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The Rules This Social Media Coach Is Living By In Order To Retire By 40

"I hustle the same at my lowest and at my highest because to level up from any spot always requires everything you got."

Money Talks

Money Talks is an xoNecole series where we talk candidly to real women about how they spend money, their relationship with money, and how they spend it.

Born Sara Hood in a Sudan refugee camp after her parents escaped a civil war, this Seattle-bred influencer does not show any signs that she has been through any of the hardships she has ever endured. As a mother of two— including a first-born diagnosed with autism— Sara Lovestyle uses the many hats she wears as a mother, wife, advocate, and entrepreneur to demonstrate the true definition of living a "lovestyle", a pseudonym that was born out of her desire to live a life of happiness, wholeness and health.

In this installment of "Money Talks", xoNecole spoke with the 33-year-old social media coach and lifestyle influencer about the importance of investing, generational wealth being the greatest form of wealth, and her worst money mistake of not trusting her gut instinct.

On how much she saves and if it’s in a high-yield savings account:

"When it comes to being an influencer, it took me two years before I started making money and four years before it was significant. I've also discovered it's not so much about what you make (revenue) but what you keep (profit), so I do projections for my business revenue and personal income for a year, along with the budget. I also prioritize what needs to be done to retain a certain level of profit margin, normally at 30 percent, and I believe in saving/investing 20 percent."

On her definitions of wealth and success:

"The greatest form of wealth is generational wealth in the form of financial prosperity you can pass down from one generation to the next. Wealth at its core is also the financial freedom to do what you want to do when you want to do it—creating a prosperity engine where my kids are able to do the same, too…in perpetuity, as T.I. would say (laughs). Success to me is more than just financial freedom. It's the impact I can create and the legacy I can leave.

"Success is evolving to a level of impact where you can empower others. It's being able to start a VC fund for black, brown, and female entrepreneurs because we are so underrepresented and underfunded. Success is all about the tables I can build and fill for others. Whose lives did I touch with my success? Who did I encourage, uplift, impact with my success? Success for oneself leads to a lonely life, and I want so much more than that. Success is not a self-centered pathway to acquiring more clout and material possessions. It's empowering more leaders of excellence and creating the bold audacious change the world needs."

Sara-lovestyle-louis-v

Courtesy of Sara Lovestyle

"Success is all about the tables I can build and fill for others. Success for oneself leads to a lonely life, and I want so much more than that. Success is not a self-centered pathway to acquiring more clout and material possessions. It's empowering more leaders of excellence and creating the bold audacious change the world needs."

On the lowest she’s ever felt when it came to her finances, and how she overcame it:

"In college, I was working at the gas station and at the mall making below minimum wage. I was literally working 16 hours every day while taking a full load of college credit hours. It was rough because I was in sheer survival mode, working whatever hours were necessary to pay rent and stay in school. The interesting thing about the low points when dealing with finances is that they made me scrappy and stronger. It's where my hustle and drive come from. I hustle the same at my lowest and at my highest because to level up from any spot always requires everything you got."

On her biggest splurge to date:

"My biggest splurge is my house. It's where I spend the most time. It's where I raise my children. But the biggest splurge inside my house is the chandelier in my office (laughs). I budgeted for everything, but my chandelier I had to have…because it was a symbol that made me feel like a boss. I love looking up at it because it reminds me to grind and continue to level up…every single day. Success is leased not owned, and rent is due every day."

Sara-lovestyle-white-collar

Courtesy of Sara Lovestyle

On whether she’s a spender or a saver:

"I am a little bit of both. Majority of my splurges are for my business, and I don't consider them splurges; they are investments into my business. If I want to splurge on a purse or shoe I will, but it's planned and calculated if I earned it. If it's a reward, I will. Also, the rule I have is similar to what Jay-Z said. If I can't afford something three times, I don't buy it. If I can buy it once, I consider it a negative, if I can afford it twice, I break even, and if I can afford it three times, then I'm still in the positive.

"Another thing that I do is I plan my finances, my goals, and budgets for my entire year. I break it down to the month, and I have a specific budget each month. I'm blessed as well because my parents made sure to teach me financial literacy starting really young."

"The rule I have is similar to what Jay-Z said. If I can't afford something three times, I don't buy it. If I can buy it once, I consider it a negative, if I can afford it twice, I break even, and if I can afford it three times, then I'm still in the positive."

On the importance of investing:

"It's interesting I went from having never invested to several in a matter of months. Investing has expanded my mind to many experiences and knowledge I would've never gotten in different sectors of business. I invest in financial investments (stocks), and normally put 10 percent of my income toward it. In addition, I make business investments as an angel investor, which I'm most proud of. I invested into Moon UltraLight, an innovative new touch-controlled mobile lighting device designed to clip onto any smartphone or tablet. Its founder is a genius black entrepreneur named Ed Madongorere.

"The number one tip I would give before investing in a business is, you're investing in the person not the business. There could be an exceptional business idea, but if the founder doesn't have a plan of execution or isn't focused, then it won't matter. A recommendation I would also give is to truly study the industry that you're passionate about. Binge on as much information as you can, and then connect with others in the same industry."

On her savings goals and what retirement looks like to her:

"My savings goal is to have three years of emergency savings in reserves. I am intentionally building cash flow systems so that I can be in position to retire in seven years by 40. At that point, my goal is to have built enough cash reserves and investments where I could live off the interest if I wanted to for the rest of my life. At this stage, I imagine [in my] retirement [that I am] still being impactful, so it would be filled with philanthropy, travel, and my family."

Sara-lovestyle-laugh

Courtesy of Sara Lovestyle

"My savings goal is to have three years of emergency savings in reserves. I am intentionally building cash flow systems so that I can be in position to retire in seven years by 40. At that point my goal is to have built enough cash reserves and investments where I could live off the interest if I wanted to for the rest of my life."

On her budgeting must-haves:

"Before you even make a substantial amount of money, you should always have a budget. It's the foundation to managing your finances. The basics of a budget is you must understand. To the penny. What's coming in or out. What is a necessity (i.e. rent/mortgage) and what's a want? Something I've noticed with even some of my own friends is [people] not paying attention to any subscriptions they have. Sure an app might only be $1.99 or something is $29.99, and something else is only $49.99, but all of that adds up. You have to stay on top of it all with a budget. The same discipline it takes to manage $1,000 is the same it takes to manage $1 million."

On her intentions behind multiple streams of revenue:

"When I created my lifestyle influencer platform, I was initially a make-up stylist and beauty influencer, and make-up styling services became a primary income stream. As I began to pivot and expand, I created income streams for even more influencer passions I have coined a 'Lovestyle' which includes fitness, cooking, and social media influencer coaching. The streams of revenue created for these areas of influence include sponsored social media posts and affiliate marketing, cookbooks, cooking classes, fine dining pop-up events, Belay & Bell Spices — and influencer coaching with my new business partnership with AgencyLuxCo and business partner Taylor Winbush.

"Having only one source as an influencer and entrepreneur isn't smart for me. Social media is a billion-dollar industry. To not have several streams would be doing myself and my audience a disservice, especially because all of my services are tangible, measurable, and scalable resources for others and their businesses."

On unhealthy money habits and mindsets:

"I would say an unhealthy habit is operating with a scarcity mindset. The thought of 'Is it enough?' can be stressful. It can consume you as well as take up precious mental space and energy with worry. I had to understand that to travel far in business and to truly be successful I needed to spend on my team, resources, software, and the things required to make me successful in my businesses. Once I changed my mindset, my businesses began to grow exponentially."

On her money mantra:

"What gets measured gets done."

On the craziest thing she’s ever done for money:

"I'm structured in my personal life, in my business, and I'm certainly structured with my finances. It's rare I'll make random purchases. If it doesn't make sense or if I can do without it, I just won't. The other thing is I rarely buy on trend. That goes for shoes, clothes, furniture—whatever. Even the items in my closet for the most part aren't [trends]. The problem with following trends is that trends change, and trends aren't budget-friendly because you always have to keep up."

On the worst money-related decision she’s ever made:

"The worst money mistakes I've made all happened because I did not follow my instincts. I was presented with a business deal that I didn't feel good about, but I did it to please others I cared about. The structure was wrong, there was no long-term plan, and I didn't trust the business owner completely. Within 90 days, the business collapsed, and I lost all the money I had invested. It makes me sick to my stomach to this day because I didn't trust my instincts that were 100 percent right. Discernment is real, and every mistake I've made is because I didn't listen to my spirit and it always backfired."

On her budget breakdown:

"My budget breakdown for my business is one-third goes back into the business, one-third toward business expenses, and one-third is for me. Keep in mind for a long time I did not take a salary. It was more important to keep my team and put it back into my business. When I teach financial budgeting for influencers, I normally use this breakdown for personal expenses:

Housing: 40%

Auto: 15%

Expenses: 20%

Savings/Investments: 15%

Wants: 10%"

For more Sara Lovestyle, follow her on Instagram or visit her official website.

Featured Image Courtesy of Sara Lovestyle

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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