Janna’s Story: Freedom to Travel

Meet Janna, a licensed social worker who lives in Texas and loves to travel.

What do you do?

I work for 2-1-1 Texas/UnitedWay HELPLINE, doing outreach and education about 2-1-1 services. I love my work. Every day is different, and there are different topics and coalitions that the community focuses on.

I actually heard about SaverLife through work. It coincided with a time that I really wanted to focus on saving.

What did your upbringing teach you about finances?

I had a very blessed upbringing. We took family vacations. Each summer, we went camping and took an additional vacation.

I grew up with a lot of opportunities, and my parents always made a way to pay for what we were interested in. My brother and I were in sports, and my parents were middle income. But they always found a way to pay for our interests. We did chores and we didn’t have an allowance, but for a special occasion, we could go out to dinner at a pizza place and we could each get a toy at Kmart.

We weren’t indulged, but it was comfortable.

But then my parents divorced when I was in college, and that changed the financial situation a lot. My mom had more of a struggle. I ended up having to take out loans for college because my dad wasn’t willing to pay.

That was a huge shock to have to learn how to make ends meet in college.

My mom dropped me off for college and said, “God may not always give you what you want, but he’ll always give you what you need, and you’re about to learn the difference.”

What have been your highest and lowest financial points?

My lowest financial point was living in an apartment with two other roommates. One roommate and I went to collect aluminum cans because a cold front had come through our college town, and we wanted to buy hot chocolate.

The highest point has been the past couple of years. My salary is higher, and I’m able to redefine what is a “need” and a “want.”

This past year, I’m trying to reset my focus with SaverLife to make sure any extra money goes into savings. A lot of that is the reminders I get from SaverLife.

I really love to travel, and I’d rather this money go toward my savings so that I can travel to places I want to go. For my upcoming 50th birthday, I want to go on a trip – and I want to have all the money saved up before I go so that I don’t come home to debt.

What’s the best piece of financial advice you’ve received?

One that’s so simple is “pay yourself first.” Pay yourself first, put money in your savings, and if your company offers a 401k match, take full advantage of that. That’s free money that you could be leaving on the table. My company matches a good amount of what you put in.

When I was 25 and 26 working at the hospital, I wish I had invested then. It’s never too late to invest and save, but now I am focused on retirement. I don’t want to rely on social security benefits. I work in the community, so I see that a lot of people live on social security, and they have to decide between food and meds.

They say you need a million dollars to retire, and that may not be realistic, but I want to get as close as I can.

What does money mean to you in your life?

Money is financial freedom. I’m able to go do things, go on vacation, weekend retreats, when other friends of mine may not be able to.

I am single, and that is an advantage. Some of my friends with spouses or children struggle more than I do.

What are your goals for the future?

I want to pay off some debt and live debt-free again. I want to focus on savings and having a six-month emergency fund.

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