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How a Real Life H.E.N.R.Y.™ Got Her Financial Sh*t Together

So, real talk, I am not amazing with my money. I live outside of Washington, DC in NoVa, and while I make about 90k a year (which sounds awesome on paper), my savings account had like $1200. That’s it. I was just coasting along--no major debt, but no major savings either. I traveled all over the world. I ate out when I felt like it. I bought new shoes when I wanted new shoes. I'd donate to charity. I'd sometimes do REALLY good saving for a few months...but then have to clean out my account when unexpected expenses came up. (Tore my ACL! Flights to Iceland were REALLY cheap! Squirrels created a nest in my attic!) And in those cases, my savings didn’t always cover my disasters. $900 in Squirrel Trapping fees one month; $200 in treating my friends to brunch at Farmers Fishers & Bakers in Georgetown the next month. I wasn’t in crazy debt, but my savings account also wasn’t growing any bigger either.

I knew better. I knew I could be better. I knew what I needed to do, too. At least, I thought I knew I what I needed to do. Make a budget. Automate my savings. But the thought of slogging through it alone—I felt overwhelmed. Then, at the same time, I kept seeing articles written by Priya floating around some of the pop culture sites that I read. I felt like she was speaking to my soul--my exact situation. And she said they hate budgeting because it doesn’t work. First of all, a financial person telling you not to budget it pretty amazing. Plus, I was someone who was a High Earner...but I was definitely Not Rich Yet. I was torn between knowing I needed to be better about saving, but also wanting to live my life to the fullest. Stash seemed to be preaching my perfect money mantra – don’t compromise, have it all, live life and spend my money without feeling guilt – okay, what was this magic financial system that would make all my money dreams come true?

Stash seemed a little too good to be true and I took a few weeks really thinking about if I wanted to do Stash. My biggest concern was being truthful with someone about my money situation. I didn't want to be judged because I'd frittered away most of my 20's with trips overseas and Nordstrom Anniversary Sales. But I knew I needed to bite the bullet and get help with planning the rest of my life.

Here is the first email I ever sent to Stash. (This is the actual transcript.)

*Subject: I have commitment issues.

Body: Your name/website has popped up on my radar a few times in the last week--I'm a fan of Taylor Strecker (Wake Up with Taylor on SiriusXM), but then also read a great review of you on Refinery29..... (totally blanking on the website name now...but it was good!)

I tend to be someone who jumps into things right away if it sounds cool, but the price tag of that jump is making me a little hesitant.

I make good money, but I'm kind of terrible at saving. I do a good job for a little while...but then I see a great deal on a trip to Iceland or see a handbag I've dreamed about go on sale, and then I just clean it out and start all over. (Also, I had some not so fun medical situations come up--like tearing my ACL last year. -insert monkey covering eyes emojii face- )

I think another part of it is that....stocks and investing all sound like a foreign language to me. My dad and brother are both super into it, and they helped me set up a little IRA account to buy stocks with.... but I just am so...not good at keeping up with it.

From reading your website, it seems like you get about a month of planning for the $800. I think that'd be really helpful for me... but I also was hoping to have more than just that. I worked for a wealth management in college, and they did a lot of trading/investing with accounts...

(Note: I found out you definitely get more than just a month of planning. It’s…forever! Literally—they will be your advisors forever.)

Okay, honestly, I don't know what exactly I'm asking. I need help, but I'm nervous to spend that much money on something that isn't from Nordstrom. I think I need reassurance.

Sorry, and thanks!

The fact that Priya read my neurotic email and still thought she could help me...you guys. That was a huge deal.

From the initial emails of me trying to figure out if this was the right move for me, the entire Stash team was understanding and encouraging. My worst fears of being judged...they never happened. Instead, she/they GOT me. She knew exactly the struggles I was having with enjoying life but being smart with my money...and I started to realize that this might not be so bad after all.

Because I'm based out of the DC area, all my meetings with Stash were virtual. You'll set up a series of meetings to establish your baseline, plan next steps, and finally execute your customized plan for your life. You’ll get homework to turn in before each meeting. My downside? There are lots of forms to fill out that force you to take a very honest look at your bank accounts--something I always HATED doing. I was never overdrawn, but I also knew if I connected my accounts to something like Mint, I’d have to face the fact I spent more on brunch in a month than I had left in my savings account. Writing down exactly what I spent in each category--(Lawn Care? Presents? Medical Bills? UGH.)…it wasn’t the most fun thing I’ve done in my life. But, so worth it. I basically shoved 23,421 sets of random numbers at Priya, and by our next meeting, she’d turned my budget into a living, breathing plan.

One piece of financial advice I’d always heard was to pay yourself first. (And that apparently does not mean you pay yourself in new Lululemon leggings.) You pay your future self first—putting aside the savings you’ll need one day. My top goal for my financial life was to automate my savings so that I didn't have to stress about the health of my accounts. Instead of throwing all my extra money into a savings account each month and then having to withdrawal it all later when I misjudged how much I had left over in my checking account, now I have a customized plan for each paycheck that easily solves all my worries. Emergency Fund... Investment Accounts...Travel Fund—everything just flows exactly where it needs to go, and I don't have to think twice about it.

The plan didn’t stop there for me either. Once we got my budget working, we started talking about my future. What did I want out of life? Did I ever want to build a vacation home? Buy a yacht? Go on a cruise around the world? Buy a mini-horse? They wanted to know it all—all my hopes and dreams and things I thought could be cool. (We covered serious things too—did I want a big wedding? Did I want to save for my future children’s college fund?) I’d never had to think seriously about my future—that was seven million years away. But, they had a point. I’d probably want a new car at some point. What if I could save a little for it each month now? Then in ten years, I could buy a new car WITH CASH. (I’d definitely carry it in a briefcase because when else can you carry thousands of dollars in a briefcase?)

Overall, I've loved my experience working with the team so far. Priya, Rob, and Mary have been so fun to work with--even virtually. It's like working with non-judgey friends who also are geniuses at managing money. They made me feel more comfortable and confident with each subsequent meeting.

Again, I know, it's a chunk of change up front, but it's so worth it. If anything I’ve admitted about myself resonates with you, then Stash is the place for you. It’s going to be painful at first. It might be embarrassing to admit that you should have more to show for your life other than having amassed every nautical print ever released by Lilly Pulitzer. (Which is one of my actual life achievements.)

But the earlier you can get your financial life in order, the bigger your nest egg will be when you’re ready to retire. You don’t have to live in debt or in constant fear of checking your banking app. If you take the leap of faith into the Stash Plan, you won’t be disappointed. Pinky swear.

Disclaimer: I am an actual client of Stash. I was not paid for this review.