Deanna (aka Ms. Fiology) was one of the first FI bloggers to catch my eye when I became active on social media this past year.
Before I even started my own blog, I was listening to a Choose FI podcast interview where she went into detail about her struggle with addiction.
When she addressed the impact mental health struggles can have on finances in the interview, I went to her blog immediately after my dog walk and found the content to be full of heart, intelligence, and insight.
Since then, I’ve been inspired (along with many others) by her recent journey teaching women in recovery about financial literacy.
Take it away Deanna! We know you love to write (and we love to read it)!
Do you consider yourself creative?
Yes, I like to be the originator of things. Furthermore, I am particularly fond of crafty things like painting or crocheting. Additionally, I enjoy arranging a room in an optimal way.
However, lately, my creativity has come in the form of writing. With the birth of my blog in April of 2018, I’ve fallen in love with writing. Actually, it’s better to say I re-kindled my love of writing.
When I moved into my apartment this past spring and unpacked boxes which had been in storage for about 4 years, I found evidence. My findings included poetry, plays, letters, and journal entries which spanned from my 40-some years of life here on the earth.
Apparently, writing has always been an outlet for me to understand and express my view of the world around me.
Moreover, I've come to realize I was born to write.
What role has creativity played in your working life?
In my working life, I manage accounts. There are some process-oriented parts of my job and then there are more nuanced things like analyzing risk. While I’m efficient at executing the processes, I love spending time in the analytical phase.
Because things are not black and white, they require creative thinking. Solutions which may work for one client are not necessarily the right fit for another one. There are so many different variables to factor in when doing a cost/benefit analysis:
- Risk profile of the client
- Product availability
Analytical thinking is a very creative process.
Privately, I love to optimize my personal schedule. Additionally, I love to play around and have fun in my spare time. Because time is finite and I work hard in my career, it takes imagination to allocate my personal time to all of my passions.
My passions do change and evolve but I've been told that no matter what I'm doing I'm extremely laser focused. I like to see something through to completion.
This has served me well in many areas of my life like getting sober, finding debt freedom, and creating a successful career. However, it can hinder me in that I may miss out on things due to my tunnel vision on the task at hand.
When I was getting out of debt, I mostly followed the advice that others gave to me. That part didn’t involve too much creativity.
However, at times I needed to stray from some advice because of my personal situation. Not everything fits perfectly into a formula.
Currently, I seek financial advice from many people, then I pray about it and ultimately take what I need and leave the rest. Personal finance is just that, personal. I believe that there is nothing wrong with following the advice of others; however, at some point, we all need to tailor things to our unique situation.
Are there any areas of living you approach in an especially innovative way?
I believe my best attribute is to go deep and not give up. I'm a fan of knowing the why behind things and forming healthy habits. We are creatures of habit and our habits are either causing growth or decay.
It's always wise to study the habits that are not serving us and uncover the roots. We can only get better in life if we know what we need to focus on.
What systems do you have in place for mastering and tackling your finances?
Budgeting, tracking, and automation are the three key ingredients to my financial success today. By having my savings/investments automated, I always hit my goals.
Additionally, by tracking and budgeting, I love to see if I can get better each month. It becomes a game of how can I spend less and store more away into my savings.
Typically, if I want something, I write it in my budget and save for it. I like having a plan for things; although, I do have wiggle room and so I have the ability to be spontaneous at times.
Do you mind sharing if you were formally identified as gifted in school? (Keep in mind, many extraordinary individuals are missed). Do you have any positive or negative thoughts about gifted education or gifted psychology?
Unfortunately, I did not apply myself in school and that was probably because I was so insecure about who I was as a young girl. Much of my focus was on connecting with people and not always in healthy ways.
My 8th-grade mathematics teacher, Mr. Lamp, took a liking to me and saw something special. He encouraged and pushed me like none other. I desperately craved a father figure and worked really hard in his class and strived to please him.
That year I fell in love with math and found comfort in navigating my way through problems. Once, I was given the tools and rules, I always found the solution. I loved that I could check my work and confirm the answer.
Things were either right or wrong and that calmed this insecure little girl.
While the answers were clearly black and white, I found the process to be gray. In the gray, I could be creative and pave my own path to the solution. Most of all, I loved finding the right answer.
That being said, I was never identified as a gifted student. I believe I am smart but not in an extraordinary way. The way I was able to score perfect scores in mathematics was through hard work, perseverance, focus, and an extreme drive to know the answer.
Do you mind sharing if you’ve had any mental health struggles? If so, did those struggles impact your finances in any way?
Most of my life I've believed some very incorrect things about myself. I grew up thinking I was stupid and unworthy of being loved. Moreover, I thought I was skipped when the manuals were passed out.
A lot my insecurities stemmed from some specific instances in my childhood and the lack of a relationship with my father. The interactions I did have with my dad were often volatile. I craved the love of my father but on the rare occasion he showed me attention, I rebuked it because I was so angry with him.
In addition to being an insecure little girl, I struggled with depression. I am an extroverted person so I was able to get lost in relationships, but I was deeply wounded on the inside. Furthermore, I escaped through drinking/drugging and learned to push down those feelings of insecurity and depression.
Fortunately, in my mid-30's I was able to get sober and return to faith. As a result of this one decision, I've been able to face my demons, get help with depression, reconcile with my past, and heal relationships. However, you'd better believe my financial life suffered as a result of hiding from my real problems. When I started working on my financial wreckage, I was looking at 6 figures of debt.
I lost a house to foreclosure, but I was able to pay the other $46,763 off in three and a half years of hard work and perseverance. I truly believe that because of my ability to face my deep-rooted mental struggles, I've been able to take control of my finances. Typically, if there is a lack of peace in one area of our lives, it's missing in others.
What is your favorite DIY hack? Did you come up with it on your own?
I did own a house for 16 years and only two of those years were with my ex-husband. Ultimately, I learned to be self-sufficient and took such pride in my home. I loved fixing it up and maintaining it, both on the inside as well as out.
If I wanted to get something done, I'd go to Home Depot and ask how I might do it. I wasn't afraid to try anything; although, my friends warned me against major power tools because I've been known to be clumsy. For example, I used a hand saw (didn't trust myself with a chain saw) to cut up a tree and build flower beds out of it.
I found a way to do things myself. So I'd say my best DIY hack is not being afraid to try stuff and ask for help.
What role (if any) has art and music played in your life? Can you tell us some favorite bands?
Music probably played a bigger role in my younger years. I've gone through many musical phases which include big hair bands, death metal, hippie music, grunge rock, and punk rock. This is by no means an exhaustive list but some of the bands who have influenced my life are:
- Bon Jovi
- Janis Joplin
- The Grateful Dead
- The Beatles
- Bob Marley
- Fishbone (got a tattoo)
- The Red Hot Chili Peppers
- Mr. Bungle
- Rollins Band
- Cowboy Junkies
Today, if I listen to music it's either to worship or dance. I love contemporary Christian music and if I'm going to dance, I prefer hip hop.
Are You an Extreme Systemizer?
Interestingly, according to this quiz, I’m not. I do love a system but apparently, I have a lower than average ability for analyzing and exploring a system. I’m kind of surprised by that but won’t be discouraged from the exploration of new systems.
Furthermore, I’m above average in my ability for understanding how other people feel and responding appropriately. I’m sure the latter is due to the self-awareness work I’ve embarked on in my recovery.
I want to thank Michelle for asking me to be in this series. I'm quite intrigued by Savvy History and their creative ways. These questions allowed me to really think about the ways which I'm innovative and original.
Life is a personal journey and I've found that through overcoming many hardships, I've become stronger. Additionally, the unwillingness to give up or give in ultimately gives way to creativity.
Michelle Again Here:
Like me, I hope you learned a lot of new info about Deanna in this interview. She is a very thoughtful and interesting person who has definitely found some sort of “manual” for life that is working! (Forget about the manual being passed out to you, make your own!) I really respect her journey and self-reliant approach to life/finances.
Concerning the systemizing quiz, I personally told her and will say this publicly - I wouldn’t read into your results too much. It’s just one survey created by some dudes. No one should ever judge themselves too much based on one score.
In general, I am intrigued by high-systemizing women. I think I’m starting to build up evidence that this quiz is gender-biased (my two cents).
P.S. I’m really glad she had an awesome 8th-grade math teacher. I love her comments above about that (along with several other ways she has merged emotional thinking with pragmatic thinking throughout her life). I was also excited to learn she likes The Red Hot Chili Peppers!!!