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031: Barbara Sloan – Personal Financial Literacy in the Service Industry

Barbara Sloan was a homeless teen who danced for dollars and has worked in every imaginable position in the service industry. She’s familiar with and passionate about the joys and pitfalls of living for tips, and today she owns and operates a high-end construction company in Manhattan. She’s a money coach and the author of Tipped: The Life Changing Guide to Financial Freedom for Waitresses, Bartenders, Strippers, and All Other Service Industry Professionals.

Today, Jonathan and Barbara discuss working in the service industry, getting out of the debt cycle, and tips (no pun intended) for service workers to improve their personal finance situations.

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Key Takeaways

01:15 – Jonathan introduces today’s guest, Barbara Sloan, who joins the show to discuss tackling her mindset through mantras and working in the service industry

09:21 – Getting out of the debt cycle and what inspired her to write her book, Tipped

16:55 – The pillars of personal finance Band which chapters were the easiest and hardest to write

18:39 – The importance of recognizing social hazards

19:54 – The Jäger bottle story and having the hustle to be an entrepreneurial

27:23 – Being your own Sharon

31:59 – Overcoming the shame that is associated with being a tipped employee

38:49 – One piece of advice tipped employees should heed and one thing to absolutely ignore

43:16 – The last thing Barbara changed her mind about and one thing that he would like people to know about her

44:48 – Jonathan thanks Barbara for joining the show and let’s listeners know where to connect with her and learn more about Tipped Finance

Tweetable Quotes

“I think my early money memories are ones that gave me a scarcity mindset. I remember losing one hundred dollars and walking up and down ten blocks to try to find it because I was so scared to go home and say that I had lost this money.” (02:55)

“I talk about this in the book. When you’re trying to work on your money mindset, I break it down into four groups that I call, ‘Freebies.’ They don’t cost any money really. It’s Charity, Gratitude Identity and Mantras. And those usually free or low cost items that you can do to improve your money mindset.” (05:29)

“I spent twenty years working two careers in tandem. So, in the day I worked in construction and at night I worked in the service industry. I like to say, ‘Dirt in the day and dirty in the evening.’” (11:27)

“It was just a lightbulb moment for me. I realized, ‘Oh, these two reasons, the lack of financial literacy and the lack of benefits, are the reasons I and all of my peers in this group were not getting ahead and building wealth.’” (14:31)

“As people who work in the service industry, we are experts at selling fun, sexy, drinks, food. We’re experts at selling these things and, because of that, we can often become the ultimate consumer.” (19:09)

“The tipped industry is the largest private sector employer in the United States. There’s more than 5.5 million people who work on a tip-based income in the United States. That is more than all doctors, lawyers, and engineers put together. It is a massive industry.” (24:57)

“I think that a very misunderstood part of the industry is that there is a real craft and a real calling in this industry.” (32:56)

“If it’s not high interest bearing, debt is a thing that you hold; it’s not a thing you are. You are not your debt; you just have some debt. It is not something to be ashamed of. It is just something that you’re working on. So, don’t aggressively pay it off. I would so much rather see people invest and pay off their debt than just focus on paying off their debt.” (39:43)

Guest Resources

Tipped Finance Website

Tipped Finance Instagram

Tipped Finance Facebook

Barbara’s LinkedIn

Barbara’s Book

Barbara’s Email

Mindful Money Resources

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Episode Transcription

Jonathan DeYoe: Hi there. Welcome back. On this episode of the Mindful Money podcast, I’m chatting with Barbara Sloan. Barbara was a homeless teen who danced for dollars and definitely did not graduate from college. She’s worked in every imaginable position in the service industry, and she’s familiar with and passionate about the joys and pitfalls of living for tips. Today, she owns and operates a high end construction company in Manhattan, and she’s a money coach and the author of tipped the life changing guide to Financial Freedom for waitresses, bartenders, strippers, and all other service industry professionals. Barbara, welcome to the Mindful Money podcast.

Barbara Sloan: Hi, Jonathan. Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Jonathan DeYoe: I’m glad to have this conversation. I think the people that you’re writing to are the people we’re trying to reach as well. So I’m really super excited to have this conversation. First, where do you call home? Tell us where you’re connecting from.

Barbara Sloan: Yeah, so I call home New York City, Manhattan, the Big Apple. It goes by many names, but I call it home beautiful.

Jonathan DeYoe: Did you grow up there?

Barbara Sloan: No. I grew up in a suburb outside of Detroit in Michigan. So I say that my parents hadn’t gotten inheritance right. They got a check for $6,000 when one of their parents passed away, and they bought a house right on the edge of Detroit. And so one of the wonderful money memories I have that was modeled for me was homeownership. So low income, but homeownership was modeled for us?

Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. Well, I’m m just curious about some of those other money memories. What did you learn about money entrepreneurship when you were growing up?

Barbara Sloan: Entrepreneurship was not modeled for me. There weren’t a lot of good modeling, financial habits in my upbringing. Debt cycle was something that was modeled for me and something I found myself in multiple times. I think my early money memories are ones that gave me a scarcity mindset. Right. I remember losing $100 and walking up and down ten blocks to try to find it because I was so scared to go home and say that I had lost this money. I remember arguments about money growing up and just realizing that there wasn’t enough for what our expenses were. When I was twelve, my mom moved out and it was just me and my dad and I was responsible for paying bills and maintaining things around the house. And I remember we had the little checkbook with the register and realizing that there just wasn’t enough in the account for all of the bills that I had and having to make choices about which one got paid and which ones didn’t. So some tough money memories, but they definitely gave me a real education at an early age.

Jonathan DeYoe: At twelve.

Barbara Sloan: At twelve?

Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah, at twelve. And did you have like a conference with your dad at that point? Hey dad, we don’t have enough money. We have all these bills. Which one should I pay? Or did he just leave that to you?

Barbara Sloan: He left it to me. I mean, I was twelve. I didn’t understand all of the complexities happening in the world. But I do remember not paying his truck bill because m I was like, well if we’re not going to pay something, it’s going to be his truck bill because I figured it was his fault that we didn’t have enough money. I remember actively making that decision at twelve, which is kind of messed up. But at ten I remember getting a paper route and I learned some great money lessons at ten. I actually should have put this in the book, but I got tips as a paper girl around the holidays. I remember I had like a two block route. Oh man. Um, in Michigan too. It’s so cold those winters when you are like hustling with papers. And my route was not the blocks that I lived on, so we had to go like five blocks away and deliver papers in the cold, in the rain. But I remember on the holidays collecting the money and getting like a $5 bill tossed at me and I was just like, wow, this is amazing. Those tips felt great. At ten I was like, I’m so rich.

Jonathan DeYoe: How did some of those, the scarcity with your father specifically, how did that translate into some of the today’s money beliefs?

Barbara Sloan: I work constantly on having an abundance mindset and having an gratitude mindset. And so I think if you were raised kind of with that scarcity mindset, it’s something that’s always a little bit there, and you work towards it with a couple of things. I talk about this in the book. When you’re trying to work on your money mindset, I break it down into four groups that are, I call freebies. They don’t cost any money, really, but it’s charity, gratitude, identity, and mantras. And those are usually like, free or low cost items that you can do to improve your money mindset. So I tackled mine with mantras. Right. I loved working on mindset with mantras. When I was started in the service industry, I remember adopting a mindset mantra that was, money comes easily, infrequently, because money did come easily and frequently. And I remember that kind of helped me kind of get over that scarcity mindset when I was in the industry.

Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. So I do want to dig into the book, but before that, can you just give us, uh, a little sketch of the personal experiences that you had and maybe some of the research you did that led to the book?

Barbara Sloan: Yeah, no, that’s a good story. So where do I start?

Jonathan DeYoe: At the beginning.

Barbara Sloan: When I was 19, my dad, who was my primary parent, passed away. And I remember asking my mom, who didn’t live with us, they were still married, if I could purchase the house that I grew up in. And she was like, no, you’re way too young. And I was like, no, I really want to own the house I grew up in. I really want that house. And she said no. And she ended up selling it for cash, for a cash offer that was under market. And I just remember thinking like, nope, I’m not ready to let this house go. This was 2003. So if you know what was happening in the markets in 2003, they were basically handing out mortgages. So I got financing for twice the price she sold it for, wrote a letter to the owner and put an offer on the house. They obviously accepted because they assumed I was a crazy person to offer them this much money for this house. And I was like, it’s very sentimental. It’s the house I grew up in. Anyway, so I bought the house I grew up in. I took out ten credit cards and maxed them out to renovate the house myself. It was like sort of my grief project of working through his loss. It’s just like, I wanted to make my childhood home a place he could have been proud of again. And it was also just me working through my grief. So I landed myself in this terrible, terrible financial position. I was working as a receptionist at a general contractor’s office. So I thought naively, oh, well, I work at a general contractor’s office, so clearly I’m capable of handling this renovation. This is way before YouTube or anything. So I was at the library looking up how to do things, and it was a mess. But in that short span of time, I got myself into a really bad financial position. And life just felt really overwhelming and very serious all of the time. And I just sort of had a breaking point where I was like, I can’t do this anymore. I ended up selling the house, defaulting on the credit cards, and moving to California and starting working in the service industry because I just needed something to feel easy. And working in the service industry felt easy. It felt like something I could put down at the end of the day and quick access to cash. And everyone was always happy and smiling and enjoying their food, enjoying their drinks, enjoying the entertainment. And it was just such a different slice of life than I had been living. And so as soon as I experienced that, I was all in. I was all in. So that’s sort of how it was. One of the entries into the service industry for me was sort of after that big moment when I was 19.

Jonathan DeYoe: So, 19. Mortgage on the house, ten max. Credit cards.

Barbara Sloan: Mortgage. Also a car loan. I was making maybe $22,000 as a receptionist.

Jonathan DeYoe: Wow.

Barbara Sloan: Right?

Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. And this is just like the story of the time, is they would just lend volumes to anybody that could pretend that they had an income. They didn’t even care. Right. Um, so how did you get out of that?

Barbara Sloan: I was taking that class at a community college, too, and that was one of the places where they were offering credit cards as well. I was like, oh, yeah, it’s very predatory. So how I got myself out of that situation was, well, I sold the house, I paid off the car loan eventually, and a lot of the cards I just ended up defaulting on. And I spent a few years running from creditors. I mean, legit running from creditors, like, moving to avoid it. It was not a good situation. I had no financial literacy. I didn’t know how to have those difficult conversations. I didn’t know how to ask for payment plans. I just knew I didn’t have the money. And at the same time, it also felt like it was all from a different life, that I wasn’t living anymore. And so it was a sad life, it was a hard life. And I was just like, that’s not new, girl. Who’s this? That’s not my life anymore. I can’t possibly look at that. So I talk about different debt, uh, strategies in the book, but one of them, which is the one I took, which is called ostrich, it’s where you stick your head in the sand and you ignore it and you hope it goes away. It’s not a strategy that works, but it is a strategy. And so that was sort of my strategy was not to deal with it. And it took me seven years, eight years to kind of figure that out and claw my way up from underneath all of that. Some of it was paid off. Some of it was just. It fell off my credit report. It got sold again and again and again. And I think that was the other part of what felt so predatory was that these companies would be buying debt again and again and again for cents on, um, the dollar of what I owed. And I was just like, here you are calling me 100 times a day. You paid a 10th of this to be able to harass me. I just felt so. It felt messed up, yeah, for sure.

Jonathan DeYoe: So how does you get yourself into this issue? You sort of take 910 years to get out of the issue. How does that lead to. I’m going to write a book about this.

Barbara Sloan: Yeah. So I spent 20 years working two careers in tandem. So, in the day I worked in construction, and in the night I work in the service industry. I like to say dirt in the day and dirty in the evening. So practically in tandem. Um, for 20 years, I worked these two career paths. And that kind of brings us forward to today. 2013. 2014 is also kind of pivotal for me. So I had moved to New York with my wife. We had $700 in our pocket, and I got two jobs. The first job was working at Coyote ugly as a bartender. So if you don’t know what coyote ugly is, it’s a bar where you dance on top of the bar, you sing, you abuse your patrons. It’s a really good time. And then the second job I got was doing accounting and finance on Wall street for an unregulated market. So this firm on Wall street was half trading floor, half independent sales organization selling usurist financial products, aka, ah, loan sharking. And that was very educational for me. So it was another layer of me learning, uh, about predatory financial services. It taught me about the markets, but it was a real education. I was there for six months after the third trader got shipped off to rehab. I was like, I think I need to go back to construction and bars. This is too much. So I applied for a job at the company I now own, and I was employee number four at the time, and they were growing, and I was afforded the opportunity to grow with them. And because we were trying to retain employees, I not only was doing an accounting and finance, but I was tasked with creating an HR department. So I had to develop employment benefit systems. I had developed an HR department, had zero experience and understanding of any benefits, so I had to learn all of these benefits from the ground up. I was learning about, what is a 401? How does it work? How does it support the financial life of an employee? What is paid time off, how much paid time off is normal. How do you administer that policy? What is health care? I mean, I’d had, uh, health insurance once, right? I didn’t know the difference between a deductible and coinsurance and any of these things. I didn’t know how people chose plans, and I didn’t understand how any of these things worked. So I educated myself on all of these benefits, and at the same time, we were a high end general contractor. So I was working with these really high net worth clients, talking about their biggest budget items, how they talked about money, how they viewed money, how they made decisions, realizing that everybody, even people with what seemed like unlimited means, have a budget. So those two pieces were really important puzzle pieces to see like, oh, I worked in this industry that had none of these benefits, and to see how they all work, and to see how they support the financial life of an employee, and to see that majority of americans who have a net worth of a million dollars or more are millionaires because they checked a box on a forum that asked, uh, them if they wanted to invest in their 401K automatically, a decision that they never thought about again. It was just a light bulb moment for me, and I was like, oh, these two reasons, the lack of financial literacy and the lack of benefits are the reasons that I and all of my peers in this group were not getting ahead and building wealth. Fast forward to 2016. Lots was happening politically, and I just could not stomach the news cycle. So I was like, I’m going to turn off the news forever. I’m going to turn off social media forever. I can’t deal with any of that. I’m going to listen to something that is very soothing personal finance content. So I started listening to personal finance podcasts and reading personal finance books. I just needed anything that wasn’t current events. And through that, I just kept hearing the same recycled advice over and over again. And I never saw anyone who looked like me, who had built their career in the service industry being talked to. And I was like, okay, so not only are we being left out in all of these other ways, but no one is educating to understand how personal finance was umbrellaed as well. I was like, no one’s talking to these people. So I remember hearing on a podcast a piece of advice that was like, write the book that you wish you had had. And that is what tipped is. It’s all of the financial advice that I wish I had had that is relatable to people in the service industry, broken down in a way that people can understand, in a way that has fun analogies for people working in restaurants, bars and clubs, and it’s the knowledge that they need and deserve to have. So I guess those are the big pieces that brought me to this.

Jonathan DeYoe: So going through the book, and I think I am part of, uh, this podcast, and sort of the book that I wrote is part of some of the boring that sort of covers the same ground. But when I read your book, I want to retitle some things. I want to go into the chapters really quick because your chapter titles are super fun. They’re so engaging compared to any other financial book that I’ve read. But this is what I. And, uh, just tell me if this is wrong. But this is what I see when I retitle it. I see mindset, I see hazards, I see hustle, I see budget, I see saving, I see emergency funds, I see credit and debt, I see investing, I see insurance, and then I see more mindset. And I just went through chapter by chapter. That’s every chapter. But it’s with the industry titles, it’s not with the titles you put on them.

Barbara Sloan: So, 100%, this information is all the pillars of personal finance that is broken apart, mixed up, and tailored towards people who are working in these environments on a fluctuating income with maybe the same sort of typical traumas, right?

Jonathan DeYoe: Totally.

Barbara Sloan: But it’s for these people.

Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. Just from your perspective, given your history, which was the easiest chapter to write and then which was the hardest chapter to write and why?

Barbara Sloan: Uh, that’s such a good question. I mean, the budgeting chapter is a behemoth, and so is the investing chapter. They’re both, like huge behemoths of chapters. So I would say those are the two I put the most work into. And so I guess that would make them the hardest. They were concepts that I thought were the most important. So I put a lot into it. So I would say those were the hardest for me to write. But the investing chapter was really fun because once I was like, oh, I’m just going to make investing analogous to a bar and make everything super relatable and understandable. Then I started just having a blast with it. The easiest chapters were the first two, which are about environment and about the ways that tipped workers are left out. I have been feeling that way for 20 years. No one’s put words to it. And so I was excited to put words to it. But those were the easiest because your environment can sabotage you in a lot of ways that you may not realize are sabotaging you because maybe you haven’t had a different employment type or you might not be aware of some of those hazards are actually hazards, right? Alcohol is a hazard. It’s part of the job that makes you a lot of money. It’s part of the job that’s a lot of fun, but it’s still a Hazard.

Jonathan DeYoe: That’s interesting, because one of the questions I had was, and this is chapter two, right? Front of house, back of mind. So you have this description of service industry as social, and that social brings up the hazards. So why is it so important to recognize that at the beginning? Like in the second chapter, I like.

Barbara Sloan: To get the bad news out of the way, right? Like, we’re going to talk about some of the things that we sabotage ourselves with. We’re going to take off those rose colored glasses and realize that we’re participating in some of these things. As, uh, people who work in the service industry, we are experts at selling fun, sexy drinks, food. We’re experts at selling these things. And because of that, we can often become the ultimate consumer. And so you have to be in the way that you work. You have to be mindful. You have to be mindful of the fact that you are exposing yourself to this environment, to these hazards, and you have to be intentional about how you’re going to interact with those hazards. Right? Because a lot of people aren’t spending 1020, 50% of what they make in a day going out to the same types of establishments that they work at, which is something that a lot of industry people find themselves doing.

Jonathan DeYoe: So just, uh, there’s a story you tell, and I don’t remember if it was a manager or a coworker, but somebody said, hey, if somebody buys you a shot and you instead take a drink out of, you had a special yeager bottle, right? That had a rubber band on it. That’s the story. Right? So was that a manager that’s suggesting that, or a coworker? And then you got to keep that money, right? So tell that story real quick.

Barbara Sloan: I actually suggested, this is such a fun. So I was working in Las Vegas at, uh, I’m pretty sure it was the original dive bar of, um, all time. It was in between a truck stop and a, uh, rent by the hour motel. And it’s on industrial and Dean Martin, but. So it used to be called Lucky’s Tavern. It’s now called the rusty spur total dive bar. But I remember the owner had just purchased it from a previous owner, and he was a real go getter. Like, he was so excited about owning this new bar, and he had these big plans for it that didn’t line up with the bar he had bought and the clientele he was serving. And so I remember when I started there, I had terrible shifts. I’m talking like, $30 shifts. And I was just like, this is not sustainable. And I remember having this conversation with him, like, I’m going to leave, but then you’re going to keep having this same problem where you’re going to have people come and they’re going to leave because the money is not sustainable. So what are ways that we can work together in order to make this better? Because you’re not going to keep anyone, and you’re very excited about running this bar and having this work out. So the Jaeger idea was mine. I was like, well, what if I get people to buy me drinks, but they’re not real drinks? Can I keep the portion of money from those drinks? And he was like, yes. So, yeah, I filled an old jaeger bottle with flat coke and put a rubber band around the neck of it, and I would just get patrons to buy me drinks. I was like, oh, you want to do a shot? You want a shot and a beer? Which was the typical drink order. And I was like, do you want to buy me a shot? And then usually they would say yes, because in this establishment, you usually had working women who were waiting on the truck drivers to come in for the evening and they needed company, or you were hanging out with the truck drivers who were waiting for their ship to start. And so it was community, it was connection with people. It was spending time together. And so it was a way that I think everybody’s needs were met. And it was also just a fun way to make money, make a little.

Jonathan DeYoe: Bit of money and not get drunk. Avoid that hazard, right? Avoid the hazard.

Barbara Sloan: I definitely still got drunk, but I did make a lot of money on, um, not drinking Jaeger shots.

Jonathan DeYoe: That’s great. So this is a good story of you sort of training a new business owner how to work with the establishment. This is very entrepreneurial. Your response to, hey, you’re just going to have a bunch of people leave is very entrepreneurial. It’s very smart. And so you tie this experience and this story with the one where you set up the HR department for this construction company and learned all about PTO and learned all, you seem to have the ability to figure it out, make a change, and affect a business. So is this what leads you to starting the business and sort of go into depth and start talking about this more publicly?

Barbara Sloan: What’s funny is I don’t think I’m unique in that. In the service industry, you are put in a lot of strange situations on the regular, and you’re the only person who’s there to figure it out. Every day you are there figuring it out, and I think it’s a skill set and a strength that service industry people hone that they have just from working in the industry. You are an entrepreneur. You’re handling your section, you’re handling your stage, you’re handling your bar like you are managing. You are taking care of all of these things. You are the beginning, middle, and end of an entire transaction experience. So you are, you are using the same skill set that an entrepreneur and a business owner are using in the course of your day. I mean, I’d love to say that I’m unique and special, but I think that I had opportunity and exposure to a lot of these unique places, uh, that I worked at that allowed me a broad range to say, oh, you know what? I have worked in six or seven different states. I have worked in a dozen different tips positions. I did have imposter syndrome for a while. I was definitely like, oh, well, I haven’t worked in every state, so who am I to speak to this entire country about tipping culture? And I did think like, oh, I haven’t worked every single tip job, so who am I to discuss this? But I was like, no one’s talking to these people. And I do have a broad range of experience working across the country, working in different establishments, doing a lot of weird things for money. I also had the experience of running a business, growing a business, understanding all of the systems that these people don’t have access to and why that’s a big problem. The tipped industry is the largest private sector employer in the United States. There’s more than 5.5 million people who work on a tip based income in the United States. That is more than all doctors, lawyers, engineers put together. It is a massive industry. So when anyone who’s worked in the service industry has heard this statement, right, they’ve had this problematic guest who comes up to them and says, what’s your real job? Right. I hate this statement because it perpetuates shame and stigma for people working in these careers. They develop all sorts of shame and stigma. They forget about all these skill sets they have. They don’t view their careers as real, therefore they don’t view their money as real. I also am curious about this statement because I think it says a lot more than what both parties think it says. I think when people are saying, what’s your real job? What they’re asking is, how do you make your life work in this really unconventional job? I think what they want to know is that in their brain, a piece is missing in their brain. When they don’t understand that, they’re saying, oh, I chose this job for all of these benefits and all of these other things that I thought I had to get. And here you are in this job that doesn’t have any of those things. How are you making this work? And I think that’s the disconnect that two people having that conversation aren’t able to communicate well to each other. This one person is like, well, what about your future? What about these benefits? What about your systems? What about your retirement? Right? Those are the questions that they’re asking, because they care and they’re concerned, but really they just come off like assholes. And the other person who’s in the industry is just like, what a prick. And this is my real job and this is a career. And maybe they don’t have the financial literacy to understand that the onus of setting up all of these benefits and systems really fall on them. And for me, that’s where my mission comes in. And I want to empower and educate these people to set these systems up for themselves until hopefully, corporations, state, local, federal governments can step in. And maybe we don’t have a 2.13 cent sub minimum wage as part of our.

Jonathan DeYoe: Right.

Barbara Sloan: Yeah.

Jonathan DeYoe: Right. So just really quick. Uh, the book is great. I think some of the best things in the book are in the appendices, though. There’s the roadmap. There’s, uh, some basic tools, like budgeting tools. There’s a net worth statement, but the appendix, and I think I want to get to this mostly I think you’re leading to this anyways, this be your own. And so when I read that, I was interested because my first HR person that I interacted with post graduation, her name was Sharon. So I’m just wondering if all HR people are named Sharon or if that’s just a, ah, unique coincidence. So the question our is our hero, right? Can you describe why it’s so important for tipped employees to be their own Sharon? Why is that something that you focus on?

Barbara Sloan: Yeah, I’m not sure if all HR Sharon, if all HR people are named Sharon, but I definitely think they should be named Sharon. I love HR Sharon. She is a hero, in my opinion. And she is the reason that most people build wealth in this country. And she gets so little credit for that because she has the biggest tool at her disposal, which is automation. Right? Tipped workers. Let’s go back to the bar example real quick. When you have a service industry person who’s at a bar, and you have a non service industry person at a bar, and they’re drinking, they’re playing games, they’re having a great time, right? When somebody says, I’m out of money, I’m tapped, I’m, um, heading out, they still have their financial systems at place, in place. When the service industry person says, I’m tapped, I’m out, I’m done. That’s everything that they made. So it’s very different because service industry people are spending what they have. Whereas I call him Jason. Jason, the nine to five worker in the book, Jason is only spending what he has left over after all of these systems are in place, because these systems are automatic for people who are in nine to five worlds who are in traditional employment. So being your own Sharon means that you have to be a very educated consumer, right? You have to be smarter and better than anyone else working in the nine to five. You have to know these systems because you are the one selecting them and you are the one putting them in place. Whereas in traditional employment, there’s a whole team of people who are responsible for putting these systems and benefits together for their workforce, and you have to do all of that on your own. But it is so crucial and critical, and hopefully my book helps and hopefully other resources start to emerge. But in that, be your own Sharon, which I think is like me trying to empower people to put these systems in place for themselves, is setting up your own health insurance. It is giving yourself paid time off. Paid time off, to me is so the average American gets seven holidays, five paid time, days off, five vacation days or like a week. A week. Right. So seven, seven, four. Anyway, it averages out to about 20 days per year. That is a working month. How much of a happier, healthier human being would you be if you had a paid month off? These people do not have this benefit. They do not have paid time off for them. When they take a day off, they aren’t getting paid. And even if their state has some sort of law that says like, oh, it’s required, our state gives five days paid off to everyone no matter what industry they’re in. That’s not how it works for tips employees. They don’t see it cash flow wise. One, their sub minimum wage is $2.13. Pay time off for their hourly wage is nothing and it’s already going to be eaten in taxes from either claimed, self reported or automatically deducted taxes. So service industry people do not get paid time off. It’s a huge gap. So I tell people, make your own paid time off. Right. Let’s put up a bucket. Let’s decide how many days we can take off. Let’s fill that bucket. And when you need a day off, pull from that bucket. Give yourself a day off. You have to administer your own benefits. The same goes for 401K. Depends on what type of employment you’re in, whether you’re in a traditional w two with that 2.13 cent wage, or maybe some employers are allowing you to be 1099 contractor worker, which has its benefits. So I think a lot of people are like, oh, it’s not fair, but if you’re a 1099, call me, email me. I think there’s a lot of advantages to that that maybe you might not know about. Let’s set you up with solo. Four hundred and one k. Yes, but the problem is that there’s no one talking about these things to this group of people and no one’s talking specifically in ways. Sure, there’s a lot of people talking about solo 401 ks, but not in a way that this industry can relate to. Right.

Jonathan DeYoe: Uh, so can you talk for a m minute? You just referenced this word a little while ago and I want to make sure not to miss it. Talk a little bit about the shame that comes from being a tipped employee and then how do you diffuse that shame when you’re working with somebody?

Barbara Sloan: Yeah, so I think shame is a big part of this industry in a lot of ways and for a lot of different reasons. So I talk about the fact that our guests can sometimes be the hazards that we encounter. Your guests have a way of sometimes chipping at your confidence if you don’t put up proper boundaries. And sometimes even when you do put up proper boundaries, they still have a way of chipping at your confidence. And so it’s that outside perspective of people assuming that these positions are either moral or ambition failures. People assuming that having these jobs means that you’re not going to go far in life or that you’re not pursuing your dreams, right? I think that’s a very misunderstood part of the industry is that there is a real craft and a real calling in this industry. If you are somebody who feels a sense of satisfaction when you’re serving somebody or entertaining somebody, you are an empathetic person, you’re a good listener, you are a natural performer, right? Then there’s a real need, and as ah, you can see by this being the largest private sector employer, there’s a real need for these jobs and these people in these jobs. And I don’t think that they get enough credit for the work that they do and the good that they provide to their communities and to our economy overall. And they’re met with all of that with the shame of like, oh, you’re never going to amount to anything. Oh, I’m just a bartender, I’m just a waitress, I’m just a stripper, I’m just a sex worker. Shifting over to the sex worker side of things, there’s a lot of shame in that as well, right? Sex work is a huge umbrella of work that encompasses a lot of different jobs, right? You could be a go go dancer, you could be an only fans person, you could be a stripper, you could be a burlesque entertainer, you could be doing adult film, you could be a shadow dancer. I mean, there’s dozens and dozens of jobs that fall under this umbrella. But for the most part, a lot of these people feel as though, because it’s 18 plus content, that there’s something shameful about that. Now, I don’t think anyone should feel shame about providing a necessary service and a wanted service for people. I just don’t think you should feel shame about how you make your money and how you live your life. And so I think it’s important to remember sticking with sex. Uh, work, for instance, right? Like there are states where prostitution is illegal, right? And so people attach, maybe that illegal nature to this should be shameful. Well, I think that the illegal side falls on the person who’s doing the purchasing, right? But oftentimes the workers who carries the shame, and we find this in the relationship world too, right? Let’s say that you are somebody who’s in a committed, monogamous relationship and you are going into a strip club without your spouse knowing. Right. There’s a lot of shame in what you are doing. You are breaking some sort of maybe agreement or vow that you have with your spouse that maybe you should have had this conversation before you went there, or maybe you already agreed that you wouldn’t be the type of couple that would visit these places. Right. So the shame is often on the other side of the equation, and it often gets put onto the worker in these situations. And then there’s just the fact that these industries deal with the general public, and the general public can just be shitty sometimes. They’ll have a bad day, they’ll have a bad week, and then they come and they take their bad stuff out on you. Right. Why? Because of the fact that you are working for tips and there is a power imbalance there. And they know that they can kind of get away with it because you’re relying on that tip in order to pay your rent, pay for your health insurance, because that’s not in place for you already. Right? So there’s all of these various little things that kind of make up this big shame ball that we need to pick apart and deconstruct and figure out why it’s there, who we need to give that shame back to and how to make sure that we’re not taking it on to ourselves.

Jonathan DeYoe: So when you’re working with somebody, somebody reaches out to you for coaching around their own issues, their own shame based issues, because they’re a stripper or a waitress or they’re just tipped out? Right. Is there a process by which you take them from this place where they’re really not feeling good about themselves to then saying, hey, no, you matter. It’s not about you. It’s the system. It’s the structure. So how do you take them through that if they’ve really just embodied the cultural sense that they should be shameful?

Barbara Sloan: Yeah. I mean, the thing I love about coaching is that it’s so personal, right? It’s so specific to the person and the situation and all the little pieces that they have in their life. For some people, it’s about coming out. Right? If you’re a stripper, maybe there’s people in your life that don’t know that that’s the work that you do. And so maybe that’s adding another layer to the shame, is that you’re just having to live these multiple lives or have these multiple versions of yourselves. And maybe that doesn’t feel good to you. So for some people, I might be like, I think it’s cool. Go ahead and have that conversation with this person or that person, or maybe drop a hint, see how that goes. Right. Sometimes shame is reduced when you bring that shame out into the open and you’re able to talk about it. So whether you talk to your friends or your family or whoever, maybe you’re kind of getting that feeling of judgment from. That’s one way to potentially reduce the shame. Sometimes the shame also lives in the fact that these other pieces of, um, your life are not in place. Like, maybe you feel like your financial life is a mess, and so you’re putting all of that onto the work that you do. But maybe if we just get your financial house in order and we get an emergency savings account, maybe we get you investing, right? Once those things start to take place and you realize, oh, I have my shit together, I am adulting. I am doing all these things. I can choose whatever job I want because I’ve got all of these other things in place. I am making money while I sleep and while I’m at this job. So that’s another way to tackle shame. There’s a lot of individual approaches that I do in coaching, but those are some of them.

Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. I like that idea that just getting your house in order frees you up to be prouder of whatever work that you do. I like that idea. So one of the things I like to do in this podcast, uh, is I like to just take a sample person. So say you have somebody that comes to you, and I want to really simplify something. I want to really simplify. If somebody’s a tipped employee and they come to you, I want you to give them one suggestion. Do this one thing, and this will be incredibly additive to your life and your financial success. And then what’s this one thing that they could just ignore that maybe the rest of the industry or some of those more boring finance books talk about, or maybe you’ve seen on CNBC, so something that you can ignore that’ll actually improve. Some people say it’s important, but you’re saying, hey, just ignore this. You’ll be better off having ignored it.

Barbara Sloan: I love these questions. Okay, I’m going to start with the ignore one first because I feel very strongly about this. Pay your debt off as you go. Don’t be one of those people that’s like, oh, I got to aggressively pay my debt off if it’s not high interest. Bearing debt is a thing that you hold. It’s not a thing. You are. You are not your debt. You just have some debt. It is not something to be ashamed of. It is just something that you’re working on. So don’t aggressively pay it off. I would so much rather see people invest and pay off their debt than just focus on paying off their debt.

Jonathan DeYoe: You did clarify there. Uh, as long as it’s not high interest debt. High interest debt you pay off.

Barbara Sloan: As long as it’s not high interest debt. Yeah. If you have anything above 7%, that is hair on fire. That is, pay it off right away. That is pick up 17 other jobs, pay it off. But if you have low interest debt, pay it off slowly and focus on something that feels good. Right? Like earning more, investing, saving for an emergency fund, all of those. I also hate the emphasis. Can I have two things to not focus?

Jonathan DeYoe: Sure, you have two things to say no to, but we’re still going to get to one that you say yes to.

Barbara Sloan: Okay. The other thing I hate is the focus on your credit score. I know it’s somewhat important. I call it kind of like the cherry on your financial Sunday, but if you didn’t have a cherry, you’d still have a dope ass Sunday. Don’t focus on it. There’s way more important things to focus on than your credit score. Leave it alone. Don’t worry about it. It’s fine. Focus on these other things. All right, so, um, on the things to focus on for tipped workers, it’s going to be twofold. Again, it’s going to be claim your tips and open up an IRA.

Jonathan DeYoe: That’s perfect. That combo is perfect.

Barbara Sloan: So service industry employees sometimes don’t understand how important it is to claim their income and claim their tips, and they often get judged for this as well. Right. But if you had the option to just kind of go into your CPA’s office or turn on turbotax and be like, how much did I make this year? And really, there’s no one that can check. You’d be winging it, too. However, it is short term thinking to try to save on those taxes, because long term, it is what will keep you broke. When you claim your tips, you are doing a few different things. You are paying into Social Security. Majority of currently retired service industry professionals rely solely on Social Security, which is terrifying because Social Security was designed to be a partial employment replacement benefit. And so if they’re living on that alone, and I think the average for people who are claiming their tips is like $18,000, it’s terrifyingly low. So claim your tips because 59 and a half sounds like a long way away. But Social Security is very important to a lot of people’s financial picture. Claiming your tips also is important. We saw during COVID when people didn’t get unemployment. Claiming your tips is also employment is also important because it’s what you need in order to potentially get into real estate, which is the secondary reason that majority of Americans have the level of wealth that they do their four hundred and one k and buying their primary residence. Right. So this is another example of where tipped employees are often left out. They don’t know how important it is to claim their tips in full. And so either they’re unable to get a mortgage, they’re unable to get a proper mortgage, and then they have to turn to more predatory lending. So claiming your tips is really important for Social Security, for unemployment, for mortgage, even for things like car loans, your rates, how much you claim in your income, when you take that to a place for financing for your car, your rate depends on that. And that can differ in how much you pay for your car and hundreds of dollars. So it’s very important to claim your tips and then an IRA.

Jonathan DeYoe: Tips and Ira. Love it. So coming back to personal a little bit before we wrap up, what was the last thing you changed your mind about?

Barbara Sloan: Last thing I changed my mind about financially, whatever could be.

Jonathan DeYoe: Uh, I was going to get a dog and I got a cat instead. Whatever. We want to focus on neuroplasticity. Do you change your mind or are you stuck in your ways? So what was the last thing you changed your mind about? Tough question.

Barbara Sloan: It’s a tough question. I mean, this is literally the last thing I changed my mind about. But. So I have a general contracting business and somebody sent me design layouts for stone patterns on a wall. And the first one they sent, I was like, oh, this is amazing. And then they changed their mind and I was like, I can’t believe they changed their mind on this. It’s going to look terrible. And then they sent them over and I was like, actually I think it’s better. I think they made the right decision. So that was the last thing I changed my mind about.

Jonathan DeYoe: Perfect. And then is there something, anything really that people don’t know about you, or maybe you’ve said it and they don’t remember, but that you really want them to know about you?

Barbara Sloan: I think the thing I want people to know about me is that I made so many financial mistakes and I have achieved financial independence and I hate when people say, if I can do it, you can do it. Because that is not the case. Right? Everyone has their own unique struggles. But I think I’m a good example for some people, maybe a lot of people, of someone who’s messed up a lot and who has screwed up so many times and has been able to figure it out later in life. And it’s all worked out. So I encourage people to stick with it. Keep trying, keep growing, keep learning. Keep reading.

Jonathan DeYoe: Love it. Barbara, thank you very much for coming on the Mindful Money podcast. It’s been a pleasure. We’re going to make sure everything is in the, uh, show notes, but tell us how to connect with you.

Barbara Sloan: Thank you so much for asking. I always forget this. I hang out mostly on Instagram. I really love trying to make financial literacy fun through memes, so I try to make fun memes on Instagram. I’m also branching out on TikTok. I’ve done like four videos, but I promise there’s more coming. And then please also reach out to me on my website, tipped finance. If you’re interested in coaching, we can do year long coaching. We can do one quick money phone call. It’s really kind of up to people how they want to engage or spend time with me. If you read the book, you can tell me how you liked it, what your wins were. Any positive takeaways? If you haven’t read the book, you can find it on Amazon. We’ve got some awesome good reviews on there, so it’s doing really well. Yeah. So Instagram, TikTok, my website, those are the places to find me.

Jonathan DeYoe: We’ll put everything in the show notes. Barbara, thanks for coming on.

Barbara Sloan: Thank you so much for having me.

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