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Ep. 53 - Time To Come Alive: “Spending Wisely” With JoAnna McMurray, Founder Of Save And Prosper

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Time To Come Alive: “Spending Wisely” With JoAnna McMurray, Founder Of Save And Prosper

Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening, wherever in the world you are. My name is Valerie Hope. This is an opportunity every week to connect to yourself more deeply. You become more conscious of some of the things that you are thinking and feeling that could connect with new people as you will see in a moment when I introduce my guests, and then also with the information or the experience of being here, and to create something different in your life and perhaps take it to the next level.


I'm so excited to have you here. This is our first episode of the New Year episode number 53 since the beginning of the show thank you all so much for joining us. First of all, if you are tuning in to this, feel free to share it with others in your life who you think will benefit from it. For those who want to get on our mailing list, please subscribe to and you'll get added to the mailing list. You won't miss an episode because I'll send this directly to your inbox. That's all we have to do today.


Before we begin, I'd love to do a little mindful exercise as we've done in the past to get as present to the conversation we're going to have. I'd like to start by saying that the premise of the show was born out of a quote that I heard from Howard Thurman. If you take a deep breath, relax wherever you're sitting and the quote says, “Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it because what the world needs are more people who have come alive.”


I want you to take a moment and think about that. Where are you in your life feeling alive? Perhaps, where today have you been feeling alive? Is there someplace in your body, in your home, In your neighborhood, and your community that when you think about it or you reflect on it makes you feel alive? That's a wonderful sign. That's an important notification for you to see that there's more that you can have, there's more that you can expand, and there's more once you pay attention to it. You can create even more liveness in that area.


On the flip side, notice if there's any tension in your body. As we had our conversation today, notice if there's any tension in your thoughts. Meaning, is there any resistance? Do you find yourself perhaps doubtful? All of those elements are letting that there's a lack of aliveness in a certain area of your life. As we have our conversation today, I want you to pay attention to what perks you up and what seems to tighten you up.


To my favorite part, I want to introduce my very special guest. Today's guest is Joanna McMurray. Joanna and I had the beautiful opportunity to be seated next to each other on the plane. Joanna, I don't know if you remember this, but we were on a Southwest Air flight. I think I was in group B or something like that. A little bit farther back. I think you were sitting on the second or third row and I wanted to have the middle seat. The gentleman at the window had his stuff on the seat. I don't know if you remember this.


I remember all of it.


I said, “Can I sit here?” You moved out of the way and he was like, “There are plenty of seats on the plane.” I said, “I know. I just want to be close to the front.” I remember you laughed or smiled or something. I'm like, “She's going to be a cool person to sit next to.”


I didn't know that you felt that way. What I did was I gestured to you to come on and sit next to me.


It's so funny because I remember feeling welcome. It's so true because after we got on the flight and we took off, then at some point in the flight, we turned to one another and started a conversation but it was such an enlightening and enlivening interesting conversation about money and I think I shared it with you.


One of the things that stood out to me about you is how direct and how open you were talking about money. We were in a public place and with somebody that you didn't know. I found that so interesting. I was like, “You need to be on my podcast.” More importantly, the philosophies you have about money that I wanted to help broadcast to get the word out there. First of all, welcome to the show. I know this is your first time on the show. I want to start by asking what made you say yes to coming on.


I generally like to have new experiences anyway, but then only afterward, I ask myself, “Why did I say yes?” I thought this was a very good opportunity for me to practice. In case my idea catches on, I may go and speak in front of a bigger audience. That will be a great experience for me.


This is the warm-up. You heard it here first, folks. We're having an exclusive. Joanna, tell us a little bit about the philosophy you mentioned that you alluded to. Tell us what this philosophy is and then we'll unpack a little bit more of what that means.


I would like to talk about how I was brought up. I grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s in the slums of Hong Kong when Hong Kong was a third-world city as a British colony. That's not the Hong Kong of today but Hong Kong in the ‘60s and ‘70s. My mother was a single mom. She raised my two siblings and me. Not like she had a great job or anything. She was only selling noodles on the street. We lived very frugally like most people in our neighborhood. However, my mother would have money to pay for my private tutoring when I needed it and eventually save up enough money to send me to America.


I got a scholarship but you still have other expenses. The scholarship only covered a portion. Through then and not knowing at that time, but looking back, that's where I got my experiences. You spend money wisely and conservatively, and then you spend money where it's supposed to be spent. Therefore, spending conservatively, because of the way I was brought up, became part of me. Spending conservatively is my second nature. I don't even need to think about it because that's the way I am.

Spend money wisely and conservatively. Spend money where it's supposed to be.


Has that always been that way? You grew up with a mother that thought this way but did you talk about it? Was she training you? Did she tell you this is how you should live or how you should manage your money?


I do not remember that she said it that way but it seems more like by example, without saying that that's how you should spend money. If we go to the market, back in those days, every meal, you go to the market to get the food. Instead of buying what's up front people are selling, mom would look at what's behind that they were putting aside because they were second quality or something. Mom said, “How about that? Can I get that for cheaper?”


I watched all of that. When I said, “Mom, I'm not good with let's say math.” I don't remember what subject that was. My mom would say, “Let's find you a tutor,” of course, frugally in the neighborhood. There are people who are a few grades above me who've already done that course before. That's how I was raised. I believe that my mom didn't even know what a great example that she had given us.


You say something interesting because most of the time, at least in my experience and a lot of the conversations I've had with people around money and education around money are through the example of our parents. Not through a lot of conversation. It's not necessarily sitting down and here's our first lesson on money. There are certain examples or certain habits. There are certain behaviors that we observe or that our parents implement.


Whether that's you get an allowance or whether that's you can't buy that or don't waste your money or don't you spend it all at once. All of those examples, at least in my experience, that's how I learned. I learned both my parents have completely opposite ways of viewing money and interacting with it. One is a spender. Let's call it a free spirit like Dave Ramsey. The other one is the nerd and a little bit more conservative.


What was tough was that there was always conflict on which way was the best way. What I learned at least what I picked up was that, “We don't talk about money because it leads to arguments.” That was how I heard it at that time because no one talked about it, at least not in a positive and affirming way. I had to learn some things on my own later on. I'm curious about you. You said most of the people in your community had the same life experience, but was there any time in your life when you just, “I don't want to have to save money. I want to spend what I have.” Was there any rebelliousness about that philosophy at any point?


I'm not sure if there is because I'm not a rebellious person, so I cannot recall.


All along, you said, “100%, this is a philosophy that I want to live by.”


That is correct. All the time, even before I had the desire to help other people to learn to spend conservatively. I observe from other business associates or the tenants that rent from me that they have not-so-good spending habits. I would think to myself, “I am so glad I'm not like that. I am so glad that I'm naturally not like that.” It's not even a choice to save money. That's the way I am.

Not Quite Strangers | Spending Wisely
Spending Wisely: Learn to spend conservatively.

Paint a picture for us. Being conservative about money, there are some things that you do or don't do, there are things that you say yes to and things you say no to. Tell us what it looks like to be conservative with your money.


In the summer or let's say in the winter, my electricity bill, me and my two kids, is around 100. I would go visit a tenant for whatever reason and when the door was supposed to open, I walked in and then that hot air blew on my face and I would go like, “My goodness. Why do they keep this place so hot?” When I proceeded to find out, this happened more than 1, 2, or 3 times. Their utility bill is behind and their average bill would double the amount of my bill.


I noticed that people are walking around the house with very little clothing in the winter. Instead of turning up the thermostat, they should go to their closet and get more clothing or instead of walking barefoot in the house, just wear sandals, then you can keep the temperature. There are all kinds of statistics out there. If you keep the temperature one degree higher or lower depending on winter and summer, how much money you can save? In my case, my bill was everything around 110 and I remember this clearly because I was thinking I said, “What's your bill? Why are you not able to pay for it? I found out that they were over 200. I am one of those conscientious landlords who do things without the tenant asking me. One of which was to insulate the home.


That's not an excuse. For instance, I visited this friend and then a few weeks later, I visited her again. I couldn't help but think, “I love that last living room furniture she had. What happened? How come you have this furniture? I like it.” I like the new ones too. She would tell me and this is a true story. She said, “Well, I had that for two years. I got tired of it so I gave it away.” My mouth dropped, “Really? How often do you change furniture?” “I usually get tired of my furniture in about 2 to 3 years and I would want to change that.” Those are examples.


You do not change your furnishings every 2 to 3 years.


Definitely not 2 to 3 years but I am not depriving myself. I'm saying that when it's not needed, you shouldn't do it for the sake of doing it.


I get that. I'm curious. You said you have tenants. You have property and people rent your homes. I want to clear that up for people.


That is correct. Maybe I should bring up another point. My education was in Engineering. I worked after college for eight years as an engineer. I saved up $30,000 but lost all of it in eighteen months in the food service business with a good friend of mine. When an opportunity came up to buy an investment home to fix up and resell, I had to use a cash advance from my credit card.


I did that real fast and then turned a small profit and immediately paid the credit card back. I saved the profit. Along the way, I've been doing this for the last 30 years, but about fifteen years ago, which means I was fifteen years into it. I had a fellow investor who came to me and asked me to fund their transaction. It was then that I found out, “These people started before I did but I accumulated well and they didn't.”


In more conversations, I found out that they were spending the profit, some even faster than they make it. Let's say the better one spends it after they make it. Therefore, they didn't have the money to reinvest and be able to do more and more. At one point, I had many rentals and they were affordable rentals. Therefore, I was able to observe the people who are financially constrained, who are the people you have anyone need to say they are, but they are not. It wasn't because they were not able to, that they didn't make enough because I am aware of their financial situation.


In their application. I know how much they make and how many children, or if they're going to private school or public school. I am aware of those and sometimes when they're behind on their rent and then they are waiting for the tax refund, I even have had experience with tenants who we see windfall money, like a $5,000 tax refund only to be evicted within a month or two months later. I would ask them, “What happened to your tax refund?” “We went to Disney World,” or things like that. That's the reason why I decided that one day I need to help people open their eyes to understand if they would only spend wisely, they wouldn't be financially stressed.


I can see how much you care. It is one thing that you grew up with this mentality because your mom taught you and your siblings. She modeled for you what that looked like. I can also see how much you see the impact of people not saving or not spending conservatively on their livelihood, on their ability to be able to stay in a nice home to live comfortably. To help people who are listening to this, what are your habits? What do you do that makes spending so conservative? What do you do or what do you not do?


I explained about furniture and I know that sometimes people think that they need to have all these decorations on the wall. They need to have a couch and a loveseat. They need to have a dining room set and all of that. Yes, you do but not as much. I'm not advocating everybody to be living as a minimalist and I'm certainly not a minimalist, but I found that I live closer to the minimalist style of living.


What does that look like Joanna? Paint us a picture. Does that mean that you only buy this type of furniture or you only buy it during this time of the year? Tell us what that looks like.


As far as furniture, I only have the basic furniture and I've already talked about it being the same furniture because I might reserve them. I wanted to say that my couch is possibly over ten years old and the integrity is not gone, therefore there's no need to replace it. My dining room set is fifteen years old. Unlike a couch, which you sit on a lot, It may lose its integrity. I don't see how anybody can make a dining room set old and not comfortable to use. I don't have lots of decorations on my walls in my cupboard. I don't have any of that. My kitchen cabinets are only half full because I had four sets of pots and pans.


If friends and family said, “I wanted to give you this.” I would go, “No,” because I am determined. I only want four. If you give me more, I'm going to be giving it away because I don't want to have more than four. I think that if you live a simpler, life is not just about the amount of money, but also a little bit more organized brain and that you can focus on what's more important. Let's say your career, your children, and so forth.


I believe that having a lot of material possessions takes up room even in your mind that you have them. Let's say I go to a restaurant. I always order water. I'm a tea drinker. There's no need to pay $3 to get a cup of tea. When I want to drink tea, I drink tea at home. A tea bag is less than $0.10. By the time I go to a restaurant, I just order water. I don't go out to eat often. If you think about it, it's not that you save money by going out to eat less, but it's better for your health. Why is it that mashed potato tastes better at the restaurant and not when you make it? It is their job to make it taste good for you. They load it with a lot more butter than you would. They load it with sour cream and cheese.


What I would like to encourage families to do is if their habit is to go out to eat twice a week, baby steps, and change it to once a week. If you say, “I get deprived of that once a week.” I don't care for pizza, but I was told that if you ask your husband or your children, “What do you want?” If they know you are going out to eat, they would go, “Can I have pizza?” A family of four, husband and wife and two children, you can easily spend $100 when you go out to eat. Two large pizzas will most likely cost you $25. Pizza is bad for you but It's probably not any worse than if you eat out health-wise.


Let's say that's the example, $75 you save, $100 instead of $25 for pizza. $75 if you only think is $75, but it's $75 a week. Therefore, it's about $280. Let's say you round it off to $300 a month. That's close to $45,000 a year. Compound it with interest earnings, that's $50,000 in ten years? You always have any of the recurring charges, if you think about it. If you spend less of it, how much can you save in a year? How much would that save you in ten years? Until you look at it that way, you realize that it's not that hard to save money.


I can see that. What does it do for you emotionally when you're able to live this way? How does it make you feel?


Maybe because of the fact that it's my second nature, so I do not know how to answer your question, how that makes me feel. I'll give you an example. I don't do fingernails and the nail technicians, generally, in that industry, are Vietnamese. They came to this country, generally, the first-generation immigrants, as refugees. I've had this one conversation with this one particular nail technician. She told me how when she first came to this country. These are Vietnamese refugees, I should say. They had no way of saving money before they came to this country because they were transient in Hong Kong and the Philippines to wait for their visa to come to the United States. They didn't have jobs. They were only being fed and had a roof over their heads.


By the time they come to this country, they have jobs and they have started saving money. I remember this one particular person told me. She said, “When I first started, I didn't have enough customers. I made very little but I thought no matter how little I made, I was going to save a portion of it. My goal is to save $500. I eventually went to reach $5,000. That was my goal when I had $500, and then when I had $5,000, I decided, it's not hard at all. I'm going to set the goal to be $10,000.” She kept going. I didn't know at the time she told me this story how much money she had, but that’s the process of it.


You can tell how joyful she was saving money and having money because if you have money you have a lot more options in life. If you do not like your job. If you have $10,000 in the savings account, you can most likely find it easier to quit your job and find another job or go on to start a business. If you're in a bad relationship and you have enough money in the account, you will be leaving a lot faster than if you don't have the money and have to get stuck in a bad relationship.


It sounds to me though, as you're pointing to some of these examples that the experience for you is perhaps pride. You feel a sense of pride and accomplishment and being able to accomplish those or achieve those financial milestones for yourself or when you hear other people achieving those financial milestones that are aligned with this philosophy. Would that be accurate?


That is accurate. Think of the opportunity that when you have savings that generate and become wealth, you can pass it on to your children. I know that many parents would tell you that they may not do something for themselves, but they do it for their children. If you feel like, “It's not that important for me to have savings.” Think about it. That saving will eventually help your children, not to mention setting a good example for your children to save money, which will eventually become wealth.


Tell me about your why. What is it about this lifestyle or this philosophy that you feel others should adopt and that you want to teach others to adopt? Why?


First of all, I felt that it was a necessity. That's the only way you do not feel financially stressed and I have seen many people in many situations where financial stress causes disaster even in marriage. I've seen husband and wife spending habits being different, or husband and wife having the same bad spending habits. Eventually, the financial stress costs the marriage. I'm pretty sure that there are other reasons, but it's a major reason, a contributing factor for marriage to fail. I've also seen where people, let's not say crime, but an infraction that they commit because they don't have money for rent.


Have they had savings and the surprise happened that they didn't have money for rent that month, the savings would have been able to help that. I also think that corporations, small or big companies should encourage and motivate their employees to have the habit of saving because employees that have less financial stress will produce more, so better productivity and also less absenteeism.

Not Quite Strangers | Spending Wisely
Spending Wisely: Corporations should encourage and motivate their employees to have saving habits. Employees with less financial stress will produce more, leading to better productivity.

The next would be the government. If the government goes in and helps individuals save money for rainy days, besides the obvious benefit, which would be when the economy is bad, there is a buffer. If there are enough citizens with savings, they get to a tipping point that the economy would not be in a free fall because when people lose their jobs, they have enough savings to cover for a certain period of time until the economy recovers. That is subtle, but yet I believe it is a very true situation. If the majority of the citizens do not live paycheck to paycheck but instead have savings and less financial stress, they would be more tolerant of others or other groups of people. Without going into the details of this argument, I'm sure that I'm not going out on a limb to make that claim.


What you're seeing is that when people can remove the financial stressors from their lives. Not having enough money, not being able to pay rent, not being able to put gas in the car, not being able to leave a job because of fear of losing that income, not being able to leave a relationship because of fear of not having that financial support or being able to do it on your own.


You're stating that by removing the stress of having to live paycheck to paycheck, people would have more freedom, the economy would be more stable, and there might be less opportunity for crime or infractions as you said, marriages may thrive, families might be more relaxed or at least more loving, there wouldn't be as much conflict likely.


There are a lot of good reasons. I think you've outlined some wonderful reasons why people should save money. What I want to get to though is, why do you feel that that's something that you want to bring to the world? It's one thing to choose to live this way. I get that. It's a very individual choice, but I'm curious about what's driving your need to share this message with others.


Because I want others to be able to live freer. Free from financial stress. I think that is such a better life to live. Let's talk about the worldview today. It started fifteen years ago when I had this idea that one day when I'm ready, I wanted to spread this idea of encouraging people and motivating other people to spend conservatively. Especially today, we are in the middle of a climate crisis. Spending less, setting the temperature or the thermostat, and buying fewer material items, all of these affect the environment in a direct way. Saving money and eventually leading to wealth is not good for the individual. I also mentioned when enough citizens have savings, it is safe for the economy if the economy becomes bad. That's good for the country. I'm also saying it's good for the world because consuming less is in a way, helping the environment.

We are in the middle of a climate crisis. However, setting the thermostat and buying fewer materials or items affect the environment.


I'd be hard-pressed to find a lot of people that would disagree with what you shared. What I'm driving towards though is there's something about all of those conditions that you would like to see remedied that are driving you. Why are they driving you? What is it about people experiencing freedom, the environment being taken care of, and the economies in the world being better? Why is that important to you?


I think I got an answer, finally, after you asked me a couple of times now. The situation is this. I used to be an engineer, and engineers fix things, All these years, friends and family would say, “You always wanted to fix things.” When I see a problem, I think of how I can help to fix it. There are many problems out there that I don't know how to fix but for this, I know the solution or one of the major solutions and that's the reason.


You want to fix it, I get that. We mentioned earlier your friends and family. It sounds like this is something you talk to them about. You talk to them about spending conservatively a lot. Tell me how do those conversations go? What do they say to you? How did they react?


Bless the heart of these people around me that I constantly was saying it. I would think that if someone met asked me, “What do you do?” That's how I get into it. I used to be able to say investor and now I'm transitioning to start a nonprofit to motivate people to save money. Family and friends ask me, “How is your business going?” I would go, “Business is going good and I'm at a point where I can delegate most of the work and I am transitioning and that's how I started it.”


They would ask the same thing, “How do you think this is good for your bottom line?” I said, “No, you didn't get it right. It's not for my bottom line, it's for the rest of the people. I am putting money in where my mouth is.” I am starting a nonprofit. I want to help other people. I feel through the conservative spending, I am in a very comfortable position to fund the nonprofit myself, and I think it's time for me to give back.


This country has been good to me. I went from the slums of Hong Kong, coming to this country and being able to be where I'm at today comfortable enough that I don't need to worry about retirement and my children's education. It is ready for me to give back. That's how usually the conversation comes up and I am aware. I have observed newlywed couples saving money supposedly for grad school, but yet they have to have a two-bedroom apartment and then move into a 1,400-square-foot three-bedroom townhouse. I was thinking in my mind, “Why in the world would you need to do that?” I don't say it because you are talking to friends and family.


I said this in the beginning but you are very direct. You are a straight shooter.


I am definitely a straight shooter. I've been accused of that all my life.


What is it like in relationships? Because money, in my experience, sometimes could be a tough topic for people to speak about openly and comfortably, but you have such strong ideas and opinions about money. What are your relationships like with people when you share your opinion about how they should or shouldn't spend their money?


I was fortunate enough that my late ex-husband was also a conservative spender. We have a lot of differences in other areas, but not in the spending area. I think that you draw people similar to you together. My current partner who I've been with for nine years is even a more conservative spender than I am.

Not Quite Strangers | Spending Wisely
Spending Wisely: You draw people similar to you.

Lucky you. Love at first sight or love at first cent.


The few close friends I have are all conservative spenders. If not by design, which I don't think is by design, but you get together with people that have similar values as you do. The few close friends are like myself conservative spender.


You are surrounded by people who agree or who see things from a very similar perspective when it comes to money.


As far as friends. Not necessarily people who work for me which I'm working on it.


Bless their hearts.


I want to say the same thing.


What about your kids? Do your kids also subscribe to the same? Do they also spend conservatively? What's their philosophy like?


They are not as conservative spender as I am. However, they are better than average and I am still working on it.


How old are they?


They're 28 and 30.


There's still time. 


That goes to the other topic. It's harder when someone is already grown, ideally teaching a habit of spending money or conservatively spending money is like any other habit. It's better learned when a person is young. I found that while I have I do not have inference over the educational system, unless my ideas catch on and be able to get the big initiatives like the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation and the government. Otherwise, I found that I'll have to start with adults and that involves retraining, which is a lot harder than training.


I finally decided it could be done, but it had to be done repeatedly. That's what my nonprofit will be. It’s to motivate people and to get them to watch videos or read articles on a daily basis. Give them a free subscription or free audiobook, depending on the person who likes to listen or who likes to read from other gurus out there that teach you the ways of spending conservatively. There are many people out there to tell you, “Save money, save money,” but before you can say, you have to learn to spend conservatively. Telling people to save and not give them the tool is like telling them to run before they know how to walk.

Many people out there tell you to save money. Save money, but you've got to learn to spend conservatively.


It's interesting too because you said something very truthful that it's easier to train or to teach someone to do something with a blank slate than it is to retrain. Let's talk a little bit about that. If you were training young people because I'm sure somebody here is thinking, “That might be a good way for me to train my children or work with the students that I'm with.” What are some principles that you would start training young youth on now about spending conservatively?


Let's say youth, I am going to assume you meant high school or middle school.


Let’s say high school and middle school.


It would be like, “If your friend has that name-brand jacket or the latest pair of Air Jordan, you don't need to have the same thing.” If your classmate had the latest smartphone, if you would hold out for a year or two, you loved your last smartphone when it came out. You can continue to like it for 1 to 2 years later. That version or that model of this smartphone will be a lot cheaper by the time you get to it.” Another example would be If someone tells you, “I've got this or I've got this brand name.” Instead of thinking, “I wish I had it,” think, because that's how I am.

Not Quite Strangers | Spending Wisely
Spending Wisely: If your friend has that name-brand on the jacket or the latest pair of Air Jordan, you don't need to have the same thing.

I don't want to use the word stupid. Let's say unwise. You don't need to be outspoken, but in your mind to think, “You have that. That's unwise,” instead of thinking, “I wish I had the same thing.” A good example is my daughter’s high school graduation and all these girlfriends were getting prom dresses.


This one friend showed up and said, “Ms. McMurray, do you know how much I pay for this dress?” I looked at the sequences and I thought, “Based on shopping with my daughter, I had in my mind maybe $200.” I asked her, “How much?” She said 250 and I thought $250. She said “$2.50” I said, “How in the world? What are you talking about?” She said, “I got it from Goodwill.” Don't take me wrong. She's not from a poor family based on where she lives. I'm going to assume that she is at least well off.


This is a girl who not only saves her parents' money by not buying a $250 dress. She was proud of it to tell me that she got it from Goodwill. She said, “There was a rip over here. I’ll just safety pin it under. Nobody can tell.” That was gorgeous. That's what I admire and that's what I would say young people should emulate today.


In a lot of examples you gave, you're talking about fashion perhaps and them not being envious. What about lifestyle and in the sense of people spending money for activities like going to the movies? Going out to eat, you already talked a little bit about, but some of the experiences that people do on a regular basis that also cost money. How would you train or teach young people about which ones are worth the expense and which ones are not?


Doing this feels good in an obvious way, but then there is another way too. If you go out, everybody is busy. Let's say in a bar and everybody is ordering the expensive drink, ordering more than one drink. Drinking more than one drink to me is irresponsible, but let's not put that in the argument here. No one noticed that you only ordered one drink. If you only sip on that one drink the whole time, you save a lot of money there and you still have fun with everybody else.


If you go out to movies, and I understand that they have different ways of streaming movies at home, those would be a cheaper way, but if you go out to movies today, I think it’s maybe $15 a person. The $15 a person if you do it once or twice a month, it's not that bad but it is getting the food that you can easily spend $20 a person getting the food that's where you can skim on. You can still enjoy life but do mindfully the spending portion of it.

Enjoy life, but do it mindfully.

What I'm getting from this conversation is your sense of being conservative has to come from being mindful of the value of things. There are certain things that you value and things that don't have that much value to you. I did an exercise. I don't know if we talked about this when we met on the plane, but I did an exercise years ago where I asked three questions.


The first question was to write out in a journal like a stream-of-consciousness answer, without giving it too much thought, but to write out, “What would my life look like if money were not an issue? If I had all the money that I needed, what would life look like?” I remember writing out all these things about what I would be learning, what I would do with my family, and trips we would take, and the activities that I would sign up for. All this stuff. I wrote, wrote, wrote.


The second question was, “What would you do if you only had 10 to 15 years to live?” I wrote some more things about the activities or experiences that I wanted to have etc. The final question was, “What would you regret on your deathbed if you only had 24 hours left to live?” I remember writing things around having my family have to manage at the time any debt that I had, or not having my administrative affairs in order, like having a will and having power of attorney, medical, all those things taken care of in a way that my family could mourn the loss without having to bear the stress and the weight of having to manage all this other stuff.


What was fascinating was having that exercise made me very clear about what I value and what I don't value. What I hear you talk about is that for you, those material possessions are not of high value. You're able to get things that work for you for the span of time that that particular item works and you can keep it. You have a minimal amount of things that you use on a regular basis, not adding more, and then also looks like, as you’re advising other people, is to have some similar behaviors around acquiring things. To be more mindful about it.


What I'm struggling with here is you're talking about educating adults through your nonprofit. In your nonprofit, you're going to have to retrain people like you said who have over time had habits about how they spend. What’s the value to them? What is not? They may not have gone through the exercise of identifying what would my life look like if I had all the money, what would it look like if I didn't what's important to me. How do you start to retrain an adult who has had a certain lifestyle or perhaps even generations of a particular lifestyle? What do you do with that?


I don't have the final answer to that. However, I have already started making plans to see how to combat this situation, fortunately and unfortunately. I personally do not have that struggle. It's like you said, there are no traveling needs that I decided to do or material needs. That's the fortunate part. Unfortunately, because I don't have those needs, those needs did not come naturally to me, therefore, I don't have the experience of how to combat other people who do.


What you told me, which you told me about on the plane as well, made me realize that it's something that I need to incorporate. It is to get these people to do the same thing as you did and see if that would help. To retrain someone, the word is repetition. To motivate the adult whether it be video, audio, or reading. If you do that enough times, people will change, not all but in an ideal world, it will be wonderful, If 100 people are listening to your message, 100 people get the message. If 100 people listen to the message, less than 50 of them, and close to 50 of them get your message, that will be wonderful already.

Spending Wisely: If 100 people listen to the message and less than 50 or close to 50 of them get your message, that will be wonderful already.
Spending Wisely: If 100 people listen to the message and less than 50 or close to 50 of them get your message, that will be wonderful already.

It would. How do people react when you share your philosophy with them, especially those that you don't know, people who you've met, your tenants, or people you work with? How do they react?


I‘ll be very honest with you. These people look at me without any response. I can only surmise that they think that I'm crazy or it's not achievable. I've talked to a school teacher. By the way, in the last 30 years of managing homes, I have quite a few school teachers. There were a couple of times when the tenants that got evicted were school teachers. They make decent money. They are school teachers but they are horrible money managers from the other aspect that I learned about them being their landlord.


Anyway, one time I talked to a school teacher. It was Christmas time and somehow, the conversation went to her kid students who have a lot of Christmas money. I said, ”Did you talk to them about saving the money?” I don't mean saving the money like an adult saving the money, but for something worth it like a future with the school. She said, “No, Mam. You can’t change people's culture.” They brought all of it. Air Jordan shoes and things like that.


I realized at that moment that I have an uphill battle because people think that I cannot change people's culture. Maybe I can't but I'm going to try. You said, “What regret do you have?” I want you to know that I do have that experience, that last bit of it because in 2017, I went through cancer surgery. While I was lying in the hospital due to the complications as a result of that, I wouldn't want to say regret but I have two things that I thought if I die, I didn't get to do. One was to be there for my children. They are already adults, but when they have families and be their guide. The second one was that I didn't get to do this non-profit and spread the message.


That's wonderful because then it makes you realize that there's some work to do, Joanna. That's exciting because I do think you said there's something psychological that needs to be addressed when we talk about money that I think sometimes goes ignored. We don't probably spend as much time as we could. Everybody has information at their fingertips. You could scroll and you could click right now on how to save money, how to make money, how to invest money, and how to get those multiple incomes.


There are all sorts of resources and tools out there, much like when we talk about weight loss or fitness. You could sign up for all sorts of fitness challenges or gyms at every corner. The thing I think to look at is the psychology of the person that has us make the choices we make. There are certain beliefs that we have about money and what money is and what it isn't. You’re talking about Christmas. Recently, we celebrated Christmas. I have five nieces and nephews. I live here in Dallas.


What was interesting is I struggled because they have so many things. They're wonderful kids and they well deserved it. They have toys at the Wazoo they have tons of stuff. Their parents are very mindful about money. They taught me a lot of the things that I know. I struggled with I don't want to spend that much money on this. What can I give them that would be a value that shows that I'm thinking of them or that shows that I care about them? They're all young, so they look at those things. I created coupons for everybody to spend quality time with them.


For example, going for tea with my 13-year-old niece, a smoothie or something, or taking a couple of the younger ones to play at the park. Based on their age and their interests, I created some coupons that are spending time. Before I even gave it to them, I doubted myself so much. Are they going to think it’s cheesy? Are they going to think this is dumb? They're going to feel like, “You're too cheap to spend money on us.” My judgment, this is all the noise in my head, when I gifted them that and even gifted my brother and sister-in-law coupons so that every month, I go watch their kids and they can go out on date night. What was interesting was that they were all so excited about it.


They've already started talking about what smoothie they want to get or where they want to go and when. I was impressed, and these are the kids. My brother and sister-in-law were also very grateful that they could also spend some time together without children and I could take care of them. What I found is I had to confront some of my own beliefs about what gift-giving meant. Spending money on someone was more important than spending time, and how to do it in a way that honored both. I think you have your work cut out for you.


As I said, I am starting the nonprofit. We're still working on the website. However, I've already done experiments in the last 10 to 15 years on friends. I gave $100 a month to friends. It wasn't exactly that I gave $100. I pay $100 of their bill. The agreement was they would save $100 into a special savings account. This is 3 or 4 years ago. By the time, we reached $1,200, I would match it with $600.


These are employed people. They're not on government assistance or anything like that, but they are definitely paycheck-to-paycheck people and then I forgot about it. Three years later, the automatic bill-paying thing still goes on. We get together and sit down and look at their savings account. One had $400 and one had $600. I said, “What happened?” I came to find out that they did that as agreed because I paid $100 of their bill and they did put $100 in it, but they keep dipping. It's their money. They save it.


They keep dipping into it because they have surprises. What if they didn't have the money? They would be financially stressed when their car broke down in the middle of the highway. Fortunately, they did have that savings account that they saved $100 so they dip into it, and then other surprises. If you think about it, everybody thinks that they have surprises, they're not surprises. They are things waiting to happen. It's not whether it will happen, it’s when.


In other words these two situations fail. I have also, fifteen years ago, given students of my tenants. I wanted to say, grandchildren or children. Every six weeks, they have a report card that when I come over, they show me. If it’s A's and B's, they get $100. If it's A’s and B's and C's, I would take half of the $100 and ask them to go to tutoring.


By the time there was a sign-off statement from the tutor and teacher that they had done tutoring, I would release the other $100. I would encourage them, without going into details, to spend it wisely. Later when I asked them, I didn't blame them. They're children and they are not growing up in a family where they were being taught to spend money wisely. They couldn't give me an answer. One person came close to giving me an answer that I love to hear. She said, “I pay for our field trip.” I said, “Give me the information.” I was not given the information so I'm not sure if that's the case. I know that I have a wood cut out for me because so far, the experiments that I've done have failed.


You said this. It's going to take some time to shift people's awareness. It sounds like what you're doing because you've been so generous not only with your spirit of helping people understand a philosophy that can be difficult in society to implement but also out of your own pocket in some cases. You’re encouraging them. You're also helping people become more conscious of those habits and become more conscious of the impact.


I can see that that could work, but I don't know if I would consider that a failure. I love that you found a way to align the next phase of your life like this area, especially having been in that hospital bed and determining that this is one thing that I would regret if I didn't do it. You're committing your time your energy and your finances to do. When can we expect to hear more about this non-profit? Will it be up and running?


Before I go to that, I wanted you to know what is driving me. Even though I've been incurring failure, failure is good. You can learn from it. It's the fact that I am 100% certain that is the solution. Conservative spending is the solution to having savings and then eventually building wealth. All of the benefits that I'm talking about for the environment, for the individual, for marriage, and the society, I am 100% certain that is a major contributing factor for all these issues that we have in our society and the world. That's my driving force.

Conservative spending is the solution to having, saving, and building wealth.

Hopefully, in about a couple of months, the website will be ready. In the meantime. because of all the delay. I think this is the third website for a try attempt. The first two, I have to scrap. My staff and I said that at the end of January, even if the website was not ready, a couple of families expressed interest in signing up. We're going to do it in person.


Just start it up. 


Just show them our draft for the website, even though the website is not ready, and sit on it.


That's version 1.0 of the process. Why wait? We can't wait to make it perfect. In the meantime, if anyone is interested in more information about what you're doing, where should they get a hold of you?


It would be my name


I will put this in the show notes. That way, anyone who tunes in to this will have access to your email address and they can connect with you. Once the website is up and running or any other resource that you have is up and running, you'll be able to pass that along to them.


Sounds good.


Joanna, thank you so much for being on our show. It was such a pleasure not only to have met you in such a serendipitous way on the plane but also to have this wonderful conversation, especially at the outset of the year. Money is one of those things that usually comes up in goal setting a lot.


Thank you for inviting me.


I’m glad that you are here and that you shared all your information, your knowledge, and your background with us. Looking forward to seeing all the impact that you have in your community.


Thank you.


You're welcome. Thanks everyone for tuning in. It's time to come alive. We’ll have some more wonderful guests. Tune in. If you go to www.TimeToCome, you can register to get on the mailing list. You will not miss a video. Go straight into your inbox, so subscribe. Looking forward to seeing everybody. Thanks, everyone.


Important Links

Charles A. Jaffe: "It's not your salary that makes you rich. It's your spending habits."


What do you get when you have the mind of an engineer and the heart of a teacher? You get Joanna McMurray! She's out to change the worldview about spending, starting in her backyard. Check out what she has to say.



  • The power of a role model

  • Making choices and trade-offs in spending

  • The challenge of training vs. retraining good money habits

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