15% raises every single year, as long as they are performing to that level.


Vivian Tu: [00:11:12] Am I saying you’re going to get that every single year? Not necessarily. But if you don’t get a raise, the same percent that inflation is currently at, you know, at one point it was at like eight 9%. I think right now it’s come in a little bit closer to like 5%. If you’re not getting a raise equivalent to that of inflation, you’re actually going to make less next year than you did this year. And so not only is it critically important to make sure your pay keeps up with inflation, but also seeing how much your corporation values you through pay is a very healthy marker to understand where you sit. And if you have been told year after year, your performance is not where it needs to be to get that raise that tells you something. Or if they consistently say, hey, you’re our top performer, but we don’t have budget, that also tells you something. Maybe it’s time to go somewhere where they will have budget to pay a top performer like you.


Jonathan Fields: [00:12:01] What would be some basic language that somebody might be able to actually step into to, sort of like. Open this conversation.


Vivian Tu: [00:12:08] Yeah. First and foremost, I highly recommend everybody create a brag Book promo pitch res receipts folder in their email. Essentially, any time you get an email that pats you on the back saying, hey, we could not have gotten this project done without Jonathan. Like, Vivian is the best designer on this entire team. Like, whatever. Forward those emails. That way you essentially have a Rolodex of all of the times you knocked it out of the park, and it’s very easy to quantify your successes. I would then set time with your manager 6 to 8 months before your end-of-year review or mid-year review. That’s when you start asking for money, because what everyone likes to do is they wait until November or December and they are too afraid to ask throughout the year. So they, like, bottle it up, bottle it up, and then it starts to bubble to the surface, bubble to the surface, bubble to the surface. And you get to December and you’re like, if I don’t get a raise next year, I’m gonna quit. And your boss is like, where is this coming from? Like, we’ve never talked about this. It feels so out of left field. Whereas if you start six months in advance, eight months in advance, and don’t be annoying, but be persistent, remind them every two months that, hey, these are the goals that I’m setting. Here’s how I’m tracking to reach them. Additionally, I would like or, you know, a raise of XYZ would be commensurate to the type of work and the level that I’m operating at.


Vivian Tu: [00:13:34] Remind them that pay is important to you because they need to know. They need to know that you are always going to be keeping your eye on that dollar sign. And that way when October comes and HR pulls your manager into a back room and is like, this is your budget, you have to now divvy this budget across your entire team. You understand that your boss is going to have you top of mind because you’ve been asking for the past, you know, 6 to 8 months. You’ve probably touched base with them 2 or 3 times. They know you care about money, you’re going to be top of their mind, whereas everyone else is going to be an afterthought because they haven’t asked. Essentially, you have to tell people you’re going to do good work, do the good work, and then take a megaphone and remind everyone of the amazing work you did, so that you can be first in line to get that money. Because you don’t get paid by putting your head down and being the smartest person in the room. There has been statistic research that the person with the highest IQ is not the one paid the most, it is the person who makes the hardest effort to be known socially, and people think they do more than they actually do.


Jonathan Fields: [00:14:34] That last part, um, being known socially is really interesting, especially right now when the shape of work is changing in dramatic ways, where some people in the office, some people are at home, some people are some blend. And that’s really changing very quickly, too. And one of the big concerns has been, well, if I’m not sort of like physically present in front of the people with whom I have to not necessarily curry favor, but just become known on a regular basis for who I am and what I contribute, that it’s going to make it that much harder. And what you’re describing is sort of like, well, even if you’re working entirely remotely, if you’re building your brag file, if you are having the meetings or the conversations where you’re in control of the mechanisms to regularly show people how you show up and what you contribute, then it kind of helps offset the fact that you might not be physically present in the office. Does that make sense?


Vivian Tu: [00:15:29] Yeah. Um, you know, there’s in my mind a concept of like, no face time, no pay. And I think that’s true. It’s really easy to have those little fun watercooler moments when you’re in person. Right? It’s as simple as asking somebody on your team to go grab a coffee in the afternoon. If you are working fully remote or even hybrid, you don’t get as many swings at bat, is what I call it, to have those face time moments. So if you know that for a fact, you need to be going out of your way to strategically schedule time not just with your boss, but with people who could potentially do you favors. So when I got to BuzzFeed, I did not know anything about media, couldn’t tell you what an impression was, had no idea how to sell something. I just didn’t know anything. I noticed that there was a social hierarchy, and if you were a part of this upper inner circle of salespeople who closed, who were just known for closing monster deals, always, you know, being at the top of their game, people would bend over backwards for them. And what I did was every day I would spend 15 minutes getting to know someone new on a team that I had to work with tangentially. Not my team, someone tangentially. So I would go out of my way to meet the people in accounting, who were the ones who were making sure that our clients paid us.


Vivian Tu: [00:16:54] I would meet the people in legal who had to make sure that the contracts were signed. I would meet the people in the brand planning team that would help make really big decks and make them fancy. I would meet the people on the distribution team. Or the social team or whatever. And that way when I needed a favor, I had put in all this face time, which you can still do remotely, just ask to set up a 15-minute coffee chat to get to know someone. It’s a little harder, but it’s not, you know, impossible. But because these people knew me, because they knew that I like to go to Pilates on Friday afternoon, they knew that I cared about the new Goldendoodle dog. They got that I knew what their kid’s name was when I needed a favor. When I needed something done in four minutes instead of four hours, I had a favor to call in, and that made me more effective at my job and putting in all that face time got me paid more. So I do think it’s important to build those relationships. I think with the rise of hybrid and remote work, we’ve started to take that for granted, that we always like to do stuff for people we like, and you’re more likely to do something for a friend than you are a stranger. Yeah, I.


Jonathan Fields: [00:18:03] Mean, that makes so much sense. When you think about this sort of what to do with your money side of things, is there like one big myth or misnomer that really jumps out at you, that bothers you, that like you’d want to speak to? Or is it really just sort of like the accumulation of a lot of just little bits of misinformation that stop us from doing what we need to do?


Vivian Tu: [00:18:24] I would say it’s more like death by a thousand paper cuts. It’s all these little bits of information that people are just missing along the way. I think finance is very, very challenging because it’s almost like speaking a new language. The jargon is so heavy. It’s not abundantly clear what a 401 K is based on the name. If you don’t already know what a 401 K is, it’s not abundantly clear what the Roth in Roth IRA stands for, if you don’t already know. And once you do understand the jargon, it’s just really about setting healthy habits in place. But I do think one of the biggest myths is that only rich people can invest. Because how do you think those rich people got rich in the first place? They were investing. It’s not something that you wait to do later, it’s how you get there. I joke that investing is the only way a single person can be a two-household income, because not only are you working hard for your money, your money is working hard for you. It’s like having a great spouse who also brings in money and helps support the family of one, without having to actually go out and date and find that person, what have you. But it just allows you to make money while you sleep. Because we as humans can feasibly only work so many hours a day. We are made of flesh and bones. Our brains do give out after a certain point. You are not as good of a money-making tool as your money. Your money is a better use, so the faster you can get to your money, making you more money versus your body or your brain making you more money, the better.


Jonathan Fields: [00:20:04] If you are going to say, if somebody comes to you and says, hey, listen, finally, I had a point in my life where I’ve got a little bit of money where I can start doing something with and I know you’re probably going to take an issue with even somebody saying, I’m finally at a point because your whole thing is like, it doesn’t matter even if it’s a dollar or $10. Just start now. Yeah, exactly. Like somebody just says, okay, I just want to know, like, what are the three things? If I could only think about like, my life is so crazy, so busy. Like, I just want to know what are the three things that might be the biggest levers in what I might think about doing with money, even if it’s small bits of money as it comes in, you know, like every other week in a paycheck. What would you say to them?


Vivian Tu: [00:20:42] Yeah, I would say first and foremost, start an emergency fund. It’s really shitty that the number one reason for bankruptcy in this country is medical debt. That seems like that shouldn’t be the case. You don’t choose to get a kidney stone or cancer or get sick, but it’s important to have an emergency fund in case the wheel falls off your car or your roof caves in. You don’t want to go into mountains of debt just because you couldn’t afford that. So I would say for single people, 3 to 6 months of living expenses is good. If you are a head of household, if you have a mortgage, just some more fixed costs. I would say 6 to 12 months is probably a better bet. So first have that emergency fund. Two not all debt is created equal. I would rank your debt from highest to lowest interest rate, and focus on paying off any debt with an interest rate that’s higher than 7%. First, because that is high-interest rate debt. Typically, anything above that is usually credit card debt, and that debt compounds faster than you will likely be able to earn in capital gains if you were to invest. So really, really, you want to pay off any high interest rate debt as soon as humanly possible. It just snowballs so fast that it’s going to be hard to get under control unless you’re making a concerted effort to pay it down. And then last but definitely not least, if you have your emergency fund, if you have paid off that high-interest rate debt, invest early and often. So this is as simple as putting away a dollar to $5, $10 every month and set it up on an automatic direct deposit from your paycheck to your brokerage.


Vivian Tu: [00:22:21] And there are so many brokerages that allow you to essentially automatically allocate your dollars, and you’re going to want to consider index funds, you’re going to consider index funds that track the S&P 500. You might consider something that tracks the total stock market, something that tracks global indices or sectors that you’re passionate about, whether that be tech or the pharma field or maybe not pharma, because I got burned by that. But, um, you know, just whatever sectors you’re really passionate about, as well as if you’re really saving and investing for a specific goal, a target date retirement fund might make sense, right? You want to save and invest for retirement. All you have to do is essentially calculate the year where you will turn 6065. Whatever and back into which target date fund makes the most sense for you. And it’s essentially a catered way for you to always be investing in something that makes sense for your age. And that’s again catered to the average person. If you are incredibly high net worth, maybe that doesn’t make sense for you, but it’s a great jump-off point and it’s so easy to do. And worst case, if you really feel like investing is still too complicated, just get a robo advisor to do it for you. You take a quiz about your money goals, what you know, how much money you make, what your goals are when you want to retire, how much money you’re spending, what tax bracket you’re in, whatever. And they will pick investments for you. You just need to start because time in the market beats timing the market or picking the perfect investment every single time.


Jonathan Fields: [00:23:49] Yeah, that makes so much sense. So zooming the lens out a little bit, we’ve been talking a lot about money, about wealth, about worth. In your mind, what is the real role of money or wealth in a life well lived?


Vivian Tu: [00:24:03] When I first started thinking about money and wanting to be rich, it was for very shallow reasons. I wanted to be able to buy that new designer purse, drive my lime green Lamborghini. I wanted to have the mansion on the hill. But as I’ve started getting to a position where I’m comfortable saying I’m rich, I live an incredibly good life, I am wealthy, I am doing great. Money has become more of the ability to have optionality in my life. Money is power. Money is agency. Money is being able to take an Uber at 11 p.m. at night without double checking how much money is in my bank account, instead of taking the subway, because I’m not sure if I can afford it. Money is being able to leave a bad boss. Money is being able to leave a bad relationship. Money is being able to leave a bad apartment. It gives you the power and agency to live the life you want to live without fear, because it gives you choices. And so I think it’s so important to encourage people to want money, to want wealth and richness in their life, because it gets them out of bad situations and lets them choose exactly how they’re going to live and what a happily ever after means to them.


Jonathan Fields: [00:25:19] Love that.


Vivian Tu: [00:25:20] Thank you. Of course.


Jonathan Fields: [00:25:22] So I love how Vivian is making a finance accessible and empowering to people to help them build wealth. Her advice just lays a foundation for financial freedom and inspires others to get rich through smart money habits and right mindset. Our next guest today is Jen Sincero, number one New York Times best-selling author of You Are a Badass and You Are a Badass at Making Money, as well as a number of other books. Jen’s incredible story shows how really just ordinary people can create extraordinary lives. After years struggling first as a musician, in a band, and then as a freelance writer, Jen started studying not just the financial side of changing her fate, but also went deep into the psychological and mindset side and grit, and immersed into what she had learned. She began to write and speak about it, eventually building her career as a dynamic spokesperson, presenter and workshop leader for a different way to reclaim control of your life, accomplish big things, and yes, build genuine wealth along the way. Her books, speaking engagements and seminars have inspired millions to stop doubting themselves and start living better lives. In our conversation, Jen gets vulnerable about her own journey from depression to financial struggle to becoming a successful author and thought leader. And with his signature humor and just no nonsense advice, she shares how shifting your mindset can help you make more, follow your purpose and become, in her words, a badass in life and business. Here’s Jen.


Jen Sincero: [00:26:46] So I moved to LA and it was a tough transition. Like the first six years, I was more depressed than I’ve ever been. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, and I went to a party one day and somebody asked me what I did, and I just started telling people I was a writer, and I don’t really know, I guess because I was a copywriter and I always knew how to write, but I just started telling people that I was a writer. And I think this is such an interesting thing, like when you get very depressed or when you, you know, I really I was kind of catatonic, just sort of stumbling around in those days. But the beautiful thing about that is it was kind of like I was meditating all the time because I was so out of it and so just whatever. So I shut my brain off and my other self was like, you are a writer, you need to announce it. So I started telling people I was a writer. I met somebody at a party who knew a publisher, who was basically a woman who had an assistant and a desk and $5, like she was nothing. And she’s like, listen, I got no money. Here’s the worst contract in the world. You have nothing to show me. You could write a book. Let’s let’s do it. Let’s give it a shot. I was like, great. So I pitched her the idea of writing a book about a chick in a rock band, because that’s all I knew about at that time.


Jen Sincero: [00:27:51] And that’s my first book, Don’t Sleep With Your Drummer. So it was, you know, some semi-autobiographical. So while I was writing that book, the little company, she had got bought by a monster book packager. Uh, and then that monster book packager sold it to Simon and Schuster. So my first book came out on Pocket Books. Yeah. So it became like this. It was insane. So I was just like, whoa, you know, there I am, like in my bathrobe, in my kitchen, crying and writing and trying to figure out what the hell I’m doing. And all this was happening. So it came out there, and then it got after the book came out. Right after it came out, my neighbor was giving me a haircut in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, and he was an interior designer, and he got a phone call from one of his clients. And he’s like, here, talk to this guy. I got to go get another pair of scissors. And I talked to the guy. He ended up being a producer and he’s like, what are you doing? I told him about my book. He’s like, I’d love to read it. And the next day I was at the head of development at HBO. They wanted to turn it into a TV show. So it’s just been this crazy roller coaster.


Jonathan Fields: [00:28:48] Yeah, it’s like one thing after another.


Jen Sincero: [00:28:49] After another and.


Jonathan Fields: [00:28:50] And not planned. Not planned. That’s what’s so interesting to me about it.


Jen Sincero: [00:28:54] Not planned, but going, like letting it lead you. And that’s what I think, that I’ve learned so much throughout my life and that I write about, and you are a badass making money and all my other books is like, you don’t have to have everything figured out. You just have to know sort of what feels right. Because if you wait to know everything, you don’t know it yet. You haven’t done it yet. Yeah.


Jonathan Fields: [00:29:11] I mean, it’s so interesting, right? Because we hear in a lot of the sort of like the self-help world, one of the big things that you see on posters and stuff like this is, you know, if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re like, that’s exactly where you’ll end up or like, you like you have to have a really well-defined endpoint for you to be able to, to take anything. Because then, you know, like the rest of your time is, you know, you spend all your time plotting your way to that endpoint. Right? I’ve never found that to be reality, because I do think the idea of. Just trying a whole bunch of things. Just kind of shunned.


Jen Sincero: [00:29:42] Yeah, I think so too. And but so again, it’s like all for experiencing all of life and for doing what you love and feeling things out. And if you want something. So let’s say you want a career or you want a relationship or you want money. If we’re going to use my new book as an example, like you got to focus on making money, you can’t just do a bunch of crap and kind of hope it’s going to work out. If you if you want a certain career, you do have to focus to a certain extent and lean back and surrender and see what happens. But. I know for myself. I spent well into my 40s not focusing and especially, gosh, with the money thing. Like you’re not supposed to focus on money. Talk about something that is shunned. Holy moly. You tell people you’re focusing on making money, they will not speak to you anymore. A lot of.


Jonathan Fields: [00:30:34] Stuff. Well, especially in the like, the two places where you have deep like passions and interests, right? Writing and music. I’m sure there are other places too. I don’t want to sort of like pigeonhole you. Yeah, but those are two worlds where you’re like, oh my God. Oh, I just want to like, I want to do I really want to make a lot of money. And people are like, that’s not what this is about. Not allowed.


Jen Sincero: [00:30:51] You’re a sellout.


Jonathan Fields: [00:30:52] Yeah. Did you butt up against that in either of those worlds?


Jen Sincero: [00:30:54] You know, honestly, only in my own head. I never let myself think about money because I, you know, that was for people who had no morals and that, you know, I was about the art and I was punk rock. And meanwhile, I’m living in a garage, you know, that was not fun. And I had a lot of my own ego to get out of the way. And yeah, a lot of my opinions and judgments. But I think everybody’s got them to a certain degree. And it floors me that something like money that we use every single, we don’t even if we don’t get out of bed in the morning, we’re still spending money. It is a part of our everyday life, whether you like it or not. If you are a human being in modern society on planet Earth, you need money. And yet we have criminalized it to a degree that has completely put people in struggle. It’s amazing to me. You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about that. Like, where did it all start? You know, our parents taught us that you have to work hard to make money, and that money is the root of all evil. And money doesn’t grow on trees, you know, but they learned it from their parents. They learned it from their parents. So where I really think it started wherever all of our fears start by some very misguided people who wanted control over the mass population, any kind of fear. And I have researched this. Not at all. So you can totally call me on this, but I’ve been sort of thinking from the.


Jonathan Fields: [00:32:12] Encyclopedia of Jen. 


Jen Sincero: [00:32:14] Yeah. Haha. Don’t quote me. That’s the only thing I can think of because money’s wonderful. It does such wonderful things you can do for yourself and for others and for the planet. I mean, why does it get such a bad rap? I certainly there are people who do horrible things in the quest for money, but we never seem to focus on people who do wonderful things for the quest of money and who spend it in wonderful ways and all the joy it brings. We really focus on the bad parts of it, and lo and behold, so many people are in financial struggle.


Jonathan Fields: [00:32:45] Yeah, I so agree with that. And I sometimes wonder, like, I wonder if the sort of the negative association with money is actually a more recent phenomenon than we think, even. Because if you go back to, you know, like my grandparents and, you know, depression era money mattered, like in fact, the most single, most important thing wasn’t about following your passions. It wasn’t about doing meaningful work. It was like, you know what? Times are tough. You know, your sole job as a parent is to put food on the table and a roof over the head, like, this is the only thing you work for. Like that was understood, like that was what it was about. And if you could make more, you would do what you needed to do to make more. Right? And like something happened between then and now where stuff has shifted.


Jen Sincero: [00:33:32] That’s a great point. See you just proved my non-thought-out theory.


Jonathan Fields: [00:33:35] Ha.


Jen Sincero: [00:33:35] That was easy. But you know what also came with that was the belief that you don’t get to have fun making money. That it’s about hard work and that’s all it matters. So then that’s fun free too. Yeah. You know, that keeps people from making money. Like, well, I want to enjoy my life. I don’t want it to suck. I’m not going to worry about money. Right?


Jonathan Fields: [00:33:52] It’s like it’s an either or. It’s not. It’s not an end. Yep. Yeah. And I think that’s dogged us for a long time. Also, this is so much of what you’re about. Yeah I know this is something that you talk about and write about a lot. Right. Is is the idea of your beliefs and sort of how they play into your willingness and ability to go after certain things in your life. And, and maybe sometimes there is one big, deeply emotional, jarring moment that flips that belief switch. But maybe another time. It’s like it’s slowly shifting, slowly shifting, and then there’s this tiny little thing. That’s the last thing that makes you say, I need to let go.


Jen Sincero: [00:34:26] Mhm. I always compare it to because I remember one time breaking up with a particular boyfriend of mine and you know, I was in it and that was my reality. And we had this thing. And then one day I was at the laundromat, I was like, I can break up with him. I was so miserable in this relationship. I mean, and it was so stupid. Like, my friends had been telling me to do that for months, but for some reason it I got it. And I think it’s that way with every – i really do think it is that way for most things in life. And I think it’s like what you were talking about before, how people feel like they’re supposed to know exactly what they want to do. I think people are looking also for this moment when everything changes and the light goes on it. For the most part, most people, it just you just sort of wake up. You got to keep showing up for work. Like for me, I was reading every self-help book under the sun. I knew I wanted to change. I didn’t know exactly what it was going to look like or, you know, mine was around money, but right.


Jonathan Fields: [00:35:23] Was this after the first book after you started getting. Oh, yeah.


Jen Sincero: [00:35:26] So this was I wrote the first book, then I wrote another book, you know, and you can be a quote unquote successful writer. And I was, you know, I was getting published by real publishers, but I was not making any money at all on those first two books. And I was still freelance writing, hustling my ass off, living in LA, just slogging through it. And, you.


Jonathan Fields: [00:35:46] Know, was there a voice at that time that kind of just says, like, this is what it looks like to be a writer?


Jen Sincero: [00:35:51] Yeah. Yes. There was that. You don’t make money as a writer. Absolutely. Yep. And then I realized, because I really believed that then I got to do something else. There was a part of me that was like, I am unavailable to be. This broke. It was boring, you know? It was boring. Being broke is so boring. So. I hate being board, and that’s when. So I moved from Silverlake to Venice Beach into a converted garage, you know, and I remember moving into this place and like, going to look at the apartment and being like, oh my God, what is my problem? My, I think at the time when I moved in, I was in my like 39 or 40 and I was like, I am mortified that this is it. This is what the best Jen Sincero could do. At 40, I’m moving into a freaking garage. But I had to live by the beach. I was like, I don’t care if I have to live underneath a car, I’ll just do that. But I was really disappointed and I kept saying no to the apartment, no to the apartment. But I ended up taking it and it was the smallest apartment I’ve ever lived in. And I lived in New York City for eight years. So that’s saying something that’s.


Jonathan Fields: [00:36:53] Saying a lot right there, actually.


Jen Sincero: [00:36:55] Yeah. I don’t even think it was 200ft². Some in the garage. I’m living at the beach and. Again, just like 40 years old, unimpressed by my financial progress, I don’t know. I mean, one thing that did change it, but this isn’t the pivotal moment. I went to India by myself around that time, and the thought of traveling all the way to the other side of the planet by myself scared the living crap out of me. I really I would wake up in the middle of the night in a puddle of sweat. What am I trying to prove? Why don’t I just cancel my ticket? I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go. But of course, inside me I’m like, totally want to go. And I made myself go, even though it literally was one of the most terrifying things I personally have ever done. And then, of course, like the second I get into the international terminal of the airport, I’m like, bring it on. And then I went and I had the greatest six weeks of my whole life. It was transformative. And I thought when I got back to my little garage that I’d be so grateful to have anywhere to live after, you know, some of the poverty that I saw in India and some of the stuff I saw there, I’d never seen stuff like that before. And I had the exact opposite reaction. I got home and it was more about overcoming a fear of mine and doing something that turned me on to that level. That was also equally as terrifying. I came back a completely different person. I was like, if I have to spend one more week in this damn garage, I’m going to start screaming and never stop. And I started looking for apartments, still had no money, like traveled out of a backpack, scraped together money out of the couch cushions to pay for the ticket.


Jen Sincero: [00:38:25] Like, don’t even know how I pulled it off. But my decision to change my life at that point was full throttle. You know, Venice Beach, California. Not a cheap place to live these days. And this was back right when it was starting to turn and everything was, I mean, crappy, crappy one-bedroom apartments for $2,000 a month anyway, so but I had decided, and I’ll never forget, I wrote a list I to one of the reasons I moved into the garage. I was like, in order to get a place in Venice, you got to know people in Venice. I was like, I’ll just get there. I live in this damn garage and I’ll meet people. And so I wrote an email to all the people that I knew in Venice Beach. I was like, this is what I want. I want at least one bedroom that doesn’t have a car parked in it. And the next day my upstairs neighbor. So I was it was this funny house. It was almost like a lollipop, like I was in the tiny garage below, and there was this big house on top of it. So my upstairs neighbor who had this deck and it was like windows and sunny and beautiful. She’s like, listen, I’m moving in a couple of months and I would love to save some money. So do you want to just switch and I’ll take the tiny place and you take this place. And it was only like $200 more expensive to live upstairs. And I was. So I got it. It was ten feet away and, uh, it was everything I wanted.


Jonathan Fields: [00:39:34] And you’re like, huh? That’s interesting. 


Jen Sincero: [00:39:36] Yep. And then from there, I was hell-bent to just keep going. Like, so maybe India was my big switch. I don’t know, it was. I think I was on my way because I don’t think I would have gone if I hadn’t already made the decision to do big, scary things, but it definitely helped.


[00:39:50] It’s like tipping point.


Jen Sincero: [00:39:51] It kinda was. Yeah. And so then from there, then everything started changing from there.


Jonathan Fields: [00:39:56] What mattered to you at that point? Like what were you chasing at that point?


Jen Sincero: [00:39:59] Freedom. I hated feeling like I couldn’t do things I wanted to do because I didn’t have the freaking money. It made me. It was freedom. And also feeling like. I knew deep down that I could do great things, that I could do greater things than what I was doing, and just wanting to be the kind of person that could do whatever the hell she wanted, you know, and to really. See how good it could get instead of being a victim and a whiner. And for me, it was. I think the main thing was about personal accomplishment potential. Yeah. And frustration with feeling like, come on. Really?


Jonathan Fields: [00:40:38] I mean, was it there? Like, was there a voice in your head that kind of was saying, Jen, you know that, like, there’s stuff inside of you that’s so much better than what it.


Jen Sincero: [00:40:47] Was, what you’re putting.


Jonathan Fields: [00:40:48] Out into the world.


Jen Sincero: [00:40:49] Absolutely, absolutely.


Jonathan Fields: [00:40:51] Yeah. I think so many of us have that.


Jen Sincero: [00:40:54] That’s why I call my book you’re a badass. Yeah. Because everybody’s a badass. They are like, really? And so because it really is who you are, your desires really are. They make up who you are. And when you have the audacity to let yourself be who you are fully, I feel like a totally, you know, I have crappy days and stuff happens. It’s not like all perfect all the time, but what a different feeling than squashing myself and deciding that I can’t have, or focusing on all the reasons why it’ll never happen or, you know, defending that the economy sucks and artists can’t make money and it’s not okay to make money because it’s like, what a snore compared to what’s out there. And I think intuitively, people know that, you know, that you’re meant to do what you’re meant to do. You know, all of nature is meant to flourish. Really.


Jonathan Fields: [00:41:42] This is something that you speak and write about also, which is sort of like the idea of like once you start to get that sense of directionality or like, that’s the thing I want to be or create or that’s the place I want to go. They get clearer about that when you can get clear about it. And don’t worry so much about the how, because it will reveal itself over time.


Jen Sincero: [00:42:02] Because you don’t know how. You’ve never done it before. So shut up and just do what you know how to do and take big, scary risks all the time. You don’t get to feel comfortable if you want to change your life. You just don’t because you’re comfortable. That’s why we call it our comfort zone. A lot of our lives, we’re kind of like letting ourselves get beat up. I was by being broke all the time and feeling squashed by myself and having my potential. Just have a big wet blanket on top of it. But I wasn’t willing to get uncomfortable and take the risks of maybe people judging me for wanting to make money or doing things. I had no idea how the hell to do because I’d look like an idiot. Or, you know, the big one for me was investing money in hiring people who could teach me stuff about money. That was really one of the biggest things I did that scared the living hell out of me was.


Jonathan Fields: [00:42:48] How much of that was about money, and how much of it about was saying, I don’t know everything, I need help.


Jen Sincero: [00:42:55] Uh, equal amounts, I’d say. Yeah, it was both. Actually, by that time, I was totally ready for somebody to tell me what the hell to do. I was like, good. You figure it out because I can’t. Please, take all my money, take everything I own. So for me, I’m going to convert a garage I’m making. I think I was making maybe 30 grand a year, and I decide I’m going to change my life. I come back from India. I’m going to every free money-making seminar I can get my hands on. I am reading every self-help book under the sun. I am learning about money. I’m obsessed. And through kind of a long story, I meet this woman who’s a life coach, and this was back in the day when there weren’t life coaches. This was sort of like the girl band in the early days. And. 


Jonathan Fields: [00:43:36] Like there were five


Jen Sincero: [00:43:36] There were five life coaches. And anyway. And she was somebody who specialized in helping women entrepreneurs make money. And she herself had had her electricity turned off and was now making, you know, multiple six figures. And I just really liked her. I thought she was really smart. And she’s like, I know I can help you. I believe in you. I see the fire and my fee is, I think it was $7,000, which for me at the time was at least a quarter of my annual income, if not more. And I was just like, oh my God. And I knew I had to work with her. So I went in. I was already in credit card debt and I took out two more credit cards. I don’t know why they gave them to me, but I took out two more credit cards and put it on more credit card debt, which is the big bad wolf in our culture. Like, you can do anything but do not go into credit card debt, and I don’t recommend it unless you’re serious. As a heart attack, which I was, and I was like, I’m freaking doing it. Paid her the money, called her five minutes later, begged her for the money back, and she was like, it’s probably the most important $7,000 you will ever spend. And it really was. I mean, I ended up tripling my income within the next three months. We started an online business for me, coaching other writers on how to write and sell their nonfiction book proposals, which to me, you know, not the sexiest gig on earth. And I was a rock and roller. I was an artist, and I was like, but I wanted money, and I was serious about.


Jen Sincero: [00:45:00] I was like, bring it on, I’ll be a fricking cheeseball online marketer. And it worked. And again, I didn’t know what I was doing. Like, I’d never coached people before. I knew nothing about online marketing. I didn’t even know if I wanted to teach people how to write books. But I did know that I was unavailable to be living the way I was living anymore, and that I really wanted to make money. And so from that, I started coaching writers. And most people aren’t not writing because they suck at writing. It’s because they don’t feel they have the right to their opinions. They don’t feel like anybody’s going to care what they have to say. They feel vulnerable and exposed. So I ended up totally life-coaching these people. I mean, we never talked about grammar and sentence structure, and that’s how I found out. And I was like, this is fun. Like, I love this stuff about self-transformation. And I don’t know, I’m on this whole quest and I don’t know where it came from. Like it. I hate thinking that people don’t love themselves and feel ashamed of who they are. I could cry right now talking about that. I don’t know where that came from. I’m not that nice a person like I don’t know. I don’t know why I made a request, but I know the second I started seeing changes in people and seeing that I could help them with that, I was all over it. And I never would have found that out if I hadn’t started that.


Jonathan Fields: [00:46:17] Yeah, just one step. So it’s interesting. There’s like this convergence of all these different things for you, this sort of like there’s India, there’s you living in a way where it just builds up over time where you’re like, yeah, this isn’t working. There’s your exposure. Like all of a sudden you’re writing, you’re getting paid to write, you’ve got books out. You’re now you’re actually being coached and learning how to actually build businesses around the the world of writing. Tell me where the idea for sort of your big breakout move, the big breakout book breakout. So you end up writing this book called You.


Jen Sincero: [00:46:50] Are a Badass.


Jonathan Fields: [00:46:51] Right? When you were writing that first, how did how did that deal come about?


Jen Sincero: [00:46:56] Well, I had an agent at that point. Um, straight Girls guide did what was it, Straight girls Guy came out on Simon and Schuster. So after Don’t Sleep With Your Drummer, I got my agent and he sold Straight Girls Guide to the idea, to that book, to Simon and Schuster. So I had, you know, I was a real writer at that point. I could say it out loud, still broke as a joke. And then because I started working on my money stuff and had been working with this life coach and working on my woo woo and changing my focus and being, you know, in gratitude and working all the mantras and stuff. I realized that all these books out there were amazing. There’s so many brilliant teachers out there, but none of them were funny, and none of them use curse words and stories. And I just felt like, God, I would love to read something that’s entertaining while it’s giving me the info I want. So I was like, well, I got to write that one for myself too. And so I wrote it for myself. But I also realized I know a lot of people in my life who made a lot of fun of me when I was reading all these self-help books and going to these cheesy seminars and stuff, and I was like, I want them to get the message, too. And maybe if I call it something like, you are a badass, they’ll pick it up because it’s edgier and it’s not quite so embarrassing to be caught reading. Right? Because it’s kind of cool. So I was trying to expose these people to that information as well.


Jonathan Fields: [00:48:16] Yeah. When you were writing it, did you have a sense that you’re like this, like this or not really, that.


Jen Sincero: [00:48:22] It was going to be as big as it is? Yeah. Hell no. Oh my God, I am still awake. I still wake up in the morning. I’m like, we’re still in the New York Times best seller list. It’s been over a year. It’s insane. It’s yeah. I’m so grateful. And I am equally amazed. I think it’s a great book.


Jonathan Fields: [00:48:37] All right. So you write this book, it explodes, it takes over the world. This launches you and your career to a whole different level. Um, you got a new book out now which takes that and kind of builds in and it focuses on money, which feels like it’s almost coming full circle to you emerging from Venice. Like, why? Why this addition to the Jen Sincero body of work?


Jen Sincero: [00:48:59] It had to be money like now, because now I have money. As a writer, I am actually making really good money as a writer, which was quote-unquote impossible. And the whole reason I got started on the self-help party train was because of money. For me, that was always my big struggle. So I felt I could write about this better than almost anybody, because I’m really good at being broke. I know I’m really good at making money. So I really felt like if, you know, my broke ass can do it, anybody can. So I feel like I had a lot of important stuff to share with people who felt the way I did with it. I mean, I really was so stuck. I mean, I remember being in a Mexican restaurant with my friend in LA sobbing, and she’s like, what is your problem? Why are you basically being such a loser? Like, get? And I was like, I know, but I don’t know, I know, I don’t know, and I just couldn’t see it. And I was in it for decades, and I know how painful that is and how much it sucks and how how it feels to know that you could be doing so much better and you’re just freaking out and your life is flying by, and you’re seeing all these other people out there who aren’t nearly as fabulous as you, raking in the dough, living lives. They love doing cool stuff, and I, I feel really strongly about it. And I also, you know, I want the good people of Earth to make a lot of money. Like, I’m, I feel like if I pull up behind one more rusted ass Subaru with a Visualize World Peace sticker and, you know, an Obama sticker, it’s like, come on, guys, let’s turn the ship around. Like we need the altruistic, big-hearted people of Earth to make a lot of money because that’s power. And that’s how your voice can get heard. And that’s how the things that light up your heart happen on this earth really is by having money. It’s not everything, but it sure as hell helps.


Jonathan Fields: [00:50:42] Yeah, and it’s funny because I’m sure they’re going to be people listening to that and being like, but it’s not like life is not money. So I want to come back to the part of the conversation we had earlier, which is that this. Is not money instead of power, instead of freedom instead of passion instead of this is yes to all. This is yes. Pursue the deepest part of yourself. Yes. Pursue your desire. Yes. Pursue the things that make you be a lit-up human being and contribute to the world fiercely. And be generous and rise above and bring people with you and. There’s a vehicle that we all have access to that will allow us to do all of that potentially more effectively. And it seems like for me, that’s what it translates to you when we talk about money, this is a mechanism for you.


Jen Sincero: [00:51:30] Yeah, it’s just a tool. Money is currency and currency is energy. It’s just a flowing energy. There’s no reason to have a protest about it, you know?


Jonathan Fields: [00:51:41] And I think it’s the whole like it’s an end, not a, you know, this is not money. Instead of all these really deeply meaningful things, this is as this is a power tool or.


Jen Sincero: [00:51:49] It is power tool of.


Jonathan Fields: [00:51:51] Love. So let’s come full circle okay. So the name of this is Good Life Project, so if I offer out the phrase to you to live a good life, what comes up?


Jen Sincero: [00:51:59] Listen to your heart, grasshopper. Do you know, really get quiet and listen to what you love to do and what’s important to what? To who you are. And really try and block out what other people are doing, what other people think you should be doing. And trust that what lights you up lights you up for a reason. And that reason is that you’re on earth to share that with everybody and to go be the biggest badass at that, that you can be.


Jonathan Fields: [00:52:24] Mm. Thank you.


Jen Sincero: [00:52:25] Yeah.


Jonathan Fields: [00:52:26] So thanks to Jen and Vivian for sharing their wisdom and inspiring journeys. Their stories prove that by shifting our mindset and taking smart financial steps accessible to pretty much anyone, we can overcome self-doubt, build wealth, and live purposeful lives. I hope you feel empowered to let go of limitations, to back yourself fully and create the extraordinary future you deserve. And if you love this episode, be sure to catch the full conversations with today’s guests. You can find a link to those in the episode show notes. This episode of Good Life Project. was produced by executive producers Lindsey Fox and Me, jonathan Fields. Editing help By Alejandro Ramirez. Kristoffer Carter crafted our theme music and special thanks to Shelley Adelle for her research on this episode. And of course, if you haven’t already done so, please go ahead and follow Good Life Project. in your favorite listening app. And if you found this conversation interesting or inspiring or valuable, and chances are you did. Since you’re still listening here, would you do me a personal favor, a seven-second favor, and share it? Maybe on social or by text or by email? Even just with one person? Just copy the link from the app you’re using and tell those you know, those you love, those you want to help navigate this thing called life a little better so we can all do it better together with more ease and more joy. Tell them to listen, then even invite them to talk about what you’ve both discovered. Because when podcasts become conversations and conversations become action, that’s how we all come alive together. Until next time, I’m Jonathan Fields, signing off for Good Life Project.

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