Take Back Retirement
10: She did it! Real Retirement Stories with Sheila Netti
Today’s guest is Wealth Empowerment Coach Sheila Netti. Sheila is an amazing source of knowledge on all things money management and financial education. In this conversation, she goes down memory lane to talk about her personal retirement journey.
Having grown up in the projects in 1960s Harlem, the environment where Sheila spent her childhood was far from the safest and most prestigious. Couple that with a father who, despite toiling day after day to provide for his family, was unable to move the needle on his family’s socioeconomic status.
Sheila realized, from the ripe young age of eight, that something had to change. She recounts her path to retirement, from her initial dream of becoming a nuclear physicist as a child, to joining the Navy in order to pay for college, to making the decision that she would retire by the age of 55.
Listen in and learn how Sheila changed her behaviors and beliefs to achieve financial freedom and, later on, how she found a passion for helping other women do the same.
- Sheila’s journey to retirement (1:49)
- I retired at 55! …Now what? (7:30)
- Setting up the business (12:22)
- Sheila’s plan for putting away money over time (16:44)
- How Sheila approached investing (22:19)
- “Money and emotions don’t mix.” (25:36)
- “I didn’t need to pay myself with things. I shifted to experiences.” (29:18)
- What was harder: saving or not spending? (31:29)
- Why Sheila became a wealth coach (35:43)
- Teaching your kids how to manage money (38:07)
- How investing in real estate played a role in Sheila’s plan (40:09)
- The biggest challenge that Sheila’s coaching clients are facing around money mindset (45:18)
- “Be confident in your ability to be powerful with money.” (47:20)
- Reach out to Sheila to learn how to take control of your financial destiny. Visit her website at www.sheilanetti.com.
Stephanie McCul…: 00:40 Coming to you semi-live from the beautiful Westlakes Office Park in suburban Philadelphia. This is Stephanie McCullough and Kevin Gaines of Sofia Financial and American Financial Management Group. Say hello, Kevin.
Kevin Gaines: Hello, Kevin. Our guest today is Sheila Netti from San Diego.
Stephanie McCul…: Sheila works today as a Wealth Empowerment Coach, and she and I met when we both participated in a panel discussion sponsored by Elevate, the professional women’s network. And even though, obviously as a Wealth Empowerment Coach, she’s got great knowledge and suggestions about money. That’s not really why we wanted to have her on. It was because she was willing to share with us her personal retirement journey.
Kevin Gaines: So without further ado, let’s bring Sheila in.
Stephanie McCul…: Sheila Netti, welcome to Take Back Retirement. We’re thrilled to have you here.
Sheila Netti: Thank you. I’m excited to be here.
Stephanie McCul…: So, the reason we wanted to have Sheila on and to share her story with our listeners is because she’s been there. She’s done it. She has actually retired. But it’s a very interesting story, as you would expect. So, let’s start there. Sheila, can you tell us your story?
Sheila Netti: Sure. I’d love to. I grew up in Harlem in New York city back in the sixties. Harlem back then was not a nice place. We lived in something called the projects, which were tall buildings that were rent controlled. And so there was a lot of working class families, but unfortunately we had drug dealers on one side and gang members on the other side. And so, basically this is the environment that I’m growing up in. Not necessarily the safest place for a young child, but you know, my father was doing the best he could. He was working a job at night and basically also trying to start a business or building a business in the day. So, over those years I saw him working and working, but I didn’t see our life changed very much. And so, at the young age of eight, I decided that I was going to be a nuclear physicist.
Sheila Netti: Don’t ask me where that came from. I was really into science fiction, so I decided that that’s what I was going to be. And so I focused on that. I also realized that a little bit later on, I realized too that I’m watching my father work really hard and I’m not seeing anything. So I decided there’s gotta be a way. There’s gotta be a way to be able to build wealth and create money and not have to work so hard. And so I knew there was. I just felt like it was possible. And so I then went on, fast forward, went on to actually move through that, graduate with a degree in physics. Okay. And didn’t become a nuclear scientist, you know, nuclear physicist, but that’s okay. And went on to then go into the Navy because the Navy was the way I paid for college.
Sheila Netti: So I had a ROTC, scholarship. They paid for my college and I went on to the Navy. And what I did through that was at that point, I was 21 or so, I decided that 55 was the age I was going to retire. Didn’t know exactly how I was going to do that. But I decided that again, there’s gotta be a way to build wealth. I just decided there had to be a way. And I realized that even with my background, I still believed it was possible. I had already achieved something that no one else had. I’ve gone to college and figured out how to do it. So therefore I knew there had to be a way to get there. So, after my time in the Navy, I had decided I was going to go into information technology, which was new back then, we’re talking, you know, the eighties.
Sheila Netti: 04:19 And so I decided that was the route I was going to go. And I was able to basically Excel and I was able to put money away. And so, with that timeframe, I just went and put money away and put money away. And my husband and I both were really on track since I had a dream of 55. He was on board with that. So we basically just started putting the money away and really stayed focused on that. So we made sure we took advantage of everything that we could. I learned as much as I could about investing. I knew I had to have my money work for me, that just working a job was not going to create enough money that we could retire. And so I really had to figure that out. So not learning that in school, I had to teach myself.
Sheila Netti: So I taught myself everything I could about it. And then probably mid-career someplace in the middle, I realized that something was wrong. I had all this debt and here I am making more than six figures and I have all this debt and I’m looking around my house and saying, where is it? Like, where’s the money? I don’t get it. And I couldn’t figure out why did I have all this debt? But at the same time, we’re putting all this money into retirement, but we also weren’t really living that great of a life, if you will. We would do things. We’d take advantage of nature. So, luckily we love going out in nature, so that’s not very expensive. So, we take the kids and go camping and do things like that.
Sheila Netti: It was great. But when I look around and see debt, where’s the debt? Where’s the money? I’m looking everywhere. So, I realized that there was something I was doing. I finally realized that there was a behavior issue. I had a struggle. I believed that I deserved to have things, but then didn’t realize that I was going really above my means in order to get them. And even then they were just things that would just disappear. I wouldn’t even realize that I had them or I had spent the money on them. And so, once I realized that I had this kind of behavior that I wasn’t even conscious of, then I decided, okay, what do I do to solve this? So I went through, used a lot of different modalities to kind of work through, becoming aware of my behaviors, figuring out what they were, what was triggering them.
Sheila Netti: And then once I did that, I was able to then shift them and shift my beliefs and shift my behaviors so that I no longer created more debt. I was able to go ahead and get out of debt and go ahead and continue on. And now was able to just work through everything. We were still able to have vacations. We were also then still being able to put as much money as we needed a way and create an emergency fund, create all the things that we needed to have to make sure we were secure. And then we hid it. So 20, some 30 something years later, we hid it.
Stephanie McCul…: So, you actually retired at 55.
Sheila Netti: I actually retired at 55. And then once we did that, we traveled, I had a great time that year we traveled, we went all over the place. We visited family in Hawaii and went to Italy and all these things. And then we came back and I was like, okay, that was fun.
Stephanie McCul…: [laughter]
Sheila Netti: But did I have a plan at 55? No, I just had the goal. And that was great. And so I did, but then I didn’t really have a plan. What was I going to do? You know, that whole thing of relaxing and just kind of, you know, doing nothing, It didn’t appeal to me. I’d worked all my life and I still felt like I had a lot to do, a lot with things that I could contribute. And so I decided I would start a business. That way I could still have freedom to some degree and I can still kind of call my own hours. But I would start a business, particularly working with women on how to build wealth, how to do what I did and kind of navigate that. So that’s how I landed. And that’s what I’ve been doing now for five years, almost five years.
Stephanie McCul…: It’s such an amazing story in so many ways. When you were 21 to set that goal. I mean, right now there’s this whole movement of the FIRE people, financial independence retire early, that’s a thing out there, but you decided long before that even existed, I want to be…what do you think was driving you to pick 55, but also to have that desire to be free of the need, to work for money?
Sheila Netti: What I saw when I was growing up. One story sticks in mind. They were these old gentlemen, they kept talking about something pushing them down, like someone or some entity was stopping them from ever succeeding that was stopping them from having a life that they wanted to, that this thing outside of them was really horrible and, was really stopping them from really enjoying that. And they were kind of sickly and everything else and I’m looking at them and I’m trying to figure out why are they letting this thing outside of them stop them. And so, that was my thought process. What was this thing? And so I decided that from that experience, I wasn’t going to let anything outside of me, stop me from doing whatever I wanted to do. And that was really probably the impetus to put into my mind.
Sheila Netti: 10:00 And also my dad was, even though he was working a lot, trying to build a business and working at night, it would also tell me that I could do anything. I could be anything, I can have anything. And so, with all of these thoughts kind of floating in your head and these beliefs kind of cementing, that’s what brought it to me. And I knew that by having more money, I could have a bigger impact on the world. So that was my whole probably goal at the time was that I knew that I could help more people. I could have a bigger impact if I had more money. So how do I do that? At that moment, of course, I had no idea how exactly I was going to do it.
Kevin Gaines: How did you pick 55? Was it just a random number? Was that the retirement age for most career military? Did you even think you were going to be career military, for example.
Sheila Netti: I did think I was going to be career military. And you’re right, usually 30 years is about the time that you usually get out. So it would have been 50 or so. It was interesting though, that probably played a little bit in it because I knew that if I stayed in, I would be retiring. I’d be pretty young actually. And and that would be it, but then once I got out, it seemed like 55 was the age that I was still young enough that I could enjoy my life. And at the same time I could do a lot of things. So I looked at it this way. That’s what my thought process was like. I want to be able to just do whatever I want and still be healthy and still be able to. And, see back then living to what age? You thought you’d live to 80 something at the highest, you know? And so when you think about that, I’m thinking, okay, I want to have some time where I’m just hanging out, playing with the grandkids or whatever and doing whatever I want. I knew that I would still be young enough to be able to do those things and not have a problem.
Kevin Gaines: So Sheila, tell me, what was the conversation like with your husband when you guys, you know, you’re 55, you’re retired and you do your travel and you get back and you go, Oh, crap. Now what?
Sheila Netti: [laughter]
Kevin Gaines: What was that like? Was it like, Oh, we never thought to have that question or the visions of just playing golf or whatever? How was that?
Sheila Netti: It’s interesting you to ask that question because we have very different thoughts of retirement, right? So, when I decided I wasn’t ready to be really retired my husband stayed retired, so he relaxes and does whatever and plays his guitar and enjoys himself and does that kind of stuff, goes fishing and I run my business. So it’s interesting. I think he kinda knew because he knows me, right? That I’m constantly doing something. I can’t just stay still necessarily for long. And so I think he, wasn’t totally surprised that I decided I wanted to run a business, but at the same time, he was like, well, I want to stay retired. I’m like, well, you go right ahead.
All speakers: [laughter]
Sheila Netti: And I’ll go ahead and plan out my year so that I have times where we can go travel together and I can still run my business, which is why I decided to have a business and not go and work for someone else. This way I could have the flexibility to go see my grandkids or go visit my father to make sure he’s okay and be able to still do the things that I need to do. And being able to run the business the way I want to really allows that flexibility. I’ve got the best of both worlds if you will. And that works well for me.
Sheila Netti: And for him gets to enjoy the fact that when I’m ready to take my vacation or he wants to go somewhere, then I can go. And luckily with the internet, I can still be working if I choose. So, it’s been awesome. Kind of a blend if you will. And luckily we want to stay living in San Diego, we love it here. It’s beautiful. So we feel like we’re almost on vacation all the time. So it really makes it easier to be able to kind of blend the two.
Stephanie McCul…: Lots of nice outdoor things to do there year round, right?
Sheila Netti: Exactly. But yeah, it was an interesting conversation, but luckily for me, he understands that this is me and I don’t know when I’ll stop. Probably when I can’t anymore. Because I just love what I’m doing and I can’t wait to talk to my clients and help people with this. So, I’m loving it. To me, it’s just because I love it, why would I not do this? And why would I just hang out and not contribute? I’d be doing something. If I wasn’t running my business, I’d volunteer somewhere or something. And again, he knows that I can’t just sit still. It would drive me nuts.
All speakers: [laughter]
Stephanie McCul…: Yeah. We definitely have a lot of clients like that who can’t imagine not doing something, right? And contributing in some way.
Sheila Netti: Yeah. And this is perfect, where I get to choose my time. I get to choose what my schedule is. So, I think that’s really the key. You do your own thing and that way you can contribute and have fun at the same time. So, I’ve run a jewelry business in the past where I could’ve gone back to jewelry. I thought about that. But then I thought, no this has more impact. This is a legacy. I’m going to be able to do something I’m enjoying it so much.
Stephanie McCul…: 15:42 That’s great. Yeah. We were trying to redefine the word retirement to mean that point where you are no longer obliged to work for money. Right? You have the freedom to do what you would like to do, and maybe that’s still working, but it’s not because you have to.
Sheila Netti: Exactly. That’s what it really is. It became financial freedom for me. And that’s really what it is. Do I have to work? No, I can go to the beach if I wanted to and hang out, but I love what I’m doing and that’s what money to me gives you when you really get to retirement is to be able to do whatever you love to do. And then the stress is gone and now you can just enjoy your life and enjoy what you’re doing. And that’s what the money gives you. And to me, that’s just awesome.
Stephanie McCul…: So I’m so fascinated how you say it like it’s just so easy. We put money away, we put money away. How did you do that? Did you have a target number, a target percentage? Like, what was your process on socking away that money?
Sheila Netti: We maximized how much we could put away. So every year, whatever the government said we could do, we did. And we definitely matched. So, when we were working for corporations, we definitely took advantage of all those matches. I also learned a lot about mutual funds because then, you know, just like probably now in 401ks, you only have choices of mutual funds. You can’t put into individual companies or stocks unless you put in the company you’re working for. And that’s dangerous sometimes in itself. So, basically we maximize that as much as we could then we also chose mutual funds that we could see how the upside, but also low fees. So we paid attention again. I had to teach myself this, right? No one telling you this. So I figured all that out. And luckily when I left my first job first company and I went to the next one.
Sheila Netti: Now I had my own IRA. Once I was able to do that, then I was able to actually really manage it to the point where I could get it into different areas that I couldn’t do in a 401k. And that helped me a lot. We also were able to do some real estate, which allowed us to diversify, really diversify and have some other growth there. So, that’s what helped. Basically leaving that job, and now having an IRA that I could manage was probably pivotal and actually being able to do it. Now, you can still do it working for one company, even in mutual funds. Obviously it is possible, for sure, but it gives us more leverage and more ability to take full advantage of what I was able to analyze and figure out what was the better growth route to go.
Stephanie McCul…: Yeah. When people ask, you know, ‘I’ve left a job, should I roll to my new employer or roll to an IRA?’ One of the things is in an IRA, you have endless investment options, right. You’re not restricted at all.
Sheila Netti: Exactly. So that’s what helped us a lot. And I did do calculations to figure out what that number was, what would we need to get to? And what did that look like? So that’s also what helped us because I knew we were getting closer and closer and that makes it even more fun when you know the number you’re trying to hit and you know, where you need to get to, I think it helps you stay focused.
Kevin Gaines: You just said something interesting that you’d calculated the number. How close was that number, especially when you first started calculating it, how accurate was it to where you ended up and you figured out what you really do need to live on?
Sheila Netti: Not as accurate as I was hoping.
All speakers: [laughter]
Sheila Netti: So no, it wasn’t as accurate when I first started figuring it out, it was a much bigger number. And so I was not sure, but I just kept focused. And then as I got older and things change and we could see the difference and we knew what we would need, the numbers got smaller. So then it became not less and less, but it dropped. And once we realized that, okay, we only needed a certain amount to get there. We’re like, Oh, we’re almost there. [laughter] So yeah, that’s what helped. But yeah, the numbers in the beginning is not the same number, at least for us, that I found at the end.
Stephanie McCul…: That’s interesting. It seems like maybe you didn’t go through the kind of lifestyle inflation that a lot of people do, right? As their income goes up, when they’re younger, they think they can live on a smaller amount. And then as their income goes up, they tend to inflate their standards of living and the things they expect and the things that become necessities to fit that amount. So, the amount they quote unquote need to live on tends to inflate over time where it sounds like maybe yours deflated.
Sheila Netti: 20:25 It did actually. We found out that we didn’t need as much. Our house is almost paid off, so we didn’t really need that. And I only keep it to reduce the taxes.
Kevin Gaines: [short laughter]
Sheila Netti: And for the most part, that’s what we figured out. We actually needed less, not more because we really don’t, you know, traveling a couple of times a year and doing some other stuff where luckily we’re kind of homebodies.
Stephanie McCul…: Yeah.
Sheila Netti: So we’re into nature. Again, not expensive. So, for the most part, what we needed to enjoy ourselves with very much smaller than what we thought. So, that helped dramatically because we weren’t doing that. And I also learned along the way that living outside your means is the problem. And so, that’s a big problem. You really have to work on figuring out living below your means, but still enjoying your life and it’s possible.
Stephanie McCul…: Yeah.
Sheila Netti: And I think a lot of people get caught up in all these things because there’s so much consumerism everywhere. Believe me. I get caught in it too. So, we have to realize where does this fit in my priorities. Which is how I made my decisions. It was all about my priorities. Does this fit my priority? No. Okay. Don’t need that. It makes the decisions really easy. If you figure out what your priorities are and whether this really is taking you toward it or moving you away from it. And that’s really what helped us a lot. I decided that if something was moving me away, then it wasn’t necessary.
Kevin Gaines: Going back to something else you said about taking advantage of being able to roll your retirement account into your IRA and you were able to manage it and it sounds like you had some pretty good success with that. And that works great for you. Do you enjoy investing or did you consider it a necessary evil or what was your approach to you dealing with your own investments?
Sheila Netti: I actually enjoyed it. So that helped. And I’m naturally curious. Maybe that’s the whole science part of me. And so I was actually curious what changes, although it doesn’t work like science, unfortunately.
All speakers: [laughter].
Kevin Gaines: Not at all.
Sheila Netti: I did have my little time in day trading and playing around with that, but I’d play with that outside of my retirement. That was not in my retirement. My retirement was not treated like that. I never touched it in that way. And simply because I had goals, I had to make sure they’re going to meet it. And I did not feel like I wanted to take that chance. For me, if you’re going to make decisions around it, you could be the next Buffett, but Buffett is very, very conservative. So if you stick with that, then that means you paid attention, bought companies that are good companies that are going to be around for a while. You’ve done your due diligence on them. You feel comfortable and you’ve got to stick with them for years.
Stephanie McCul…: Yeah.
Sheila Netti: That’s the way Buffett made his money. And that’s actually how I’ve done a lot of my money. He became kind of like my mentor, if you will. I followed quite closely because I feel like he’s such a good person in a sense that he made his money from not hurting anyone else. Right? And so that was key for me to have people I could look at and say, how did they do it? And they didn’t hurt anyone along the way in order to make that money. That’s what helped me, was watching him and saying, okay, you buy stocks in good companies that are going to be around that show, good growth and stick with them and don’t mess with it and don’t touch it. Even if it goes down and up, don’t touch. And I think it takes a certain amount of discipline, but also competence in your plan so that you feel like, okay, this plan is good.
Sheila Netti: I know I’m okay. The market’s going to go up and down. This is what happens and just feel really comfortable with that, knowing that that’s the way it works. So, that helps. And then when I was playing with my little day trading, I had my little fun outside of this that I did. And I have to admit, I did not enjoy that. That gets boring to me. That got boring, real fast.
Kevin Gaines: [laughter]
Sheila Netti: Because staring at a screen all day. Yeah. That got tiring. I mean, I could see how someone easily could lose interest in that, which is why to me, the bigger plan is the more important where you put this money to work for you and you let it work. You don’t mess with it. Unless something in your plan says, okay, this one is not performing where I needed to be.
Sheila Netti: So now I need to move this someplace else. Well, this company has taken a dive or something happened and now I need to move this someplace else. I think the biggest thing is making sure that you take these things outside of you. If something doesn’t go right, it has nothing to do with you personally. It’s what’s happened. I never took any of the movements or any of the downsides or the mistakes I’ve made because I made mistakes, personally. Okay, all right. I made a mistake. Let me see whatever company I should invest in, move this money over there and then go with it. If you let it affect you personally, and you get emotional. One thing I found is money and emotion don’t mix. You stick with your rules, you stick with the way you have it planned. You remove that from it. And then things go well. If you decide to let emotions drive you, when it comes to making decisions around your money, it can spell bad news, in my experience.
Stephanie McCul…: 25:57 And yet that’s really hard, right? Because we’re human. And that kind of takes me where I want to go. Next. As important as you are investing prowess, was realizing the pattern that you had gotten yourself into of the overspending and digging into what was going on there. I think it’s so fascinating. You were socking a ton of money away for retirement. While at the same time you were probably spending more than you should have. Can you talk a little bit about what you learned in that investigation?
Sheila Netti: Well, I learned first of all, that if you make a mistake it doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the world.
Stephanie McCul…: Yeah.
Sheila Netti: I was making a mistake, I’ve been doing it for years, right? Overspending for years. And so it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person, that this thing has something to do again with you. I didn’t realize I had these beliefs or behaviors that were causing me a problem. And most people are on automatic pilot. They don’t even know that they’re doing these things. That’s what I really realized. Once I realized that it was a behavior, I didn’t even know I was doing that’s what released the ‘you’re a terrible person.’ I didn’t know. Now, once you’re aware and you don’t do anything about it, that’s definitely a different story.
Stephanie McCul…: [laughter]
Sheila Netti: Right? But when you’re aware and you say, okay, now I know I’m doing this, I’m overspending. I’m trying to fix something with money that has nothing to do with money. Once I realized that, then I did what I needed to do to fix the problem, deal with the emotional issues I was hoping money was going to fix. When I realized that I just made the change. I’m not saying it was easy. Okay.
Stephanie McCul…: Right.
Sheila Netti: So, I’m not going to ever say that this was a simple, easy fix. And I overnight just fixed the problem. It took a little bit of time, you know, probably several months for me to really work through all of the emotions, all of the behaviors to really figuring it out.
Stephanie McCul…: That’s pretty quick, I would say.
Sheila Netti: Well, that’s probably because of my personality. Once I identify an issue, then I am going to grab onto it and figure it out and what do I do to fix it? And I won’t stop until I fix it. So that’s really part of what allowed me to do it in just a couple of months. Now, of course, did that debt go in just a couple months. No, it took a little longer to get rid of. But I also made sure that I removed that and I didn’t do that cycle again, which unfortunately happens with a lot of people where they’ll get rid of the debt, but then they’ll go back into doing it again, you know? And then they beat themselves up again and then they do it again. And so it’s a horrible, vicious cycle that has to be broken. And once you break it and you really get out of that cycle, but I think a lot of people can’t get out of that until they really uncover what is really driving their behavior and their decisions around that. And until you do you, most of the time can’t break the cycle.
Stephanie McCul…: And like you said, so much of it is autopilot and unconscious, right? We don’t really have that awareness of the emotions that are driving our behaviors.
Stephanie McCul…: You used a word that I hear a lot. You were spending on things that you felt like you deserved. I think a trap a lot of us fall into. Could you talk a little bit more about that?
Sheila Netti: Well, you know, I was working hard, working 60-hour weeks and you think that, okay, you deserve to spend, you know, you’re making all this money and you’re tired and you’re working hard and you see something you really believe you want, this expensive, whatever it is. And I was always convincing myself, well, you’re buying higher quality items. So therefore the last longer, you know, so you’re not buying a lot of them. Well, if you buy a $500 purse, if you’re doing it here doing it out there, it can get pretty pricey pretty fast. So what I realized is that I didn’t need to pay myself with things. I didn’t need to solve or to feel better with things I shifted to experiences away from things. Experiences, didn’t cost as much, at least for me, and they can be for your pricing, depends on your experiences and where you want to go.
Sheila Netti: 30:15 But for me, they weren’t that pricey. And so it shifted the behavior because what I really wanted was just to relax, to just feel like, okay, this has been worth it. All the hard work is worth it. I was trying to solve that with buying things, but really that wasn’t going to do it. I needed to find a way to relax and a way to enjoy myself that didn’t require me to buy something and realizing that that really wasn’t dealing with the emotions that I was really trying to handle. That wasn’t doing it. And it wasn’t, it was just stuff. And then I’d get rid of this stuff. So what’s the point. And I think that’s what it is. Stuff doesn’t fix emotions. Stuff, doesn’t solve it. And that’s what I found and that’s what helped me kind of get out of that and realize I need to spend my energy on other things versus on that.
Kevin Gaines: So, what did you find harder: saving or stop spending? Because you said you set the goal of retire for savings, and then you said, ‘I need to adjust. I need to pay down debt.’ Not so much stop spending. It was paying down the debt. What was more challenging?
Sheila Netti: Paying down the debt was probably more challenging, for sure. The saving was easy because that was on automatic pilot for the most part. I had a decision. I’d made a decision, I pushed it out there and I had it happening, whether I did anything over here, that was happening, period. So yeah, paying down the debt took a little bit of energy to do and to also make it permanent so that it didn’t fall back into it, again. That is the hardest thing I think. Because you can make yourself be very, very frugal for a short period of time to get you through and get rid of the debt. And you’ll do it. Because you’re like, I gotta get rid of it. But if you’re doing that at the same time, you’re also living. So, something happens, you know, you need a new for me, a house, you know, I need a new HVAC system or I need something that needs to be fixed.
Sheila Netti: And all of a sudden you’ve got this huge expense that came out of nowhere in a sense. But luckily I had an emergency fund. So that helps me with that. I didn’t touch the emergency fund to pay the debt either. So that had to come from somewhere else, which meant I had to stop spending money on other things so that I got rid of the debt from that versus messing with, you know, changing or grabbing from my emergency fund. I ended up unfortunately needing that cause I ended up with cancer and I needed to be able to pull the money from that. If I hadn’t had that emergency fund, I was probably going back into debt for the medical bills.
Stephanie McCul…: Oh my goodness, I didn’t know that part of your story.
Sheila Netti: Yeah. I had breast cancer. Gosh, now it’s been a while I was in my forties. I was 40. Luckily we caught it really early, but I ended up with all sorts of treatments, all the things I had to go through. I had insurance, but you still have to pay a lot for out of pocket, even with insurance. And so, my emergency fund allowed me to take the time off from work and also take care of me, do some alternative therapies to help mend. And so, if I hadn’t had that, I would have had other issues. So it’s really important that, you know, we don’t plan on these things, but at the same time we should plan on having the fund. You don’t plan on what it’s going to be needed for, but by having the funds, it really saved me from stressing. I didn’t have to stress. I had the money,
Stephanie McCul…: So that could have thrown off your whole plan, right?
Sheila Netti: It could have, easily. And yet at the same time, because I, again, figured out you create a safety net, you make sure you have an emergency fund for any number of things. And I always had at least six months of expenses in there. So that way we were fine.
Kevin Gaines: Did you make any adjustments to your plan after the cancer? Did you have to say, well, maybe I need to move to nine months or six months is more than enough. I can reduce it to three or four months. Did that impact your thinking of your overall plan at all? When you came across not so much that it was cancer, but at this big expense in the middle of your accumulation?
Sheila Netti: Well, it confirmed that I needed to have that much money right there available. So I never reduced it. I kept it the same. I determined that he didn’t need more. So that was a good thing. Because at the time I was trying to build it to 12 months. Because you never know if you lose a job or something else comes up. And so I was really being safe, but at the same time I realized six months was fine. I still had money after I was done and I still had money in that fund. So, it turned out that it was okay. But I have to admit, I did think about it and I realized that that was perfect. I needed exactly that amount and I would never let it go down. So obviously you use it, but then get it back up as soon as possible.
Stephanie McCul…: 35:27 So I love the thing that you said earlier on, about having kind of made this discovery or came across this belief that if you had more money, it would enable you to make a bigger impact in the world. And I feel like that’s what you’re doing now with your coaching practice.
Sheila Netti: Yeah. That’s exactly what it is. Now with the coaching practice, I’m just loving working with women and couples because I ended up working with everyone. But I do focus on women particularly because the focus of my practice is really about helping people, not just the person I’m working with, but their families, their children, so that we can change the conversation around money on a generational level. It is so important that we shift this, I think. And I feel like because we’re not taught anything in school about money, which I think is such a travesty that we are not taught. This is not rocket science. Believe me. I know, right? This is something that we should all be taught so that we have the basics and I don’t know why we’re not. And so this is my way of having as much of an impact as I can.
Sheila Netti: I’m actually working with another person to try and create a program for women who can’t afford to work with me privately, who would at least have the basis of education. And then once they get to a level where, okay, they’re making a certain amount of money and they need the next steps, they could work with me or someone else that you have that ability. But getting the most out of it would be, the knowledge on how to grow their knowledge, how to learn more in a way that’s effective because now you’re in a day with a lot of information that is not relevant, that’s not correct. And so, you have to be able to discern which one is going to release put you on the right path. That’s the goal. That’s one of my goals is to create that program so that we can help everyone, as many people as I can and impact. But really, the legacy is to change this on a generational level. I think it’s terrible that this country, the wealthiest country in the world and what are we doing? We don’t teach people how to really build wealth. We save that somehow for the small percentage who figures it out or happens to live in a family that have money and teaching them.
Stephanie McCul…: And we really are on our own anymore. They send you off. If you’re lucky enough to go to college, they send you off into the world and, Oh, here’s some credit cards and here’s rent and here’s some income, go figure it out for yourself. It’s sink or swim. There’s no pensions anymore. There’s very little social safety net, so we really do have figure it out. What was the conversation in your household like with your kids around money? What, how did you endeavor to teach them?
Sheila Netti: I think they saw me because my kids are really savers except for one. One, didn’t get the message, but you’re going to have one.
All speakers: [laughter]
Sheila Netti: But the other three, definitely. They saw it and I talked about it. Not to a huge extent, probably not as much as I wish I had because I didn’t realize or think about it, but I know that they saw me. So they’re watching you. And so they’re watching everything, they’re picking it up, they’re seeing what you’re doing. Some of them are not, and I think it’s important that parents really do talk about what they’re doing. So the kids really have a chance to understand what they’re actually going on. It can’t be a conversation that you’re just having amongst yourselves, you know, husband and wife, and you’re not talking to your kids about it, particularly when they’re ready, probably middle school and older. You know, you can do some basic stuff, but what I really love that I’ve seen is people starting to give kids a little bit of an investment account.
Sheila Netti: So they start to learn about investments and they start to kind of get a taste of it. And I think that’s really important because then the earlier you can start them in that and really understanding something about it. They might grow an interest in it and really learn about it even more. So, I think that’s really the key is getting them involved as soon as possible, when they’re probably ready to get involved, so they don’t go off to college, they start handing them credit cards and they don’t even know what to do with them. Or they end up buying this and buying that, and that’s not really what they want. I’m really proud of some of my grandchildren who have definitely started…well, they bought a house already at 20 something and they own a house. And so, they picked it up and learned and definitely got the message. So, it’s happening in my family. So that’s nice.
Stephanie McCul…: That’s amazing. You mentioned real estate investing. How has that played a role in your plan? That’s something as financial planners we’re not taught so much about. So, I’m curious to learn your experience.
Sheila Netti: Well, I only had a short time that I had that particular real estate investment. I wish I had held on to it a lot longer, but I have more real estate investments now than I did when I was younger. And you’re right, that’s something that we’re not taught. And I had to learn a little bit more about that. But I think it’s a really important way to diversify because that was the whole reason I wanted to hold onto the property was because it allowed diversification. It was another investment that wasn’t tied to the stock market that allowed it to not move with it most of the time. And so I caveat that ‘most of the time.’.
All speakers: Right. [laughter]
Sheila Netti: 40:53 And so it allowed you to have another investment. It just depends on how much energy you have because that can be more work, but there are passive investments that you can do that aren’t as involved because it is more involvement I’d say, than the stock market. So, you know, you can put your money and buy something and let it ride if you will. But when it comes to real estate investment, you’re more involved in it. And so you really have to have the willingness to be more involved in paying attention to it. And especially if it’s a single family home or if it’s something else, but I believe that there’s also other types of investments for people who don’t want to have that hands-on involvement. It’s passive investments that you can get involved in that will allow you to diversify, but you don’t have to be the one managing the company, managing the property like managers and all that other stuff.
Stephanie McCul…: Right. Getting the call at 2 a.m. for the clogged toilet.
Sheila Netti: Exactly. You don’t have to deal with that. Yeah, that’s what I did do. I had a property manager, so I did not get involved in that, which I would say definitely if you had a single family home, that’s what you’d want. But that’s what allowed me to at least see that I could have diversification in other areas and how much involvement. I just determined. I didn’t want to be that involved in it. So I went out and found passive ones. But of course you have to do your due diligence in that. And again, you’re not taught how to do that, so you have to learn it and really learn from reputable, I’d say mentors who can really help you understand and find the fit that’s for you.
Kevin Gaines: Well, it’s impressive that it sounds like you always had this awareness of not so much your limitations, but what you were willing to do regarding saving and investing that you didn’t, going back to our earlier conversation of, Oh, well, I’m going to invest like this and then lose interest. Rather, you stuck with it. But like you said, you used a property manager because you know you didn’t want to get involved with the day-to-day wear and tear and those little issues. I think that’s important for people to understand is what works for somebody doesn’t always work for you. It’s good to know your limitations or your capacity to do either through time or effort.
Sheila Netti: I totally agree. Yeah. I definitely figured out what I didn’t like, what I did like. So, I think that’s important, but again, it comes back to having the funds to be able to make the decision as to which one you want and which one’s going to work for you where if you don’t have them you have to go with whatever. And my first thing I did is I went in it without it, because I didn’t have the funds to be able to set that up. But once I did, property manager, because then I’m not dealing with this day-to-day stuff. And I think it’s important that people do figure out what works for them because that’s, what’s going to make you successful. Right? So, if you feel like it’s drudgery, then you’re not going to do it, which means it’s gonna fail and it’s gonna have a problem and you’re going to have an issue. Whereas if you feel like this fits, this works, I like this, then it’s perfect because then you’ll do what you need to do to make sure it’s successful. I think that’s really, then probably helped me the most to be successful is the fact that I figured out what I was willing to do and what I wasn’t willing to do by working a 60 hour work week, there’s a limit as to how much energy I have outside of work.
Kevin Gaines: There are only so many hours in the day.
Sheila Netti: Exactly. So there was really not a whole lot else I could be doing. And so it had to be a way to manage it that didn’t require me to do it, but I have to admit having a job that, I’m making six figures. It helps. It helped to make it easier to be able to do that. But I went after that and I think that’s the key, whether you’re working a job, whether you’re working in a business, whatever that is, you have to go out and go after what you need in order to make all of this successful.
Stephanie McCul…: What would you say is the biggest challenge that your coaching clients face in building their wealth and getting their arms around their own money mindset?
Sheila Netti: I think the biggest challenge that awareness piece that I talked about before – being aware of their behaviors. Most people are not. And because they don’t realize that they’re on automatic pilot, they don’t realize that they’re doing some of the things that are actually destroying their efforts. You know? So it’s like that analogy of having a foot on the gas and the brake at the same time, that’s kind of what I find sometimes that they’re doing. So there’s definitely that and we have to work through that and get them past that, or get them through it, if you will. Where they are so aware of their behaviors. Now I take them through a process where we actually shift the behaviors, shift the beliefs around it, so that now they can take action into the quote unquote hard stuff. When we start getting into the money management, we start getting into managing your numbers.
Sheila Netti: 46:07 What are your numbers? What do you want? What does that look like? How much is that going to cost because people have dreams, but they don’t figure out what is it going to cost to get there and having this kind of nebulous idea of what it is going to be. That’s the one that I never had. I had a concrete number, a concrete thing I would go in after. That’s really the key, I think. And so what I find with working with them is getting them to really get to that point of them knowing what is their number at least for today, what is that number that you’re reaching for so that you have a focus.
Stephanie McCul…: Awesome. Sheila, anything else you’d like to leave our audience with? And please tell us how people can find you.
Sheila Netti: The easy way is my website: www.sheilanetti.com. That’s going to be the best way to reach me. You can go ahead and get my free gift on my site. It’s three surprising ways that professional women stop themselves from reaching their financial goals. That would be the best way to reach out to me through that. They can also contact me there as well.
Kevin Gaines: And we’re going to have that address with our show notes. So it’ll be easy to find for all of our listeners.
Sheila Netti: Awesome.
Stephanie McCul…: Any last messages, anything you wanted to say that we didn’t get to?
Sheila Netti: I think the only thing is to be competent in your ability to be powerful with money. That’s probably the biggest thing.
Stephanie McCul…: I like that because a lot of women don’t feel powerful. They feel almost kind of a pawn to money. Like money is controlling them as opposed to the other way around.
Sheila Netti: There’s definitely the other way around if you take the lead.
Stephanie McCul…: Yes, yes. And it doesn’t have to be scary.
Sheila Netti: Exactly. It does not have to be scary at all.
Stephanie McCul…: Awesome. That’s a perfect note to end on.
Kevin Gaines: 47:54 Now I gotta say that was interesting. Talking to somebody who was part of the FIRE Movement before it even had a name, somebody who set an objective early and stuck with it, which is, I want to point this out, highly unusual when it comes to planning for life in retirement. Normally just things change a lot.
Stephanie McCul…: Well, I think it’s highly unusual for human beings around money, right? All the research tells us that we are not wired for that deferred gratification. What I loved is that she adjusted her behavior, right? When she realized, ‘Hey, something’s wrong. I’m saving lots of money and I’m still going into debt. What the heck is happening?’ She identified the problem and then changed it. Wow, that is unusual.
Kevin Gaines: Yeah. The self realization. That’s hard for even the best of us to. She definitely has to be complimented for that. And, I almost feel like we should put a disclaimer on this episode saying ‘these results are not typical’ or, all the silly things you see on commercials. This is an unusual success story on many levels, but it definitely points out things that we can do better, things to think about that you just may not come across in normal conversation.
Stephanie McCul…: Right. I love that this is what she does with people in her coaching. I think she realizes ‘wow, I had the ability to do this. And I kind of knew what it took to dig in and I can help other people do that too.’ Which is awesome.
Kevin Gaines: Right. But the biggest thing is her definition of retirement is our definition of retirement, which isn’t anything very precise. It is doing the things you want to do, not the things you have to do. She wants to work with people on retirement. She wants to stay busy and active her husband, less so, but that’s their definition. And that’s really part of what we’re helping you do on these conversations is helping you figure some of this stuff out.
Stephanie McCul…: And do it on your own terms. And I realized that your story is going to look different from Sheila’s and different from Kevin’s and different from mine. And that’s completely okay. But some of the commonalities are the becoming aware of your own patterns, and realizing. I think she fell into that really common trap of the, ‘I deserve it. Darn it, I’m working super hard. I deserve the fancy bag,’ when it took an uncommon level of self-awareness to realize, ‘oh, what I really want isn’t the bag. It’s the relaxation and that feeling that the hard work is worth it.’
Kevin Gaines: Right. And then the status. And again, we always say, money is a tool, it’s a vehicle to something, it’s not the end all to be all complimenting her on her awareness that she saw what was really happening and made adjustments on the fly. Good for her.
Stephanie McCul…: All right. Thanks for being with us. It’s goodbye from me
Kevin Gaines: And it’s goodbye from her. Goodbye.