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About This Episode

S

tella Oliveras is an investment professional, but that wasn’t always the case. When she was a young girl, Stella immigrated to the United States. Her mother wanted to build a new and better life for herself. And though she was suddenly exposed to better economic opportunities, Stella watched as she struggled with managing her personal finances. This led her down a path of wanting to learn how to manage her money responsibly, and unlike her mother, Stella had the opportunity to study personal finance in high school and university.

Even with these advantages, Stella still didn’t know how to invest. After her formal education, Stella was simply trying to survive. She entered the workforce with student loans during the Great Recession of 2008. It wasn’t until 2013, when Stella became part of a dual income household with a full-time job, that she was finally able to pay off her debt and establish financial stability. 

Stella joins the student loan podcast to share her inspiring story.  Have you ever find yourself wondering how you were going to pay off your student loans? Well, you’re not alone, and even if you find yourself down, remember, your’re not out.

 

THIS EPISODE COVERS:

  • How Stella had to figure out how to come up with $10k a year to stay in high school as a teenager;
  • The importance of community in helping you through school;
  • Coming up with creative opportunities to help reduce expenses;
  • It’s OK if you’re still figuring it out; and
  • much, much more…

CONNECT WITH STELLA OLIVERAS

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Stella Oliveras (00:00): There was just a turn of events that took place. Um, my mom abandoned me financially, and so at 16, I was just on my own and it was, you know, I was in a private boarding school, which was really, uh, challenging. I had to figure out how to pay for school. So personal finance, all of a sudden became center stage in my life and it wasn't intentionally. Um, but I had to start to learn how to provide for myself.

The Student Loan Podcast Intro (00:29): Welcome to the student loan podcast.

Shamil Rodriguez (00:32): Here, you'll find practical advice on tackling student loan debt, paying down your higher education expenses

Daphné Vanessa (00:38): And inspiring stories about paying off student loans.

The Student Loan Podcast Intro (00:43): We, your host,

Speaker 2 (00:44): Daphné Vanessa

Shamil Rodriguez (00:45): And Shamil Rodriguez,

Daphné Vanessa (00:48): Please rate, review and subscribe to the student loan podcast by visiting the student loan podcast on apple podcast or wherever you find your podcast.

Shamil Rodriguez (00:58): This is not professional advice. And we speak from our own personal views and opinions.

Daphné Vanessa (01:19): Welcome everyone to another episode of the student loan podcast. Today, we have a very special guest with a cool story, Stella Oliveras, and she is going to tell us how it doesn't matter where you come from or what your background is. You can end up maybe mastering your finances too. So with that, I'd like to hand it over to Stella. Please introduce yourself to everyone.

Stella Oliveras (01:46): Thank you, DNE. Um, I am just so excited to be here with you. Um, my name is sta Olivers, like you said, and I just love how you said my last name. I don't usually say like that, but it's beautiful. Um, and I'm originally from Brazil. I'm uh, um, I lived, uh, in Florida, most of my life. I moved there when I was nine years old. And, um, so that's kind of how my journey begins

Daphné Vanessa (02:18): When you were in Florida, like you were, what in high school, middle school did you go to college there?

Stella Oliveras (02:24): So I'm originally from Brazil. I came to the United States when I was nine years old and, um, I'm, I grew up with a single mom and I grew up in Florida. Um, and I went to a, a boarding school, a private boarding school, um, when I was 15 and at 16, um, there was just a turn of events that took place. Um, my mom abandoned me financially, and so at 16 I was just on my own and it was, you know, I was in a private boarding school, which was really, uh, challenging. I had to figure out how to pay for school. So personal finance, all of a sudden became center stage in my life. And it wasn't intentionally. Um, but I had to start to learn how to provide for myself. So like I started to sell books door to door every summer, there was like a program to pay for school. And that really, um, was hard. Like it was really hard. Um, it was like working nine hour days, but that would while

Daphné Vanessa (03:28): Being in school

Stella Oliveras (03:30): While being in high school. So like, sorry, go ahead. That was my, that was like summer programs. Um, during the school year I worked a couple of part-time jobs. Like the school offered part-time jobs and then you could do off part-time jobs off campus. And so like, while in school I was working part-time jobs and then in the summer I would do summer programs, which were grueling, but it helped me pay for school. Um, and so it's crazy to think this, but like in high school I was gonna get out of high school with $10,000 in debt. So my school was like $10,000 a year. Oh

Daphné Vanessa (04:05): My God.

Stella Oliveras (04:06): Working part-time and like working summer programs did not pay for school. Of course. And so out of nowhere came a, um, a person who gave like a gift or a donation of $10,000. Um, and I don't know who that person is. I just know my principal, um, received that donation. Um, and I was able to get out of high school debt free. Oh my goodness. So now that debt was like something that was looming or scary to me, um, from the age of 16.

Daphné Vanessa (04:38): Oh my goodness. That is such a powerful story. And you've come so far since then for, for just your own perspective. What do you think you learned from that financial abandonment, um, and taking responsibility at such a young age? A lot of people don't have to do that yet.

Stella Oliveras (05:00): Um, yeah. I don't think it's something that like anybody should have to go through. Right. I it's it's so it's such an alone feeling and like, I'm going to school with peers who don't have any idea of what I'm going through. Wow. They right. They can be sympathetic.

Daphné Vanessa (05:17): Yeah.

Stella Oliveras (05:19): So like, in, in that stage of my life, I, I really, I had to develop a relationship with God and I don't like, like, I think that, you know, faith is something that's personal and I respect everybody's faith. Um, but for me, like that really sustained me and really helped me get from point a to point B. Yep. And, um, but what I learned, you know, was just that, like I had to just be really careful. I had to be really careful. I had to count every dollar. I didn't know how to budget. I didn't really know a lot about personal finance to be honest. Like it's not something that I really grasped or understood. Like there was a class in high school. Um, but I had to just be really careful and just really savvy and like, um, and just trying to figure out how to survive at a young age. And so that really set the stage for college for me. And I wasn't really interested in getting into debt at all.

Daphné Vanessa (06:20): Interesting. So take us to your college decision. You apply to colleges, where do you end up going? And what's the foundation for your decision?

Stella Oliveras (06:30): So I didn't have, like, I don't know, like a lot of people talk about how, like they went to visit different campuses and like different things like that. I just ended up getting like a summer program job in Tennessee. And I had friends who were going to the same school and the university was beautiful. Like I got to visit it before I, I went there, but like, it was kind of all like very hippie, like, I don't know, I dunno how to describe it, but it was just like one thing led to another and that's how I ended up there. I don't think it's the best way to approach it. like, I, like I said, I was on my own, I didn't have parents like guiding me through this process. And so a lot of decisions were made just based off of like faith and prayer. And then also just like, um, friends and like, my friends going, like I wanna be with them, you know? Oh. And so, but it was, yeah. So I went to school, it was like a private small college in Chattanooga, Tennessee and was called happy valley. And so like, everybody was super nice and it was a really positive atmosphere. So I appreciated that, but it was a very expensive I wasn't

Daphné Vanessa (07:43): Expensive, happy atmosphere.

Stella Oliveras (07:45): Yes, for sure. And there was a couple things that were at my advantage. Like I was a class officer in, in my senior year, so that gave me a $40,000, four year scholarship. So it was $10,000 a year.

Daphné Vanessa (07:59): Oh, that's huge. Yeah.

Stella Oliveras (08:01): I was, I had access to the Pell grant, which was like $4,000 a year. Um, so those things were really helpful, but it was still not enough. It was so expensive. Like I can't even describe it. Um, I remember like having to buy brand new school books, which is crazy and, um, just that alone costing like thousands of dollars. So, um, yeah, for sure. Um, that's how I made the decision to go to school and, um, but, uh, it was, it was a, it was, I think it was a really good thing for me, um, to go to that area and to, to learn and to grow and spend the next four years, like trying to figure out what to do with my life.

Daphné Vanessa (08:41): yeah. And I'm so impressed that you still, you know, went to college just by everything that happened. You were like, I'm still going, you know, I'm still making it happen. I love that.

Stella Oliveras (08:51): You know, I think our generation was like drilled. Like you were, you have to go to college. Like there was no other option. True. Um, there was like, I could have gone to like state university or took local community college, but, um, I guess I just really wanted to stay part of like a community or group of people that I was connected to. And so that's what I went to that direction, but yeah. I mean, I don't, I don't remember thinking, like there was any other option. Like I had to go to college. I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know what degree I was gonna have, but yeah, I had to go.

Daphné Vanessa (09:23): I love that. Um, so walk us through the gap. And when I say the gap, I mean, we, you, you had 15, about 15,000 covered right each year. Yeah.

Stella Oliveras (09:35): Mm-hmm

Daphné Vanessa (09:36): what about the gap? How did you cover that gap? What was your strategy?

Stella Oliveras (09:41): Okay. so I really didn't wanna get loans like that went against my core values, even though, like, I was part of a community of people who felt really comfortable with debt. I did not feel comfortable with debt. Love it. Um, uh, but after my first year, like, sorry, after my first semester, like I literally could not afford school anymore. They were like, this is it. Like, this is all this is done. You're done. Yeah. Now you have to take out student loans. And I remember sitting there in the office, like signing that paper and just feeling like the sinking feeling, like, is this what I'm supposed to be doing? Like, I don't know if this is the right decision for me. And so I start, I began to, you know, sign the paper and start accumulating debt. Um, so I was working part-time during school.

Daphné Vanessa (10:26): Wow.

Stella Oliveras (10:27): And then I continue to work every summer, like either, um, selling books door to door or working like a summer camp or, you know, just doing whatever I could. Um, and so that would help, but I think what also helped was also not living on campus. So I know that living on campus is such a different experience, but that was not afforded to me. Like I would either have to live off campus or I would not go to school. So those were my options. Um, and so my second semester, there's this elderly couple, like in the eighties and they'd put out like a post like exchange room for, you know, like taking care of our home and then like, uh, staying with my elderly wife who has Alzheimer's

Daphné Vanessa (11:11): Oh my goodness. What ABL? That was a blessing.

Stella Oliveras (11:15): That was, yes. It was like a saving grace. Like, it was really hard to live with people in their eighties, but like, I just, I couldn't have stayed at school without them. So like that second semester I was able to live with them for free and that really helped. Um, and then for my sophomore and junior year, I began to pay rent at a person's house for $300 a month. And then, um, a, like a church member gave me a super old car. Um and that provided me a way to get from school to that location. So it, it was like a lot of work. Um, but then a lot of people coming out of nowhere to like help me through this process.

Daphné Vanessa (12:04): That is, what did it feel like for just people to come out of nowhere to just help, like, wow.

Stella Oliveras (12:12): Yeah, it was, it was really important. Like if, if they weren't there for me, I wouldn't have been able to stay at the school. Um, and I wouldn't have been able to have housing. I wouldn't have been able to figure out, you know, like other things of my life, like how to pay for school, like for toothbrush, shampoo, food, you know, all those, right. All these things cost money. It's not free. And, um, even though a lot of people had their parents helping them through this journey, um, if you don't have that, you have to take care of all these items by yourself. And so it, it was, it was really important. Like it meant everything, you know, to me, for them to be able to like step in and like help me through that process.

Daphné Vanessa (12:55): Oh my goodness. Like what ABL, these are angels. How, how long did you stay in touch with them after graduating?

Stella Oliveras (13:03): Yeah. Well, I mean, I had a relationship with them, like since I was younger. Okay. Um, so I mean like the people who like gave me my car were, were at my wedding, the people who helped me, um, with like my room and board, like were at my wedding. So it's like people that I stayed in touch with much longer after. Yeah. Um, I mean, who I'm still connected to, but like, I guess I'm a little bit further away from college, so it's a little bit hard and I'm, and I'm not, I don't live in that area anymore. Yeah. But they were definitely, you've grown

Daphné Vanessa (13:36): Up, like

Stella Oliveras (13:37): To me.

Daphné Vanessa (13:38): Yeah. I love that. You've grown up too, right. Life life changes.

Stella Oliveras (13:43): Yes. Definitely.

Daphné Vanessa (13:45): Super cool. So talk to us about the journey after, right. So you're in school, you paid, you, you had to take on some sort of student loan, like, but begrudgingly, I, I love that. Like, you felt it in your core that it just was the wrong decision. How do you pay that off after graduation?

Stella Oliveras (14:08): So I, I, so in total I had $15,000 in debt and that doesn't sound like a lot, but for me, that was a lot. And I, so I, like when I graduated from school, I really wanted to go out and help people. Like I wasn't interested in making a ton of money. yeah. So I had, I had different priorities. Um, so I immediately went to South Korea to teach English, like in a volunteer program. And the, so it was 2008. So let's set the setting. It was 2008. the great recession just hit

Daphné Vanessa (14:46):

Stella Oliveras (14:47): There's echoes going throughout the world. Like I physically felt it because my pay, I had a stipend, it went from going from $1,200 a month to $900 a month. What?

Daphné Vanessa (15:00): Oh my gosh, no, it's true.

Stella Oliveras (15:02): True. And I was in a volunteer program. I could have had my loans deferred. Didn't didn't know anything about that. Yeah. So nobody guided me through that process. So I just went overseas to do a job that I didn't even pay very much. And my loans kicked in, um, immediately started paying fees because I didn't know I needed to pay for them. I was notified. And then I started to get my act together, like, okay, I need to start making payments. Yeah. And, um, that's a good, a big chunk of my, um, money. I didn't understand how different loans had different interest rates, how it really wasn't making a dent. No. So for the, so I was there for a year. I came back to the states and I, like, I got, I continued working in different nonprofits and working part-time and like doing all different kinds of jobs. But for the next five years, I didn't make a dent, even though I was paying every single month. Oh. And I was calculating it. And I think like, um, by the end, after five years, I was, I had paid $18,000 and it had not, my loans had not gone away. no, no, not

Daphné Vanessa (16:12): At all. Mathematically what happened?

Stella Oliveras (16:16): Yeah. I think the interest rates are really high. I was making minimum payments. I wasn't thinking like, I didn't, I didn't have enough money to make more than the minimum payment. Right. So it just, it wasn't working and there weren't jobs, like people right now are graduating and going into a wonderful market, like the perfect market for jobs. Right. I agree. And you can get, you can have lots of interviews, you can negotiate your salary. I was like $15 an hour, you know, that's what I was getting myself into. Yeah. And so a lot of our peers like skipped that because they went and got master's degrees. And just to explain, like, I did not feel comfortable with getting $20,000 in debt in addition to my 15,000. And I wasn't thinking in the ways that they were thinking like, oh, I can skip the recession for a couple years, get my master's and get a better paying job at the end.

Stella Oliveras (17:14): Like that kind of strip, like strategy is really guided through, um, privilege. I don't know how else to put it, but like, it's really guided through having parents, through having conversations with other people, with having inside information about the financial industry we having with having access to more debt. So like, I didn't even have access to more debt, $15,000 on small to people, but I didn't have a co-signer. I didn't have anybody to assist me to get more loans. And I didn't understand like what that would lead to, like what kind of positions that would lead to. So I didn't really have a full grasp of the situation. Like I just wanted to pay off my loans,

Daphné Vanessa (17:52): The recession, by the way, like your story we've heard it tons of times. Okay. But I remember, I remember how dark, everything seemed right. When yeah.

Stella Oliveras (18:04): It was hard.

Daphné Vanessa (18:05): Like, it was hard for a lot of people and everything just, it seemed like a whole generation of people were gonna miss out on the workforce. I, I remember like at least three fourths of my graduating class working at Starbucks or retail.

Stella Oliveras (18:25): Yes. Yes. With master's degree, by the way, with

Daphné Vanessa (18:29): Exactly.

Stella Oliveras (18:30): . Yeah.

Daphné Vanessa (18:31): I, I remember that. And today that's laughable. It's just, it's insane because I, I, I remember it was, it, it felt heavy. I remember the feeling like you were talking about it and I'm feeling, I remember it. I remember all of that. It was,

Stella Oliveras (18:48): Yeah. And I felt like I was in a good position. Like I had a place to live, I had food. Like I know, like I ha we, we would always hear stories about people, entire families, like living outta their car. Yeah. Like people don't really understand, I guess, unless you go through it. And I think some people in our generation still didn't understand because they were taken care of, but like some people had it really bad. Yeah. So it was a, it was a really difficult time. So yeah, in some ways, like, it didn't make sense for me to get a master's degree because I didn't see even like, some people benefited off of it. Some people didn't. So it was, it was a risk that you had to take.

Daphné Vanessa (19:26): It was, it was a risk. And I think you're right in that I know people who did the Def I, I technically did that, um, the deferred master experience, but the timing for a master's degree wasn't enough time. And then, I don't know if you remember, like the black Tuesday or black Monday, like the second dip in the financial crisis, but that also, um, impacted that next wave of jobs.

Stella Oliveras (19:53): Okay. Yeah.

Daphné Vanessa (19:54): So the people that deferred had, it had the same experience basically. And I remember just people being so apathetic and then the millennial generation being labeled lazy. But then I think people not seeing the context of like, it can, it can Jade you, right. If you you're told one thing, go to college study, do this. And none of that's true.

Stella Oliveras (20:21): Yeah. It was crushing. I definitely was promised the moon and the stars and got hour that wasn't the moon and the stars for

Daphné Vanessa (20:33): Sure. You like, I could done this without college. Thanks.

Stella Oliveras (20:37): Yeah. And you were competing with people with no educational background to get $15 an hour. Just crazy, absolutely crazy. Um, but what I learned is that dual household income changes everything. that, that at the end of the day,

Daphné Vanessa (20:55): So true.

Stella Oliveras (20:56): And yeah, in 2013 I got married and that changed my financial experience. Um, I was able to pay off my student loans in the next six months. Like it just

Daphné Vanessa (21:09): Happened. Wow. And how did you do even, honestly, for, you know, some people dual income, they still haven't done that. How did you do that?

Stella Oliveras (21:16): I worked full time. So I, I was able to get an administrative assistant job, which jumped to $20 an hour. Yippy. Um, my husband was working full time and he was making like $60,000 an hour, sorry, an hour. That's crazy. A year . And then, um, and we were living in an apartment, um, and we got a good apartment for like $1,100 a month. It was a one bedroom, it was small. Um, and we were determined to like pay off our loans. So he had already, at that point, paid off his student loans or was at the very end. Um, it was like two years after he graduated from college. And then I was like in my fifth, sixth year of paying student loans, and then we were able to just put our money towards that. I, I didn't wanna live in debt anymore. That was like such a huge burden. So that was my focus. I know a lot of other people have a lot of different other focuses, right. Like, oh, I just had my first apartment. I wanna like, make it really nice or different things like that. And that's totally fine. I think that's what we should be doing. Right. Like when we get married is like, let's make our apartment nice. Yeah. But like, we're like, no, like let's pay off our debt. And so that's, that was our focus.

Daphné Vanessa (22:36): Well, you're at the right place, uh, to talk about that. , um, obviously I agree with you. Um, but there is a psychological sort of hurdle, right? With like friends and people wanting you to go out. How are you saying no, when you know, you have this, this big goal, right? Like, you're like, no, we gotta get rid of this debt. How did you say no?

Stella Oliveras (23:01): That's a really good question. Okay. So I didn't hang out with people who are like, let's go out to eat every single night, you know, like I lived in the DC area, but I lived in like suburbia. like, there's not much happening in suburbia, silver, um,

Daphné Vanessa (23:17): Silver Springs or something like that.

Stella Oliveras (23:19): Yeah. Like in the silver spring area. Yes. And yeah. So I get DC, life is completely different and like, I get that, that would probably be a huge burden, but like, I, I didn't have like friends who like wanted to spend a ton of money. Nice. And like, I just, yeah, I, I grew up with people like, sorry. So like my college experience was like hanging out with friends, like everybody chipping in for pizza or like we play games or we do different things like that. So, or like, we go to the park or we go hiking or we spend time outside. Like Chattanooga was really big into the outdoor scene. I can imagine. Um, so like, I was used to like doing things that didn't cost money. And so like, it didn't really impact my lifestyle, but I get like, if your career focus, if you move to DC and then you're needing to go out to eat, because really like, that's kind of the fostering relationship networking and things like that. Like that can be really hard. Um, but I, I was like in a, like a different group of friends, we were big spenders. And so like that kind of really helped,

Daphné Vanessa (24:29): Oh man. Moral of the story, get yourself some friends with the same financial goals as yours. boom, boom.

Stella Oliveras (24:36): Yeah. Makes a big difference. Or at least like not people who like to spend a lot of money.

Daphné Vanessa (24:43): That's that's awesome. Um, so it looks like you've surrounded yourself, but just like valued, aligned people. Like whether it's your husband, you know, who's like, let's pay off these student loans or your friends who are like, Hm, I don't really wanna go out to expensive places. We can hang out just fine. Like playing outs, especially DC free museums. Like all these things DC is like, it's like New York, New York has free everything.

Stella Oliveras (25:10): Yeah. No, that's so true. I forget about that. like, I forget that like, oh yeah. On the weekends we went to like free museums or the mall, or like there's always events happening that didn't cost any money. I forget about all of that, but yeah. Oh

Daphné Vanessa (25:24): Yeah. Um, we in, we were New York side, but I remember like Ellen DeGeneres did like a premier of one of her seasons or something like that. And my friends and I went to the season premiere in V I P not because we paid for anything, but because we won like these tickets standing outside and we

Stella Oliveras (25:45): Saw that's awesome. Yeah. , that's so fun. So, and that's making memories. Yeah, that's perfect.

Daphné Vanessa (25:54): It was super fun. Um, but yeah, this is a really cool thing about cities. They can be expensive, but on the upside, there's like a lot of activity, uh, where you build relationships and you have fun. Um, so that's really cool. I, I wanna go back just on your trip, your volunteer trip to Korea, just because so many people want to travel, but are shackled by student loan debt. Do you think, I know you were still paying off the loans and that's where it sort of hit you, but do you think there was an advantage of like a geo arbitrage while you were there? So maybe the ability to, I don't know, the cost of living, helping you financially compared to the us, or was it more than where you were in the us?

Stella Oliveras (26:43): So it's very similar, but the thing is, is that like with a volunteer program, they paid for housing.

Daphné Vanessa (26:49): Oh, okay, good.

Stella Oliveras (26:50): So you weren't paying for housing and you really just needed to worry about transportation and your food.

Daphné Vanessa (26:56): Okay.

Stella Oliveras (26:57): And so that did help. But the thing is, is that if I knew that I could defer, like if you go for a volunteer year, let's say with the pace Corps, you can defer your loans. Yeah. So like, if you're wanting to travel, if you're wanting to help, if you're wanting to have life experiences, like you can do that and you have the opportunity to defer your loans. You just need to speak to the people that you're going through that program with and ask the right questions. Because I didn't ask the right questions. I didn't know anything about deferment. And so I, would've definitely taken advantage of that. Um, if I had the chance, but you know, that can be tricky too, because like interest can still accumulate. I'm not sure like how every deferment works. So just be aware of the details and, and be comfortable with those details. Um, so that way, you know, you can make the right decisions for you.

Daphné Vanessa (27:47): Yeah. And I know that they've proposed some, when I say they, the current administration has proposed legislation on, uh, kind of eliminating some of that capitalized interest in deferment programs. It hasn't obviously passed yet. It's not final, but that's the impact that it's had on people. That's how many people are complaining is that they proposed legislation guys. That's how bad it is.

Stella Oliveras (28:15): So, yeah. No, that's great. I love that. That would be really helpful. And like something else, like when I'm thinking about everything we're talking about, it's like, okay. I was able to get $1,100 rent, you know, that has completely changed now. Oh yeah. And so like, most of people's money is going towards rent it's going towards. And so that can be a real challenge as well. Like, I don't know if we were paying like $3,000, sorry, not $3,000, but let's say like $2,000 in rent. Like it would all of sudden, you know, extend that for like a year. Yeah. It would just change everything.

Daphné Vanessa (28:50): So 1100 rent, I skipped the geography for some reason. I thought you were still talking about Tennessee, but no, you're talking about DC 1100.

Stella Oliveras (28:59): Yeah. It was like in this like silver spring, like Laurel, Maryland area. Yes. Like you could find rent, like, because of the housing crash, like that also affected rent and rent went down. So like, even in like 20 right. 19 or 2018, I had friends who miraculously found $1,700 rent in DC, like next to the station. And I know that, that sounds crazy. Like things have changed so drastically that it's not doable now. Yeah. But, um, in some ways, like, even though we didn't have that job, like that pay, the cost of living was lower.

Daphné Vanessa (29:49): Wow. So cost of living and then just sounds like diligence, because you're not telling me that you had like a side hustle, nothing. It's like, you used your job, your husband's job, and you guys created a strategy and just killed the debt.

Stella Oliveras (30:04): Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, we, we didn't know a lot about finance even then. Mm-hmm, like, I wasn't putting money away for my 401k or anything like that. Yeah. Um, but I, but we knew we didn't wanna have debt. Like that was a priority to us. And I know a lot of people feel comfortable with debt. I feel like debt is a very much part of culture, but that's not something we feel comfortable with at all.

Daphné Vanessa (30:28): I love that. Was your strategy, a certain percentage. Did you say like, I don't know, 20%, 30% of our take home pay is going towards paying off debt or was it more organic?

Stella Oliveras (30:40): It was organic. It was like any extra money we had, we put it towards our loan. Yeah.

Daphné Vanessa (30:45): Wow.

Stella Oliveras (30:45): Until it was done. Yeah. We didn't care. whatever, whatever we could, you know?

Daphné Vanessa (30:50): Oh my God. And so you're doing multiple payments a month, right. You're not doing one payment a month or are

Stella Oliveras (30:55): You yeah. Yeah. No, no, no, no. It's like, I, I think we did one payment in a month, but it was like whatever we could put in that month. Okay. And so that's how it worked.

Daphné Vanessa (31:05): Yeah. And did you send a, a written note to your servicer to say like put this extra payment towards principle? Or were you just like, take it, take it, take it?

Stella Oliveras (31:13): No, we would, we did say that, you know, that is act, this happened so long ago. I'm like, how did that work? But yes, we, we put it towards the principal. So that way it could go down, it took me a while to figure out that that interest was really like terrible and like taking so much of that payback. I didn't even realize like that people could do that. You're like a Stu you're a kid getting student loans. And you, you think like, okay, I'm gonna be able to pay off that $15,000. It's like, no, no, no,

Daphné Vanessa (31:46): No terrible system. Other countries have either interest free education debt, or, um, just lower cost of school, honestly.

Stella Oliveras (31:56): Yeah, for sure. Yeah. You're needing a scale to be able to go out into, you know, your community and to provide a service to your community. You can like, how are you going to do that? Yeah.

Daphné Vanessa (32:08): No, totally agree. Um, so let's talk about today. How has all that brought you to where you are today?

Stella Oliveras (32:18): That is, yeah. That's a good question. Um, so all of these experiences and all of these work experiences, so if you connect with me on LinkedIn, , you'll see that, like, I have a variety of jobs and I was partially like, trying to figure out what to, like, what do I like? Yeah. Also trying to figure out, like, how do I survive? Yeah. Like my husband does a kind of job where he travels a lot. And from the moment we got married, I always felt like afraid. Like, what if he, something happens to him? Like, how am I gonna survive? Yeah. And that never felt doable until now. Like now I feel like I am financially secure independently, and that has never, like, I've been married like for nine years. And it's just crazy to say like, I'm now financially independent.

Daphné Vanessa (33:08): no, I mean, it takes time and congratulations on both the nine years and being financially independent.

Stella Oliveras (33:15): yes.

Daphné Vanessa (33:17): That is freedom girl.

Stella Oliveras (33:19): That is freedom. But it took me a while. So like I found this blog a couple years ago, it was called millennial revolution. They essentially taught about the fire movement. I love how, you know, everything I'm talking about. Like without talking to people, they don't know what I'm talking about.

Daphné Vanessa (33:35): This is, I'm a fire space, you know, obviously nerd,

Stella Oliveras (33:39): Okay.

Daphné Vanessa (33:40): You know, student loan podcast, you gotta be a real nerd to talk about debt for an hour every week. So

Stella Oliveras (33:47): No, it's awesome. So, yeah. So I, I began to learn about the fire movement and like millennial revolution began to teach you about investing and like they made, they made recommendations of like where you should invest. Yeah. Like what firm you should choose. Yep. And so, um, my husband and I moved out of the DC area. We moved across the country to California. We had all sorts of dreams about living a hippie food forest from a culturalist lifestyle. Wow. Things didn't happen quite the way I thought they would, but I'm really glad. Um, so we moved out there. I was teaching like preschool. Um, they're encouraging me to like go to extra schooling, but pay out of pocket. They were paying me nothing. This is the $15 an hour story like that. I will never stop telling because I can't believe that like eight years or sorry, like 10, a decade out of college, it's, I'm still struggling to figure out like, how do I, you know, pay for things and how do I not do like an entry level job?

Stella Oliveras (34:51): And like, how do I get a career? Like how does that, all of that work, like that has been very challenging for me to figure out. Um, so in that school setting, I just realized like, I don't wanna do this anymore. Like, I don't wanna do this anymore. And I applied to work at a brokerage firm mm-hmm and that began a journey that changed just the way I see everything really. Because when I began working there, they paid for my licensing. I didn't even know you needed to be a licensed representative, like to be able to speak to clients. Yeah. And so going through that licensing, you learn about history. You learn about laws, you learn about information and you get access to information that the majority of the population do not have access

Daphné Vanessa (35:42): To. Yes. Such a blessing. It really.

Stella Oliveras (35:45): Yeah. Yeah. And so when I began to learn that, I was just like, what, what, like all of this information was so fascinating to me. Like I was being paid to study this day in and day out. Yeah. I'm like, what? Like what is happening? What, and so now that I'm in this industry, like, uh, so we were in California, the job was located in Arizona. I moved, we moved to Arizona last September and I began to work and I began to understand and I began to learn and I, and like we had move our money to, you know, investments, but we didn't understand like how to do investments work. What are ETFs? What are mutual funds? What are stocks? Like, how do you do all of this? Yep. And to me, this was all fascinating. And like, like I said, we, I learned personal finance in high school.

Stella Oliveras (36:33): I learned it in college, but I did not understand anything about investing. Like I remember being like, someday I'm gonna get a CD. Like, I am just so excited about that. And like, life, like paying, like paying bills, like gets in the way of you trying to figure out how to do that. But like, that was my hope. Like I wanna get a CD, like, I didn't know anything else beyond that. Yeah. And brokerage, like brokerage firm access now, like I, something we didn't talk about was like technology. I like technology has changed everything it has, but like before we didn't have a lot of access to this. Um, so now I feel like anybody can, you know, learn and get access to investing and things like that. So getting into the investment industry really changed my world. Yeah. I've learned so much. And in the meantime I've gotten promotion I'm back on the east coast.

Daphné Vanessa (37:29): Nice.

Stella Oliveras (37:29): Thank you. I I'm working in Pennsylvania, um, soon. Yeah. , I'm in the moving process as we speak,

Daphné Vanessa (37:37): Take your time, take your time.

Stella Oliveras (37:39): . Yeah. And so, like, I feel like this has, like, I feel like I'm in a career now and it's so exciting. And like, I just want everybody to find their thing and find what they're excited about and passionate about and build a career and have financial independence. Like that's just really important.

Daphné Vanessa (37:57): It sounds like your career, um, encourages financial independence, which is like, honestly, very lucky because not all jobs do you know? Right. Yeah. So what a blessing that your employer is actually passionate about their employees mm-hmm, having their own financial independence because that makes you a better employee.

Stella Oliveras (38:22): Yeah. And like, I'm working with people who are getting out of college, who are coming into these roles. Mm-hmm and my employer assists with like loan repayment. I didn't know. There were employers who did that amazing. You know, it's just like, wow. It, it just changes everything where I've been in other industries where you are having to pay out of pocket for everything. Yep. Um, and so it's, yeah, this has really changed. I mean, I think you just think about it as like some kind of stiff job, like where, oh, like people are working in an office or like, oh, like broker people or bros or whatever, and yeah. Um, like wall street and things like that, but really like, there's just, it's it's not like that. It can be really interesting. It can be really fun, obviously. Everybody's different. Yeah. Um, but yeah, no, I find, I find this to be really fascinating.

Daphné Vanessa (39:19): I obviously agree with you, but I'm hugely biased, so yeah. leave my bias on the side. Um, so, okay. Career trajectory. What's next? Like where do you see yourself going in the future? How do you think, um, your background is like giving you the gravitas to get there?

Stella Oliveras (39:39): Yeah. Thank you. I feel like even though I feel super behind, like I said, I'm just like working with people who just gotta college, like you're that possible? Okay. Thank you. It doesn't look like, I feel like I'm super behind. Um, I would love to get, I would love to become a financial analyst. I would love to get my CFA. Yes. And I would love to work internationally. Like that's what I've always wanted. Like, since I was a little girl, I'm like, I'm gonna move to New York city and I'm gonna get a job where I travel all over the world, like goals

Stella Oliveras (40:14): . Yeah. So , I would love to work internationally. Like that's my ultimate career goal, but as far as like, you know, practicality, like what is the job? Like? I would love to be a financial analyst. I would love to keep growing in that, but I would love to do other things too, like volunteer with my local community. And then also learn more about investing, learn more about investing that impacts us in a positive way. Yeah. Um, I love, uh, the environment. I would love to make decisions like and help influence decisions that you know, is our investments. Our 401ks collective are benefiting us as people as communities. And so there's a lot of, there's a lot of work to be done. Still is there. I would love, I would love to be a part of that change. I think our generation is really passionate about people and taking care people. And I think everything can lead to that. You know what I mean? Like whether you're in finance education, your attorney, whatever it is, like, you can make sure that laws and our education and our finances are all helping people in communities. I think that's really important.

Daphné Vanessa (41:25): Love that it's so inspiring and exactly, um, aligned with my personal values. So I'm a little biased. Yeah. No, I think that's what life is about. Right. Is making a difference, helping people, making your mark on the world and trying to do it with as much positivity as possible.

Stella Oliveras (41:45): Yeah, for sure. I want people to not go through what I went through. Right. Like I want education to be not only affordable, but free if possible. Yes. I want loan forgiveness. And that's like something I really struggled with. Like I paid my way. Right. Like other people need to pay their way yeah. And it's like, no, because this is why no, this is why, because the money that they're putting towards their loans can go to your local economy. Yes. It can benefit you in a personal way. Mm-hmm so like, that's really important. Like the direction of money is really important. It isn't about like, oh, like competing with my fellow human being, but like how can the flow of money go, come locally?

Daphné Vanessa (42:30): Amen. Amen. So

Stella Oliveras (42:32): so like, I hope, I hope that, um, we, as a generation, like begin to open our mind, begin to understand the direction of money and how it works and begin to make policies and decisions that, you know, help our local community. So yeah.

Daphné Vanessa (42:47): Love, thank you for that. Um, I think a lot of people will appreciate that. Um, and for just, I'm going back a little bit, you mentioned environmental stuff. Sidebar. Have you, um, heard of the Lomi?

Stella Oliveras (43:04): Yes, I have the lone

Daphné Vanessa (43:07): I do. I think they just gifted me one and I'm so excited. I have you used it yet.

Stella Oliveras (43:12): I have. I've been using it for months. oh my,

Daphné Vanessa (43:16): Please tell me, is it as perfect as it looks I'm so I can't wait for mine to come in. I really literally can't wait.

Stella Oliveras (43:23): Um, yes, no, it's amazing. It's okay. It takes a little bit like getting used to like figuring out like, okay. I, I keep like a little composed pile on my kitchen sink.

Daphné Vanessa (43:34): I have, I have banana peels waiting for my LOI, like

Stella Oliveras (43:36): Okay, beautiful. and then, um, putting it into the Lomi and then, um, I we' run it every night. And then in the morning you have this like fresh, um, compost. Yeah. I, I choose to do like the economy one where it's not like complete compost where you can put it into soil. Okay. But I like, I like to like mix it into like a little, um, compost pile on my balcony.

Daphné Vanessa (44:03): Okay.

Stella Oliveras (44:04): And it creates the most beautiful compost you've ever seen in your life. And, um, yeah. I don't know how to describe it, but it's amazing. Yeah. Lummis amazing. If you wanna put it in the full compost mode, you can use it, um, right away into the soil. Or if you wanna join a community garden, you can always bring that compost to the community garden. But yeah, no, like it's so important. Lomi is awesome. I wish everybody had it.

Daphné Vanessa (44:29): I know I'm so they were giving away one free one every June, like every day in June. I think something like that on their TikTok. Oh,

Stella Oliveras (44:37): Very cool. Yeah. Okay, awesome.

Daphné Vanessa (44:39): Um, I've I've been following and I ordered it a super long time ago. There was like this, this address mix up where they ordered to like an old address or something like that. Mm-hmm and they sent me a new one for free. So shout out to Lomi they probably don't even listen to the student loan podcasts.

Stella Oliveras (44:53): Oh, that's funny. Like they're doing a plug that's awesome.

Daphné Vanessa (44:59): Uh, but no, I love, love their product. Love their customer service. The founder directly, uh, reaches out to customers. And I, I love just down to earth people, you know, like people that aren't up in their class.

Stella Oliveras (45:10): Yeah. No. And what they're doing is amazing. Like technology is amazing. Like it is people don't really understand that the mixing of trash and how it impacts our environment. Mm-hmm um, and how this can really expand into like a bigger you imagine, like if your apartment complex had a Lomi right. Like a huge Lomi that everybody could just dump their fresh food,

Daphné Vanessa (45:31): Recycling, recycling, like instead of it going, because no offense to existing government recycling programs, but they probably should just hire Lomi to build like an industrial . Um, no, really, because I'm I'm con I remember I moved to a city many years ago for, for my work and I went around asking like, Hey, where can we recycle? And the city had no formal recycling program.

Stella Oliveras (45:59): Yeah. That's really tough. Yeah. That's crazy shocked. Yeah. It is shocking. Um, you know, when living in the silver, Maryland area, like they had a, like, they began like a composting program. Yeah. And so they had a specific bin where you can put all of that stuff and then they would pick it up along with like recycling and things like that. And then they created the compost and then you could put it into your garden, so, wow. Yeah. It's definitely amazing. We should, every city needs to have this, like it's really important.

Daphné Vanessa (46:29): Agree how, and by the way, if, if, if like, it sounds odd, like this lead in to, um, financial independence, just, I remember the quote, how you do anything is how you do everything. Right. So acting sustainably with the environment and being sustainable with your finances. I think there's a relation there. And I think that you'll notice that a lot of people in the fire community tend to also be echo conscious. And I don't think that it's, um, generational like the Greta. I don't think it's the Greta effect. I think this was happening before, you know, Greta could read like , mm-hmm

Stella Oliveras (47:07):

Daphné Vanessa (47:09): Um, a lot of people in the, uh, minimalism fire movement, like this was happening a long time ago before, um, the publicity that it has today. Mm-hmm so I just, I think there's, I think all of this relates personally, and there were some things you were talking about before that reminded me of the principal's book by Ray Dalio. Have you read that yet?

Stella Oliveras (47:32): No, I haven't

Daphné Vanessa (47:34): So good. So, so Ray Dalio, um, was the head of like one of the biggest hedge funds in the world. um, and he wrote a book on the principles of the economy and why it's important to have money feeding back in, like he, the whole thing, like how credit works, everything, it's like a very comprehensive, um, it's like a 400 page book. It's pretty long . But I think that book should be required reading for so many people in the policy world, especially to understand why the flow of money back in the economy is important. And if we stay in this restriction, right, where people are overburdened with debt and able to adequately contribute to the economy, we lose a cycle of productivity. He talks about this in his book. It's so good. Um, but I think what you were saying about student loan forgiveness is like spot on that. We need people to be putting money back in the economy and, and how can we get there?

Stella Oliveras (48:41): Yeah. So we, everything you're saying is so important because like, we're not taught how the economy works. Right. We're taught like symbiotically, like

Daphné Vanessa (48:53):

Stella Oliveras (48:54): Like it's a consumer based economy. Yep. So the spending of money is critical to having a good economy or a low economy. Yep. And so the money has to keep flowing. And so when the money is taken away and it has to go back to the banking industry, that's not making, like, that's not creating that flow of money in your local community. That's not creating the jobs. That's not helping local businesses. That's really grinding things to a halt. Like it's really taking it out of the system. Great. And so, yeah, it's really important to keep that money flowing. And imagine if you have like a hundred people in your community, that's like burdened with debt and then all of a sudden they don't have that anymore. And that, that, that F can flow. Yeah. And like that money can be put into the economy. Yep.

Stella Oliveras (49:44): Um, it would, it would change everything, but yeah, we're not taught about that. I think for, I think intentionally, um, people, I think people have to keep spending and buying new things right. To like, to keep things going. And I think that that also has to shift mm-hmm um, in how that happens. Like, I think it's a bit complicated, but hopefully that hopefully we can create these changes and keep learning and growing and, you know, figuring that out. But yeah. I wish people were taught. Yes. I agree with you a hundred percent. I wish people were taught about like how the economy works.

Daphné Vanessa (50:20): Totally agree. Stella, this has been such a good conversation. Where can people get in contact with you?

Stella Oliveras (50:30): Well, I'm not, I don't have a really big like social media presence, but I am on LinkedIn and I would love to connect with anybody. Um, my name is Stella Olivers. You can find me, um, and I'm connected through you of course. Um, and if anybody needs help in any shape or form trying to navigate through college or getting out of college or getting into the financial industry, or just figuring out like, Hey, how do I, um, you know, manage my money. I, I'm more than happy to connect and to, to assist any way I can. Like, I want people to feel like they have support they're not alone.

Daphné Vanessa (51:08): I love that. It was so great. Speaking with you. You're so generous with your time, um, and, and resources. And that is something that makes you special Stella. So thank you. We are very lucky to have had you on the student loan podcast.

Stella Oliveras (51:24): Thank you. Well, thank you for having me. You're so amazing. I love what you guys are doing. And I, I wish like we could've talked about start new. Like I wish I would've gotten to do what you guys are actually doing all over the campuses. Like it's amazing. Thank you. If I had access to that. Yeah. I would've probably paid off my student loans, but like, I didn't have access to that. Um, but I wish yeah. More colleges would adopt that and more people know about it. It's amazing.

Daphné Vanessa (51:51): Thank you. I really appreciate it. Um, so we will see you guys on the next one for more information about today's episode, visit the student loan podcast.com/episode 70. That's the student loan podcast.com/episode 70. See you soon.

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