Acting like a financial grownup didn't play out for millennial money expert Stefanie O'Connell

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Stefanie O’Connell had stars in her eyes but no cash in her bank account. So she pivoted her passion for drama into a more profitable profession. 

In Stefanie’s story you will learn:

-The challenges of her seven years as a professional actress

-How the recession left her unemployed half way around the world

-The harsh financial realities of the entertainment business

-The creative ways Stefanie handled her finances, including roommates, while she traveled as an actress

-Her advice on balancing passion with paying for the life you want

-Why she pivoted to become a personal finance expert

-The tools she uses to manager her own money

-How to build a lifestyle you love while still following your passion

-The two big fairytales she says millennials need to get over

-Her take on how the financial challenges millennials face are different from previous generations

In Stefanie’s lesson you will learn: 

-How to own your income potential

-Ways to build your skill sets and find new market opportunities

-How to maximize income growth

-How to transition your passion skill set into one that is also profitable

 

In Stefanie’s money tip you will learn:

-Her online shopping strategy

-How she uses online cash back portals like ebates

-The savings you can get from browser extensions like Honey that automatically search for coupons and promo codes

-Ways to stack your savings using cash back credit cards

In my take you will learn:

-Why I believe passions should usually not be connected to income

-The benefits of taking the pressure off earning money from your passion

-The danger of having unrealistic expectations from side hustles

-Strategies to own your future by going beyond your credentials like academic accomplishments

 

Episode links:

Stefanie’s book The Broke and the Beautiful Life

Ebates

Honey

 

You can find Stefanie at:

Stefanie O’Connell.com

Get Stefanie’s free Cash Confidence challenge  

Sign up for Stefanie’s All In DIY class!

Stefanie’s facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/661192974055824/

Stefanie’s book The Broke and the Beautiful Life

Instagram @stefanieoconnell

Twitter @stefanieoconnell

Facebook: Stefanie OConnell

 
Stefanie O’Connell had stars in her eyes but no cash in her bank account. So she pivoted her passion for drama into a more profitable profession. In this Financial Grownup podcast episode you'll learn about Stefanie's challenges of her seven years as a professional actress, her advice on balancing passion with paying for the life you want, and how to maximize income growth. #Income #LifeLessons #Author

Stefanie O’Connell had stars in her eyes but no cash in her bank account. So she pivoted her passion for drama into a more profitable profession. In this Financial Grownup podcast episode you'll learn about Stefanie's challenges of her seven years as a professional actress, her advice on balancing passion with paying for the life you want, and how to maximize income growth. #Income #LifeLessons #Author

 

Transcription

Stefanie OC:
The reality hit me that this pursuit of my "passion" that everyone says, that isn't always the case because there's more to your life than just what you do for a living.

Bobbi Rebell:
You're listening to Financial Grown Up with me, certified financial planner, Bobbi Rebell, author of How to be Financial Grown Up. 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 grown up, one lesson, and then, my take on how you can make it your own. We got this.

Bobbi Rebell:
Hey, friends. How many of you have been told, "Follow your dreams. The money will come. Just trust in yourself?" In most cases, you were lied to. Former struggling actress turned millennial finance expert Stefanie O'Connell is here to set you straight. She is also the author of The Broke and The Beautiful book, and she also has a thriving community over at her website, stefanieoconnell.com. I love her story because it will put you on a path to prosperity and, hopefully, more happiness doing what you really are passionate about when you're not earning money. Here is Stefanie O'Connell.

Bobbi Rebell:
Stephanie O'Connell, author of The Broke and Beautiful Life and millennial money expert, you're a financial grown up and welcome to the program.

Stefanie OC:
Thank you for having me, Bobbi.

Bobbi Rebell:
I want to congratulate you on your new venture, All In. Tell us about it.

Stefanie OC:
Oh, it is a course specifically designed for millennial women who want to feel as confident with their money, as they do in the rest of their lives. I know too many women who are really successful in their careers, really successful in their personal relationships, and all these different facets of their lifestyle, but when it comes to their money, they feel really out of control, so I built this 10-module step-by-step blueprint to help those ambitious women match their cash competence with their lifestyle ambitions.

Bobbi Rebell:
Perfect, and we will put a link to where you can find that more in the show notes. I want to get right to your story because it's so relatable and it's something that is so relevant to young people figuring out where they want to put their energy and where they want to earn their money. Tell us your money story, Ms. Stefanie.

Stefanie OC:
Okay. I'm going to try to keep it concise here. It's been a bit of a journey. But, essentially, it started in college when I decided I was going to pursue acting professionally. Now, I did get a degree in psychology as well as like backup plan, my responsible, quote unquote backup plan, but the plan was to be a professional actress and, believe it or not, I was. I actually was for seven years a professional actress, but it was extremely difficult, primarily because I worked in theater, not film, so the paydays are not the same.

Stefanie OC:
I also graduated in 2008, which was the year of the recession. So even though I got a great job right out of school on like a dream tour of Asia, understudying one of my professional musical theater idols, the producers flew out about halfway through the tour, and there were, like, "Oh, you know, there was a global recession. We're going to send you all home." [inaudible 00:03:22]-

Bobbi Rebell:
Just like that?

Stefanie OC:
Yeah just like that, so my bubble just got-

Bobbi Rebell:
So you basically got laid off in the middle of the world, in the middle of nowhere.

Stefanie OC:
As a actress, which is the most ... it's the first thing to go, right? Entertainment budget, especially for something like live theater that's really expensive is the first thing people cut out. So the industry was really in bad shape and the first job offer I got after was to play three leading roles in three musicals for $225 a week. And I was like, "Okay, that is not sustainable. Yeah. This is my profession it is how I support myself." So I had to turn it down. And for the next five or six years after that I kept coming up against this reality of okay, I'm doing what I love, but it's not paying the bills. It's not sustainable, it's not consistent, when I do get work it's a huge win if I'm making $500 a week, I live in New York city. That is not enough money to sustain even a very basic lifestyle.

Bobbi Rebell:
Yeah, how were you living? Did you have roommates? What was going on there?

Stefanie OC:
Oh yeah. So I've always had roommates. I've never not had roommates, so I'm 31 years old.

Bobbi Rebell:
Including now.

Stefanie OC:
Including now. I live my boyfriend now, so it's a little different.

Bobbi Rebell:
That's a good kind of roommate.

Stefanie OC:
Yeah it's a better kind of roommate situation. And then I also sublet my apartment a lot. So one of the things about being an actor is I was on the road a lot, so I was able to sublet my apartment so I didn't have the expense of rent which was a savior for me. And so even if I wasn't making a ton of money, maybe two, three hundred dollars a week, if I didn't have a $1500 a month cost of rent that made it a lot more sustainable to pursue it. That said, I would come home at the end of my contracts and still need to pay rent.

Stefanie OC:
So it just didn't work. The numbers didn't add up. And so what happened for me was there was just this huge sense of frustration and the reality hit me that this pursuit of my passion, quote unquote, that everyone says if you do that everything will work itself out, just that isn't always the case when it comes to your money. Because there's more to your life than just what you do for a living. There are other goals you have, there are the trips you want to take, there are the weddings you want to have, there are the children and family you want to start, there's the house you want to buy. And that costs money. And I had this realization that if I continued doing what I was doing I was never going to create enough capital through acting, through this pursuit of my passion to do all these things that I cared about in the rest of my life.

Stefanie OC:
And so I really started digging into personal finance because I wanted to understand, okay, how do I take the little money I have and maximize it and then step two, how do I bring more in? So that I have more to maximize and that really set me on this journey of personal transformation to owning my own cash confidence, as I like to call it, through tracking my spending, through earning more, through learning to invest, through saving and tracking that all on my blog at stefanieoconnell.com and then finding a community of other people in similar situations, millennials working through the recession who were really taught do what they love and are facing this reality of, well what if that doesn't pay the bills? And how do I still build a lifestyle I love, even if it's not necessarily the way I thought it was going to look like?

Bobbi Rebell:
Do you feel that you and lot of millennials were sold this fairytale that if you follow your passion the money will come?

Stefanie OC:
Absolutely. I think there are two big fairytales. That one and then the second one is if you get a college degree you're set for life. Because I think you know, for my parents for example, they graduated college, they did get their MBAs, but from there it was smooth sailing right from graduation to retirement. There was great salaries, there were income increases, there was healthcare, there was retirement benefits. I've never had any of those things. I've never had employer sponsored health care, I've never had a 401K plan. So it's so much more, even if you're not necessarily pursuing your passion, even if you're just trying to make a living, for so many young people today there isn't that inbuilt infrastructure that takes your hand and paves the way for you from graduation to retirement.

Stefanie OC:
So much of the onus now is on the individual, and that's why I really started writing about this stuff, because I found that so much of the personal space was like, "Contribute to your 401K." And meanwhile, I'm surrounded by people who've never even had the opportunity to have access to a 401K. So that's why I write about what I write about.

Bobbi Rebell:
All right so you are 31 years old now. What is the lesson from that journey, for our listeners?

Stefanie OC:
Yeah, so for me the biggest lesson is that you are the primary driver of your own income potential. I think we have this idea that our degree or our experience or our skills or our lack of any of those things is what dictates what opportunities are available to us, but the reality is it's us. It's our willingness to continue putting ourselves out there, building our skillsets, finding new market opportunities and really putting ourselves in the drivers seat of our own earning potential that really leads to maximal income growth. And I think that it's so important because we too often make excuses for ourselves for why a six figure salary is not available to us or why a one million dollar net worth is not available to us.

Stefanie OC:
And we have to [inaudible 00:09:04] ownership of those things, before we can start making progress to actually achieving them.

Bobbi Rebell:
And it may not be in the glam career that you envision, that may be a side thing.

Stefanie OC:
Yeah. And the other thing is I think there's this all or nothing mentality that's really destructive. I'm not professionally acting anymore, but I love what I do. And one of the big things I do is I give talks, I go on camera a lot, I do a lot of media appearances and I feel like I get to use that skillset from acting that I so enjoyed [inaudible 00:09:36] performance all the time, but now I get paid ten, 20, 30 times what I used to make. But the fact is I would have never found this outlet if I had never pivoted temporarily to something a little less glamorous like freelance writing and blogging about money. Right?

Stefanie OC:
So we have to remember that it's not like you're abandoning this thing forever, it's just about trying a new approach so that you can have a lifestyle you love and not just a career you love.

Bobbi Rebell:
Give us a money tip, something specific and actionable that everyone can do right now.

Stefanie OC:
Okay, so this one is a little bit more simple, a really quick win that you [crosstalk 00:10:15]-

Bobbi Rebell:
We love simple.

Stefanie OC:
Can start with right now.

Stefanie OC:
There's a lot of shopping online, I personally do most of my shopping online because anytime I walk into a retail environment it's a 20 minute wait, it drives me crazy. So one of the ways I save, I have different ways of doing my shopping. So I will sometimes go through an online cash back portal, like an Ebates, where if you go through their portal first and then select the retailer you can get one or two or three or four percent cashback on all of your purchases. And then also downloading a browser extension like Honey that automatically searches for coupons and promo codes for you. And applies them to your order without you even having to go open up 20 tabs and search for promo codes.

Stefanie OC:
And then you can stack your savings even further by using a cash back credit card. So you know, get one percent or [inaudible 00:11:10] percent cash back on all purchases on your credit card, plus the promo code, plus the cash back from shopping through something like Ebates, you're really stacking your savings for immediate wins on all your purchases.

Bobbi Rebell:
Excellent advice, Stefanie O'Connell, millennial money expert, thank you so much.

Stefanie OC:
Thank you Bobbi.

Bobbi Rebell:
Okay friends, here is my take on what Stefanie had to say. Financial grown up tip number one, detach your passion from your income. We all spend a lot of time at our paying jobs and businesses so obviously you don't want to pick something that you don't like and you can't stand. You want to be happy, you're putting a lot of time in there, but that may not be your passion. Focus on earning the income you need to be happy in life and maybe pursue that passion on the side. It could be a side hustle, it could just be a hobby. Take the pressure off trying to earn a living at your passion. You may actually find yourself enjoying it more without the pressure to create income from that passion.

Bobbi Rebell:
Financial grown up tip number two, don't sit on your laurels just because you got a college degree. It matters a lot, but for the most part after your first job it's going to come down to you and how hard and how smart you work. As Stefanie said so well, you have to have ownership of your own future. Don't just show up at your job, really show up. Be present, try hard, do extra things that are beyond the exact job duties. Impress your boss, learn new skills. A degree is only one piece of the puzzle, you have to fill in the rest by earning it.

Bobbi Rebell:
All right thank you all for your support of the podcast, I love hearing your feedback and I truly appreciate everyone who has subscribed, rated, reviewed and shared the podcast. Please also follow me on social media. I'm @bobbirebell on Twitter, @bobbirebell1 on Instagram and of course, go to my website, sign up for my newsletter so I can keep you posted on everything going on with the show.

Bobbi Rebell:
I hope you enjoyed Stefanie O'Connell's story and her advice. I think she's terrific. Check out her website, as I said, stefanieoconnell.com, and I hope we all got one step closer to being financial grown ups.

Bobbi Rebell:
Financial Grown Up with Bobbi Rebell is edited and produced by Steve Stewart and is a BRK Media production.