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Serving Up Finance

When I was a kid, I never really knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. I bounced back-and-forth with different ideas, as most kids do, but one thing that I always found myself drawn to was cooking shows and I always surrounded myself around food. By the time I got to high school, I still had no idea what I would do when I went to college because I was just going through the motions and doing what I had to do. One day, I got introduced to the culinary program at my high school and it’s safe to say that things were never the same after that. I quickly enrolled into competitions and was truly in my element when I was in the kitchen. I applied to The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY and attended the following fall.

So now, you may ask as you read the title, “What does this or finance have anything to do with food?” My answer would be that my mission and passion has shifted from producing amazing culinary creations, to educating and protecting all members of the food industry from financial exposure, although I still have fun in the kitchen at home. My time in the industry was great, and I am grateful for everything that I experienced and learned, as well as the people I met along the way, but I also found myself to be extremely unhappy. I still absolutely love cooking, but I don’t think that working in kitchens was something that was truly fulfilling for me. I always had a mission for helping others and I didn’t feel as though I was doing that in the restaurant industry.

During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I saw something happening that I never expected. My dad took a huge hit in his 401k, the only place he’s ever saved money for retirement, due to the market fall and at the same time, he was forced to go into retirement early. When I saw what was happening to my family, I was hit with a big reality check- I don’t have anything saved for retirement and although, my dad did, it was somewhere very volatile and there was no other plan or saving in place for an emergency.

What happened to my family is something that so many Americans experienced as well, and still are. This ties along with job displacement and the realization that we, as a country and people, are so underprepared for the unexpected. This forced me to make a major decision. I was about to make the biggest change that nobody, especially I, would have ever expected. I began working with a firm part-time and then decided that I was going to stop working in kitchens and transition to full-time. My focus is on educating some of the communities that I identify with such as: youth, women, Hispanics, Line Cook Nation and all other underserved communities within my reach.

This pandemic has shown just how volatile the industry is. We work so hard day in and day out to provide the best service, make the best food, and we often forget to take care of ourselves. We are often working extremely long days, at low wages relative to the work, passion, and effort that is going into the work being done. Taking care of yourself could come in many different shades, but one thing that is most often left out is how to show up for ourselves financially. It’s so easy to just go into the motion of living paycheck to paycheck. This goes with any industry, and I think it is something that became extremely evident throughout 2020; we let it become normal.

It has become a mission of mine to help others understand the importance of becoming financially literate. The first thing I had to do was take care of my own financial situation; despite the things that I couldn’t control, there were many things that I could, and where that starts is with my habits. One of the first things that I did was take an inventory, chefs love doing inventory, right? Don’t worry, this one stays out of the freezer.

I first took a look at how much money was coming in and how much money was going out. I looked at all of the stuff I was spending money on and noticed that there was a lot I could easily stop spending on, like that sock subscription, I mean, how many socks can a girl really need? And coffee every day??? There was easily over $100 a month going to buying coffee, and I could make a few cuts on that as well. As I continued to go down the list, it really opened my eyes, I realized that cutting out a few habits resulted in so much money left over at the end of the month. I quickly began to see that I actually do have some money that I can start saving for myself and I don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck if I just take a little time to take an inventory on my own life.

My mind went from thinking I never had enough to being excited about what my future will look like and I can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel. I stopped focusing so much on paying off my debt first and started saving for myself and paying off debt at the same time; there are so many little things that we can shift. Not all debt is bad, but we need to learn how to take care of our money so that it can take care of us and everything trickles down from there. Once you put just a little more focus on your money, and stop spending mindlessly, it becomes less scary to talk about with others.

Money is such a touchy subject now-a-days, and I think it’s because our school systems have failed us. When we leave high school and either go to college or start working, we have no idea what we are getting ourselves into. Although money isn’t the key to happiness, it would make our lives a whole lot easier if we knew how it worked. Start doing your research and asking questions so that you don’t ever have to fall into the same space again. Your future self will thank you.

This article is for entertainment use only, and should not be used for the basis of making a financial decision. This article is not to be used as financial or investment advice. This article is also not a sale or recommendation of a financial vehicle.

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