Meet JoAnneh Nagler, this month’s Lady Lennia! JoAnneh is a Debt-Free Living Coach, writer, and artist. She was a fund developer and grantwriter for more than 20 years, writing for causes in economic development, housing, health, human rights, youth, arts and the environment. She has written for Rob Reiner’s I Am Your Child Campaign, and for the Oprah Winfrey Use Your Life Award-Winner Food from the ‘Hood in Los Angeles, among many others. Her artistry has included musicianship (itunes.com, cdbaby.com), abstract expressionist painting (naglerarts.com), and writing (scripts, essays and articles). For the past eight years, she has been a personal Debt-Free Living Coach, helping individuals and couples learn how to use The Debt-Free Spending Plan to revolutionize their relationship with money. JoAnneh is happily married to her husband Michael, a writer, teacher and activist.
What makes you a professional in the world of Finance?
I wrote a book called The Debt-Free Spending Plan: An Amazingly Simple Way to Take Control of Your Finances Once and For All (Amacom Books, New York.) Press folks often ask me, “Do you have a finance background?” to which I reply, “No! I have a DEBT background!” What made me write the book was simple: I tanked with debt about a decade ago—the whole meltdown, and had to start over, building from zero. When I went into the personal finance world and looked for help, it was all about investing. For me that was like telling a drowning person who can’t float to swim to shore. Invest? In what dream-world? I could barely pay my bills and keep everything afloat month to month! I needed help! I came up with a five-minute-a-day plan to cover ALL MY NEEDS, including a vacation, while paying off my debt. I knew my plan could not ask me to engage in self-deprivation or it would never stick. So the plan asks me to use my creativity—not my credit cards—to live as well as I can on the money I earn.
If you had a personal mission statement, what would it be?
It was one of my best friends who told me, “You have to write this plan down. You need to put this in a book. This plan has changed my life and my marriage for the better.” That’s what got me—in my heart. That something I came up with was actually working in my friends’ lives, that it was beginning to reach larger circles, and that it was really helping people who tend to go blank with their money. So my mission is really about relieving people of the fear they may have about looking at their “numbers”—about giving them the tools they need to calm their minds, their hearts and their souls. You’ll be amazed how much ease comes into your heart when you just stop adding to the debt balances each month. My ultimate goal is to promote happiness in marriages. This plan changed my husband and I forever. I call it “The Aphrodisiac Quality of a Spending Plan.” We divorced, in large part over our money and debt issues, and the pressure and lack of choices that resulted from debt. After more than a decade apart, we got back together with a promise to never use credit cards or personal borrowing again. In seven year, we have not had one fight about money. NOT ONE. That’s a huge thing! And, it has done wonders for our sex life. Without that big debt elephant in the room, it’s a very sweet swoon into the bedroom.
Where did you attend college?
California State University Long Beach, B.A. in Psychology, nominated as Outstanding Senior in Psychology.
What department of Finance do you specialize in? Is there a specific reason why you picked that area?
I specialize in helping people with debt issues. What I say is this: no matter what the damage level, the most important skill we have to learn is how to live well on the cash we earn. It’s what I call “proportional spending.” In other words, yes, I’m going to look for ways to get my daily needs met in less expensive ways (e.g., a massage at the massage school, a wax at the neighborhood place for $45 versus $200, a car wash at $6.95 versus $18.95) so that I can allocate more money to the things that are meaningful to me. Like a vacation. Like a new computer paid for in cash. Like a monthly yoga membership. I want to learn to live as well as I can on what I earn, pay down debt slowly and steadily, and not add to balances ever again. Balances create stress. Stress creates havoc. Havoc ruins relationships, well-being, and saps our happiness. Here’s scary statistic; 40% of middle-to-low income folks in America use credit cards to fund their daily needs. We’re not talking luxuries, here. And 44% of small business owners use credit to fund supplies and expenses. (creditcards.com) That’s a lot of stress! I choose not to be one of the stressed-out folks anymore. And I help people make that choice for ease and present-moment happiness by learning to live debt-free and well on what they earn.
What has been your biggest struggle in achieving your goals? How are you overcoming it?
My biggest struggle in life has been figuring out how to be a writer and an artist in a world that encourages me to be something else. In a world that wants me to have a day job I don’t like. It has been my great joy to find out that living within my means—without debt—has bought me TIME to live the way I choose to. I now write (debtfreespendingplan.com), paint (naglerarts.com) and make music (cdbaby.com/nagler). I teach yoga. I love my life. I just wrote my first play. I’m thrilled about living my life now. I live simply but I have enough. That’s a revolution of the heart for me and it has changed everything for the better.
What inspires you?
Truly, I have so many ideas I can’t get them down fast enough. I have learned that by paying my dues—sitting down with a timer for 1 hour a day and writing when I have an idea—that the muse will always come to me. In other words, by living debt-free and buying myself time,, I get to explore the gifts I was given, and find ways to express them. I have learned discipline, and the freedom to explore—two sides of the same coin for me. I had no idea if my debt book would sell, so I sat down 1 hour a day, four days a week, for a year and a half and that’s how it got written. I can now give myself permission to do what my heart is calling me to do. I stay solvent, I do what I’m called to do, and I stay healthy and happy that way.
What would you write for Miss Millennia Magazine’s readers?
Take your interests seriously. Give yourself room to explore them. Let your mantra be “Slow, Steady Steps.” Do not engage in debt EVER to fund your creativity or your entrepreneurship. I talk about this a lot in my book. Here’s what happens when you put the cart before the horse and use debt to kick-start a venture; Let’s say you have a children’s clothing line you’re starting, and instead of leaving it in your kitchen for three more years while it builds slowly, you engage in debt to ramp up the space, the equipment, etc. You go into debt say, $50,000 or $100,00 or more, and you task your wares into the world. You now have so much pressure on you that you are desperate to succeed right out of the box, and the world just doesn’t work that way. So now, you’re deep in debt, under pressure, desperate for cash, and your desperation tends to—you guessed it—make you fail. Don’t do it! Go slow. Let it build. Treat your projects like children that you are training to stand on their own two feet. Fund everything in cash as you go, even if that means going slower. It will bring sanity, serenity and ease to your process, and you will be able to have a good life while you do it. Add debt to the mixture and you won’t.
Do you feel like you can inspire women in their 20′s and 30′s? If so how would you go about doing this?
(Some of this I answered in the ‘What inspires you’ question, and question above.) For women in 20’s and 30’s: Start saving. Even if you put away $10 or $20 per paycheck, save it in a retirement account or even a savings account. Just do it and don’t think about it. Then, pay attention to what you love. Don’t buy into the “do what you love and the money will follow’ thing. It may or it may not. But get a job you like or feel good about, and work on your interests. What do you love? What do you want to explore? Don’t choose between your gifts. Just explore them. We’re meant to leave it all in the field. It’s a long life, and there is much to give and share. Start now with your true interests. Want to sing? Great. Tale a class. Love tinkering with music recording? Great. Take a class or volunteer as an apprentice. Want your own children’s clothing line? Terrific. Investigate local designers and go ask them questions. Make it practical and real.
Who does Lady Lennia represent to you?
Good honest direction. Guidance. The importance of women mentoring women.
Why would you make a great Lady Lennia for the Money & Finance edition?
I’m a perfect example of how living without debt can change your life. I remarried my ex-husband, with a promise to engage in no more debt, and we’re happy. I changed my life to live within my means, and now I get to do more of my artistry instead of less. I have less pressure, less angst, and more joy than I have ever had in my life. I cannot say it loudly enough: learning to live within my means has changed my world, my world-view, and my life. What I say to those I work with is this: “Happiness is calling. I’d step up.”