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."
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."
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."
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:
Savings/Investments: 15%Wants: 10%"
For more Sara Lovestyle, follow her on Instagram or visit her official website.
Featured Image Courtesy of Sara Lovestyle
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What Are Intrusive Thoughts & How Do We Manage Them?
TW: some depictions of intrusive thoughts may be disturbing for readers.
Have you ever caught your mind drifting off to entertain the most disturbing scenarios imaginable? Maybe you can’t stop thinking of all the ways a loved one could pass away or worrying that you left every candle lit in your apartment to which you’d return to a home in ruins. If distressing ruminations like these have crossed your mind, you may be experiencing an intrusive thought.
What Are Intrusive Thoughts?
Intrusive thoughts are unwanted or distressing thoughts, images, or impulses that pop into your mind without your control or consent. These thoughts can be repetitive, unsettling, or even violent in nature, and can cause anxiety and frustration for those who experience them.
“Generally they're unwanted thoughts that come up in our head that interrupt what we're doing or thinking, and can feel very foreign,” says Adia Gooden, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist and host of the Unconditionally Worthy podcast. “It’s any thought that intrudes or interrupts what you are doing. They can be distressing and upsetting for us because it feels like we are not in control of them, and they're coming up out of nowhere and aren’t in line with how you normally think.”
What Causes Intrusive Thoughts?
Certain trauma or stress can contribute to the development of intrusive thoughts, so having a challenging experience from the past or current life situations may trigger them to form. “An intrusive thought could come in the form of a flashback, image, or a thought about something that's happened to you,” Dr. Gooden tells xoNecole. “When it gets to the point where you feel like you can't function or make clear decisions, that's when intrusive thoughts become really challenging.”
While some of the 1 billion videos found under the #intrusivethoughts hashtag on TikTok would lead you to believe that these thoughts are nothing more than casual displays of our imagination going untamed. Intrusive thoughts are more than sticking your hand in a soap dispenser, wanting to cut all your hair off at 3 a.m., or having a random impulse to eat fake bread in public.
The Anxiety & Depression Association of America reports that approximately six million individuals, equating to roughly two percent of the American population, encounter intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are often linked with obsessive-compulsive disorders, but they can also manifest in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or anxiety.
Examples of Common Intrusive Thoughts
Because of the explicit nature of intrusive thoughts, they tend to cause shame and internal conflict in those who experience them. Although these thoughts can differ from person to person, these ideation can consist of:
- Violent or aggressive thoughts towards oneself or others, such as harming or killing someone;
- Sexual thoughts that are unwanted or inappropriate;
- Repetitive thoughts, such as a song or a phrase that keeps repeating in your mind;
- Contamination or germ-related thoughts or the fear of contamination and getting sick;
- Religious or blasphemous thoughts, such as questioning one's faith or having thoughts that go against religious beliefs;
- Doubts or uncertainty about one's own actions or decisions, such as fear of making a mistake or fear of not doing something right.
Intrusive Thoughts and OCD
That’s why Dr. Gooden encourages everyone to understand the difference between our fleeting thoughts and impulses and true, intrusive thoughts. “What level of distress does it cause and is it something you would never consider,” she says. “If you're finding that these thoughts are getting in the way of you living your life and that you're controlled by the thoughts, those are some signs that it would be good to get some support in navigating it.”
She also emphasizes the importance of understanding that while we may not always have control over our thoughts, we can control our behavior. “On TikTok, people are sort of blaming intrusive thoughts on their behavior, and our behavior is always a choice,” she says. “If we are in our right mind and we're not having a psychotic episode, our behavior is our choice — we are not obligated to follow any given thought that we have.”
Are Intrusive Thoughts Normal?
With intrusive thoughts, it’s natural to question whether these thoughts are “normal” to have. However, these thoughts are not meant to define who you are as a person but simply indicate that you have a functioning human mind with automated thoughts that you, or any of us, can’t control. These thoughts may come, but they don’t have to be acted upon, nor do they define who you are.
“I've worked with clients in the past who say, ‘Why am I thinking these things? What's wrong with me?’ But if you're not acting on the thought, then it's probably not a huge issue,” Dr. Gooden says. “If you are thinking a harmful thought towards yourself or someone else and you are making plans to act on that thought, then yes, we need to do something about it.”
How To Manage Intrusive Thoughts
If you are struggling with managing unwanted thoughts, Dr. Aida suggests taking these tips to help manage your mindset when they occur:
- "Recognize that it's a thought and thoughts are just thoughts. We often put a little bit too much weight on our thoughts, and that can create a lot of distress. But remember that thoughts are not facts."
- "Having a thought that's disturbing or upsetting doesn't make you a bad person, and it doesn't mean that you are suffering from a mental illness."
- "Sometimes the best thing you can do is say, 'Huh, that was an interesting thought. I'm going to let that go. That thought is not helpful for me right now."
- "Ask yourself: is this helpful? Is it helpful for me to buy into this thought and believe this thought? Asking that question can be really helpful because we are not at the mercy of our thoughts. If it's not helpful, you can let it go."
Intrusive thoughts can feel bizarre and foreign when they come up, but they aren't inherently "bad." Our minds can sometimes be filled with random and inappropriate thoughts, but that's what our stream of consciousness does: it thinks. Fortunately, we can release those thoughts at any moment; you don't have to follow through with them.
And ultimately, not every TikTok diagnosis is one that we should label ourselves with.
"It's important for people to acknowledge what they're experiencing but not run too quickly to diagnose themselves with some mental illness or disorder," Dr. Gooden advises. "It ends with confusion, and we miss the opportunity to understand the people who really do have that mental health challenge."
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