How $60k in debt hit from Hiding in the Bathroom author Morra Aarons-Mele

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After locking in new client soon-to-be President Barack Obama for her online consulting business Women Online, Morra Aarons-Mele learned she was $60,000 in the hole on her line of credit- three times what she had thought. The author of “Hiding in the Bathroom. An Introvert’s Roadmap to Getting Out There (When You’d Rather Stay Home)  shares what she did wrong, what her accountant did wrong, and what happened next.  

In Morra’s money story you will learn:

-How Morra found out she had triple the debt she thoght she had right on the same day she landed President Barack Obama’s election campaign as her client

-What went wrong

-Why her accountant had not alerted her to the debt

-Why Morra still deposits checks in person and yet still missed it

In Morra’s lesson you will learn:

-How her upbringing and her parents divorce, impacted her relationship with money

-How emotions can impact our spending

-How Morra developed ownership of her money issues

-How Morra’s business, women online, has benefitted from her new awareness of money issues

-The lesson her entrepreneur stepfather shared with her, and what you can learn from it as well

-How debt can be an important tool to grow a business

In Morra’s money story you will learn:

-Morra’s time-driven shopping strategy

-Online shopping habits to avoid

-How Morra blends her side-hustles with her primary business

In my take you will learn:

-Specific ways to get discounts linked to patience and timing

-Ways to get retailers to come to you with discounts

-Strategies to find what you want at lower prices

-How to tell the difference between using debt as a crutch and using debt as a tool to grow your business

Episode links:

Get Morra’s book Hiding in the Bathroom!

Morra’s company website is wearewomenonline.com

Morra’s website: Womenandwork.org

Read more about Morra in O Magazine!

Follow Morra

On Twitter @Morraam

On LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/morraaaronsmele/

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/morra.aaronsmele

 

Transcription

Morra Aarons-Me:
I learned that I was 60 grand in the hole on my line of credit. I had actually been reading the statements wrong.

Bobbi Rebell:
You're listening to Financial Grownup with me certified financial planner, Bobbi Rebell, author of How to be a Financial Grownup. And you know what? Being a grownup is really hard especially when it comes to money. But it's okay, we're going to get there together. I'm going to bring you one money story from a financial grownup, one lesson and then my take on how you can make it your own. We got this.

Bobbi Rebell:
Hey, everyone. So, information is power but for some reason a lot of us seem to want to be powerless. I mean, who hasn't wanted to just not know how much money they owed, not just for business but also in our personal lives. Because if we just close our eyes and picture me doing it right now, closing my eyes, we distract ourselves maybe the debt will go away. No. My guest admits to hiding from her debt, much the way she not so jokingly refers to hiding in the bathroom in her best-selling book, Hiding in the Bathroom, an Introverts Roadmap to Getting Out There (When You'd Rather Stay Home). Here is Morra Aarons-Mele. Morra Aarons-Mele, you are a financial grownup, welcome to the show.

Morra Aarons-Me:
Hey Bobbi.

Bobbi Rebell:
So excited to have you here. First of all, I'm obsessed with your book, Hiding in the Bathroom. Not that anyone I know or any friends of mine have ever done but certainly it's home with a lot of people, and congratulations it was a best-seller. I know it's coming out in paperback soon.

Morra Aarons-Me:
Thank you.

Bobbi Rebell:
And you are also the head of Women Online, tell us more about what that is just quickly.

Morra Aarons-Me:
Women Online is a digital social change agency. We create campaigns that mobilize women for good. So, we work with clients like presidential campaigns, nonprofits, global health NGOs and foundations and pro-woman companies and businesses.

Bobbi Rebell:
Love that. And speaking of presidential campaigns, that brings us to the money story that you are going to share Morra, do tell.

Morra Aarons-Me:
This was in 2012. I really do Bobbi think that this is the moment that I became a financial grownup because it forced me to look critically at my personal money anxiety and how that was holding me back, not just in my life but in my business. So, on the very same day in 2012 that my firm, Women Online signed president Obama's reelection campaign as a client, which was just an amazing day for me personally because I had been doing frankly a lot of work for free to support the reelection. It was really hard-

Bobbi Rebell:
So that was volunteer work, to be clear, volunteering, not working. We should all get paid for our work.

Morra Aarons-Me:
No. I was consulting, I wasn't volunteering like answering phones or-

Bobbi Rebell:
But there was no money coming in.

Morra Aarons-Me:
There was no money. Then finally after months of lobbying, they said fine we're going to hire you and paid me a really nice fee and I was honored and I was happy and I felt like finally, I'm getting paid what I'm worth to do this work.

Bobbi Rebell:
And you lived happily ever after, right?

Morra Aarons-Me:
No. I got that email, super excited, then I went to my bank because I'm so strange, a bank, at a local bank in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They know me, they know my face, I've done it for years. And so I go and I deposit checks at my bank for my business. Sometimes I ask them to check in and get a mini statement and for some reason I asked them because I had a sinking suspicion to pull up how much money I owed on my business line of credit.

Bobbi Rebell:
Now, how often do you check that or were you checking it at the time?

Morra Aarons-Me:
Well, not often enough. I learned that I was 60 grand in the hole on my line of credit. For some reason in my head, I thought it was like 20. I had actually been reading the statements wrong.

Bobbi Rebell:
Oh, Morra.

Morra Aarons-Me:
Not because I'm a dumb person but because I was ashamed and anxious and not in touch. So, I thought as one does, oh F $60,000, how did this happen? And my accountant at the time didn't have a very good answer. It was just basically, she had messed up and I hadn't been paying attention.

Bobbi Rebell:
What do you mean by she had messed up?

Morra Aarons-Me:
She just basically hadn't updated the books and so I had been pulling money out of the line of credit because it's very easy to do, and it hadn't been updating in QuickBooks and I hadn't been checking. So, the very same day that I feel like I've crossed a huge professional hurdle by finally, you know, by getting this amazing client, truly to me the world's most of me and client to pay me and my company, I'm in debt for way more.

Bobbi Rebell:
So, what happened? Were you able to get out of the debt?

Morra Aarons-Me:
I absolutely was able to get out of the debt and much more quickly than I expected, but I cried. And I was anxious and I felt ashamed. I felt like a little girl who had spent daddy's credit card.

Bobbi Rebell:
So what is the lesson for our listeners?

Morra Aarons-Me:
Besides the obvious, which is pay attention-

Bobbi Rebell:
And maybe it is okay to cry if you're $60,000 in debt that you didn't know. I don't know, I think that's worth a little bit of a cry, it's okay, we're human. But after the crying, then what? What's the lesson?

Morra Aarons-Me:
Here's the lesson to me and this is personal to me but I hope it will resonate with some of your listeners. I had been looking at my business money truly as if I were ... I'm the child of divorce and sometimes when I was a younger woman like a teenager and in my early 20s, I would go out and spend my father's credit card as a way of getting back at him for being a jerk. And I think part of me was still stuck in that little girl mode, where it wasn't my money, right. I sort of used it emotionally and then I ignored it.

Morra Aarons-Me:
All of a sudden, I was forced to realize that nobody else was going to pay back the 60 grand except me. I had to get over my issues quick and figure this out. That was lesson number one. The bigger lesson, which actually made me so much better in business, now mind you, this was in 2012, so it's been six years almost. My stepfather told me this, he's a longtime entrepreneur, he said, "Sometimes in business you need debt to grow and that's okay, it doesn't mean you're bad with money and it doesn't mean you're in trouble."

Morra Aarons-Me:
I think that what enabled me to get out of the debt and since then managed my line of credit effectively, because sometimes when you're growing a business, you do need to tap into debt resources is to understand that I'm not a naughty young woman going to the mall on daddy's credit card. That I'm putting this money to good use and I have a plan to earn it back. I think ever since then I've been ... I've had moments, I'm going to lie where the line of credit has gotten big and I thought, oh Lord, what's the plan here. The good news is that there has always been a plan and I've always known that I had a strategy to pay it back and I've been in good credit ever since.

Bobbi Rebell:
And I think the key thing here was that you didn't know about the debt or about the line of credit. When you do it and it's a deliberate part of your business and your business growth, that's a very different thing.

Morra Aarons-Me:
I think that's exactly it Bobbi. And whether subconsciously I knew about it and just didn't want to face it, I think that's why it was such a surprise to me because I think unconsciously I must have repressed it. But yes, if you say, okay you know what, now I talked to my partner. You know what, we got a dip 20 grand until the line of credit because of X, Y & Z. It's part of the strategy, it's not reckless.

Bobbi Rebell:
Speaking of not reckless, you are not a reckless shopper, which brings us to the money tip that you're going to share and it has to do with contemplating things and thoughtful even when it comes to shopping.

Morra Aarons-Me:
Yes. Well, this is a rule that I have instituted. Again, I think trying to get over my previous bad habits and sort of I was an emotional shopper, so if I had a bad day at work I would definitely shop. And online shopping makes it even easier because it's so instantaneous, you can just literally shop from your phone these days.

Bobbi Rebell:
It's like a sugar rush.

Morra Aarons-Me:
It's a total sugar rush. Like, oh I feel low, I'm just going to lie in bed and scroll Instagram and buy stuff. Anyway, I have a rule now that anything that's personal to me, whether that's clothing or makeup or fun stuff for my house, I have to have a waiting period. I can look at it, I can save it, I can bookmark the page or if I see it in a store, I have to think about it. Ideally a week but even a couple days before I buy it. Because that is just a cooling down period to separate something that you truly want from [inaudible 00:09:18] need.

Bobbi Rebell:
So, how often do you actually go through with the purchase then, when you think about it?

Morra Aarons-Me:
I would say about half the time, it's really amazing.

Bobbi Rebell:
Interesting. So there's a way to say 50% everyone.

Morra Aarons-Me:
And honestly, the other thing and I'm a little bit of a clotheshorse, I'm not going to lie, is-

Bobbi Rebell:
You always look fantastic though. You do. Always polished. When you're not at home in your pajamas working but when you're out and I see you, you look amazing.

Morra Aarons-Me:
Well, thank you. But what it's actually made me think is like, who do I want to be, what do I want to look like and what am I willing to spend for. You know, the old adage that you always hear is just like, buy less but buy better, this strategy really helps.

Bobbi Rebell:
Excellent. All right. So, I want to hear more about what is happening with Women Online, what you're working and of course, the paperback is coming out, Hiding in the Bathroom.

Morra Aarons-Me:
Yes. Well, the business is booming because we focus a lot on progressive change. We are all about helping women amplify their voices and helping our clients reach women who already have amplified voices who have a lot to say. So it's busy. We're having some interesting ... Because we're a digital marketing agency in all of, not just the issues with Facebook, but the changes with Facebook are hard for us to keep up with sometimes. Like, we're scratching our head like, god what have they done with the algorithm now, how does this affect our clients, but it's actually really interesting. It keeps us on our toes, keeps me on my toes.

Morra Aarons-Me:
The other thing that's been really interesting for anyone out there who is thinking about how do they merge their side hustle with their main business, which is something Bobbi you and I talk about all the time. Because you and I are both, I like to think we're like very creative. We always have to have a new project whether it's a podcast or writing something-

Bobbi Rebell:
Are you saying we have attention issues?

Morra Aarons-Me:
No. Here's the thing, this is what's amazing that I've learned now. My hardback came out in September and so I've been sort of having two almost full-time jobs. I've been doing book stuff and I've been doing Women Online. On the surface they seem completely unconnected because one is about my adventures as an introverted, anxious, ambitious person, that's my book. And then my business is a digital marketing agency. But the coolest thing is doing events where my clients come or finding people who come to a book event but are like, you know, I think I might need to hire your company. And seeing how they interplay but also seeing when it doesn't work.

Morra Aarons-Me:
Like we talked about my podcast, my podcast is A Labor of Love but it doesn't seem to translate into more business development for my company. So that makes me think about using my time and I've learned so much over this period of being a multihyphenate and hustling on both ends.

Bobbi Rebell:
And you do it so well. All right. Where can people find you? Social media. Miss social media maven.

Morra Aarons-Me:
Yeah, exactly. Well, miss introvert social media maven. Hidinginthebathroom.com will have everything about my book and my podcast and if you sign up for my newsletter, which is very infrequent, you get some great free downloads including How to Survive a Professional Conference, which you can bring with you like a friend if you're an introvert and you have to go out. You can also go to my business website for Women Online, which is wearewomenonline.com or follow me on twitter @morraam.

Bobbi Rebell:
Hey friends, let's pick up with what Morra said about shopping. Financial Grownup tip number one, take the time to wait before you buy it. Not only is a self-imposed waiting period like Morra talks about good to help you decide if you really want the item, it also gives retailers a chance to give you an incentive to buy whatever it is that you were looking at. So, to get those discounts, you have to sometimes make a little bit of an effort on your own. If you're willing to turn what's called cookies on, that basically allows retailers to track you, you will often get deals pushed to you.

Bobbi Rebell:
You can also sign up for their newsletters, their email lists, maybe you'll get something that says something like, did you forget something in your cart and you're like no, I'm just waiting for you to send me a coupon. Sure enough, they will almost always send you a coupon. By the way, set up a different email address just to receive those kinds of emails and that way it's separated from your daily email, you won't get bogged down in them. But they're a good thing to do if you feel you can tolerate that.

Bobbi Rebell:
And also, check out their social media channels very often on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook, whatever your favorite medium is, you will see if you friend or follow your favorite retailers or some place that you're interested in, you'll see them post discount codes or friends and family sales, that kind of thing so you can get an incentive that way and get a better price of something that you did decide that you want after maybe waiting that self-imposed waiting period just like Morra does.

Bobbi Rebell:
Financial Grownup tip number two. Morra got advice from her stepfather that it's okay to use debt to grow a business. So I want to point out the difference. What Morra did that we talked about at the beginning of the episode was she allowed her debt to be triple what she intended it to be. She thought she had $20,000 in debt on her credit line but in fact she had 60 and she didn't know about it. Not knowing about it and not having a plan in place to pay off that debt was the problem, not necessarily using debt to grow a business.

Bobbi Rebell:
So, if you're growing a business, debt can be a very impactful tool to really leverage your growth. So, that is something that you can be intentional about, just make sure you actually know what's going on and that you own it. Because even though Morra had an accountant, that's not always going to be a safety net and at the end of the day, it's going to be money that you're on the hook for even if someone else made a mistake.

Bobbi Rebell:
Thank you all for sharing this time with us. Be sure to hit that subscribe button if you haven't already so you don't miss any upcoming episodes and learn more about financial grown-up by going to bobbirebell.com/financialgrownuppodcast. You can also get on our newsletter list there and be in touch @bobbirebell on Twitter, @bobbirebell1 on Instagram.

Bobbi Rebell:
And most of all, I've been making these promotional videos that are like 19 seconds, they're floating around on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and sometimes I make one copy for Instagram. I have to reconfigure it a bit, so I haven't been able to do it with all of them. But let me know how you like them because I'm really enjoying making them and I hope that you are enjoying them as well. I hope you also enjoyed Morra's story and that we all got one step closer to the big financial grownups. Financial Grownup with Bobbi Rebell is edited and produced by Steve Stewart and is a BRK Media Production.