Tiffany Aliche: Building a Secure Financial Future

    When Tiffany Aliche launched her online Live Richer Academy, offering classes on finances A to Z, in the first half-hour, she earned almost the equivalent of her annual pay as a new preschool teacher some years previously.

    You may not be able to unlearn something, but you can teach others how to do the same thing, which Aliche has done successfully over the last few years. As The Budgetnista, she has become a leading figure in the financial freedom movement, with a New York Times bestselling book (Get Good With Money) and more than two million “Dream Catcher” students worldwide—women who have collectively saved $350 million and paid off $200 million in debt by following her advice. A regular money expert on television, from The Today Show to Good Morning America, Aliche was one of four financial advisors featured in the 2022 Netflix documentary Get Smart With Money.

    One of her followers has told how her credit score “jumped like Jordan”—rising 150 points—after she implemented what she had learned in Aliche’s program, which covers everything from budgeting and saving to investing and insurance. Another reported having been able to save $10,000 in four months, giving her hope of paying off her debts within three or four years rather than the 20 she had anticipated.

    Aliche is encouraged to see the growth in interest in financial literacy, especially among women, noting a recent Wall Street Journal article reporting that the fastest-growing investor group is young Black people. “They found that Black folks under the age of 40, about 70% of them are investing in the market,” she says. “That’s tremendous,” compared to 60% of whites in the same age bracket in the market.  

    There has been a tremendous explosion in Black access to financial knowledge

    Tiffany Aliche

    When she began offering financial help there were not many others doing the same thing, but “now I can’t count . . . There has been a tremendous explosion in Black access to financial knowledge and we are gobbling it up, and I love that for us.” She and other Black financial guides like the Earn Your Leisure podcast team are “providing access that has been locked out,” she believes, “because before it was like you provided knowledge in a way that was not culturally relevant. ‘Why are you saying it like that? Why don’t you just say a stock is a piece of a company?’ Oh, you said it like that so I don’t get it; got you.”

    Spending and side hustles

    Part of the secret to Aliche’s success has been how she demystifies the world of wealth-building. “Money is simple,” she asserts, “but the work might be hard.” 

    Her first recommended step toward financial freedom is determining whether you are spending too much or not making enough. Aliche advises creating a money list that itemizes all the ways you spend, from the rent or mortgage to grooming and going out, and how much on each. Then identify each as a B (bill—“if you don’t pay it, someone’s going to come see you”), a UB (utility/usage bill—“the amount shifts upon your usage”), or C (cash expense—“the things you have most control over”).  

    If the total of your Bs and UBs is too high, you’re not bringing enough in and will need to increase your income somehow. If most of your money goes to the Cs, that should be a red flag because “you are spending too much because most of your money is going to the things you have choice and control over.”  

    She believes that ten or fifteen years ago, most people were probably making enough to manage if they were diligent in budgeting. “But these days, the way inflation has just ripped through the economy, for many people, it truly is an I-don’t-make-enough issue. Eggs that were $2.99 are $8.99; that’s insane.” That pressure makes it more important to have more than one income stream: “Having all your eggs in one basket . . . what happens if that place goes under? Then so do you. So, even if you make really great money, people have side hustles. I’d venture to say more than half the people that I know now have side hustles . . . that has just become the norm, that one income is not enough.”

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    Discipline and diligence

    While she emphasizes the importance of getting a handle on outgoings and living under your means, Aliche adds that “you cannot budget your way to wealth. Money has to be put to work intentionally to grow.” When it comes to building wealth, Aliche breaks down the way money needs to flow if it is going to grow—earn some, spend some, save some, invest some. That’s it, in a nutshell. 

    “If you keep doing that, eventually, the earning-some-money part, meaning like the job or whatever, might just be you earning money through your investments and you don’t have to work anymore . . . the money is coming in, you’re still spending less than you make, you might not even have to save anymore because you’re capped out at your emergency savings and you’re just earning and investing and earning and investing . . . that is the that we’re all trying to get to. Those are the four steps.”

    The sooner the better for saving and investing, says Aliche (whose latest book is Made Whole: The Practical Guide to Reaching Your Financial Goals). “Planning absolutely plays a role, but it might look different depending on when you’re starting,” she says. “If you start [as] early as possible, then you don’t have to plan quite as much; you know, you can kind of set it in semi-forget it, but it doesn’t mean it’s too late if you start later.”

    Her conviction that it’s never too early to learn how to handle money well prompted her partnership with New Jersey Assemblywoman Angela V. McKnight to write a 2019 bill, A1414 (which became The Budgetnista Law), mandating financial education be integrated into the state’s middle schools.  

    Be disciplined and diligent with your money, and your efforts will pay off, Aliche says from experience. It took her five years to earn net what she had been making when she finished teaching, “But then, because of what I learned, it took me two years after that to get to my first seven-figure year gross, and then I took home a few hundred thousand.” The following year, she hit $10 million in gross income.

    Frugality and fun

    Aliche’s advice has been hard-earned and well-tested. After working as a preschool teacher in New Jersey for ten years, she lost her job and took stock, realizing that things were not going well financially. She had no retirement savings and was $300,000 in debt—mortgage, school loans, credit cards. She lost her house to foreclosure.

    “I had to plan accordingly, and that looked like living humbly,” she remembers. She moved back in with her parents for a time and slept on her sister’s couch for a season. Her philosophy was: “Tiffany, you’re gonna have to lay low till you can get high.” She decided she could use any extra money she had “to look like I have money” or use it to grow more money. That meant starting her own business.

    True luxury is the lack of worry. I live far enough below my means that I can enjoy myself

    Tiffany Aliche

    Now a millionaire with two homes, Aliche acknowledges she is wealthy but says the way she lives “isn’t reflective fully of the money I have access to.” There is nothing wrong with enjoying nice things, she goes on, “but for me, true luxury is the lack of worry. I live far enough below my means that I can enjoy myself.”

     That was true even when she wasn’t making much. “You can, while living under your means, still find enjoyment.” At her “brokest,” while paying down her debt, she would “squeeze out a little bit of money to do something.” Once, she found a steal of a deal on a roundtrip flight to California to watch a friend running in the San Diego Marathon, sleeping on their couch to cut costs. “I was able to still, within those means, find lots of pockets of joy that did not cost as much.”

    Spending money you don’t have may give you a brief spike of happiness, but “it is going to lead to further anxiety and grief knowing you really don’t have the money to support the life that you currently have.” A little discipline now pays off in the long run. “How you use that excess will determine how the rest of your life looks,” she says. “I don’t ever want to have to worry about money. I don’t have to work now if I don’t want to: I get to decide how life looks like for me in my 40s.”

    Aliche credits former business partner Jubril Arogo with helping her understand that “money is not hard to make.” From her Nigerian heritage, she had inherited the view that “you go to school, you get a good job, you put your head down, you work, work, work.” Then Arogo helped mentor her in taking the financial literacy business she had launched to the next level, prompting that 30-minute Live Richer Academy launch epiphany. “I had never known a millionaire in real life before him, someone who I could talk to all the time,” she says of Arogo. “He opened up for me that money is not hard to make.”

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    Tiffany Aliche condenses her financial wisdom into four core principles that act as the foundation for building a secure financial future:

    Knowledge. “When you know better, you do better,” she explains. So, read a book, listen to a podcast or take a class.  

    Access. It’s important to connect with others who are doing what you are learning about “because it’s one thing to read a thing . . . ” You might not be able to reach out to a millionaire, “but do you know someone who makes maybe $50,000 more than you have? That’s access.” Don’t be shy about asking questions: typically, people who are doing well like to share what they know. “Find yourself a guide, a mentor.”

    Community. Money is a team sport, Aliche says. She quotes actress Issa Rae: “Everybody wants to network up, network out.” “Your peers are going to play a major role in your success,” Aliche adds, “so start to build community around that.”  

    Mindset. “You will never think differently unless you introduce new thoughts,” she says. Her therapist calls it corrective experiences. “If you press a button every day and it makes the wall turn red, but then you start pressing it and makes the wall turn blue, you’re like, ‘Wait, so maybe this button is not actually a red button because something new has been introduced,’” says Aliche. “So, seek corrective experiences, and then, really, the sky’s the limit.” 


    My father was a CFO and an accountant, with a bachelor’s in finance and a master’s in economics, so we just grew up learning about money at home. He would talk to us about money in a way that was age-appropriate but not scary. He taught me that I should pay attention to money because it’s linked to the things I want in life . . . It was like, “Hey, you guys wanna go on vacation, but the light bill is high. I’ll leave it on the dining room table. If it lowers the next bill, we’ll put money in the vacation account.”

    Countdown to Retirement

    Want to plan so that you can reach a time when you get to quit having to work and live comfortably on what you have saved? Here’s The Budgetnista’s countdown to retirement:

    20s and 30s. Aim to save between 10-15% of your income. Ideally, max out your retirement plan if you can, but if not, you need to be putting away 10-15% in a 401(k), a traditional or Roth IRA, which offer tax advantages. A traditional IRA allows you to put money in pre-tax dollars, and it will lower your taxes now, while a Roth IRA allows you to put money in after-tax dollars, and you can pull out the gains and the growth tax-free later in retirement.

    40s and 50s. Hopefully, you are making a little bit more money now, so it’s time to increase what you are putting away—by the time you’re in your 50s, potentially anywhere from 25-35% of your earnings. If you have a 401(k), the maximum amount of money you can contribute in a year is $23,000, but if you’re 50, the IRS allows catch-up contributions up to an additional $7,500.

    The more you’re making, the more you should be saving. If you max out and invest as early and as much as possible, you will see yourself better on the other side. That is just the key. You have to grow your money intentionally; it’s not going to magically do so [on its own].

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