Financial Gym Member Spotlight: Donna Leung

What would it feel like to pay off $10,000 in credit card debt? How about increasing your credit score by 50 points? Donna Leung, since joining the Financial Gym last fall, can confidently tell you how!

Through working with Financial Gym trainer Crystal Martinez, Donna started an extensive spreadsheet to track spending and keep herself accountable. Financial Gym spoke with Donna to discuss how she minimized her pain points and demolished her debt.   

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FINANCIAL GYM: What do you do and how long have you been with Financial Gym?

DONNA LEUNG: I'm a Project Manager at Citi, I joined the Financial Gym in September 2017. 

FG: What made you want to be a member?

DL: I attended a Six Degrees Society [women’s networking group] event at the Financial Gym, and found myself impressed by the content presented and the financial advisors working there. The trainers at the Financial Gym know their stuff! They are also super accessible and push their clients to the best of their ability, without making them feel stifled or shackled by their finances.

FG: Can you share one of your financial goals? What steps have you taken to get there?

DL: My financial goals are split between short-term and long-term. When I joined the Financial Gym, a big immediate goal was to pay down credit card debt so I could finally focus on saving for home ownership and travel.

My trainer and I put together a conservative one-year plan that showed my biweekly/monthly income, monthly fixed expenses, what to budget on a weekly/monthly basis and biggest money "pain points" (for me, splurging on books and food). In the past six months, I have paid off all $10K worth of debt and watched my credit score go up by about 50 points to 800+ (I pushed myself and finished the plan six months ahead of schedule).

FG: Who is your trainer and what have they taught you about money that you didn't know before?

DL: Crystal Martinez!!! I'm proud to call her both my trainer and personal friend. Crystal has held me accountable and kept me grounded in a way that I never have before. I'm a bit neurotic, and track all spending on a spreadsheet--separated by week, category, amount, whether I will be Venmo’d back for a charge, if I'm over budget on a week and by how much, unavoidable expenses in coming weeks (i.e. vet visits), etc.

It's a hefty spreadsheet. Crystal has taught me that while it's great to keep track of everything, GOING OVER BUDGET BY $10 ONE WEEK WON'T KILL ME. Also, while I might qualify to pay a certain rent, I shouldn't if I want a life :) 

FG: Why is money generally an awkward conversation?

DL: I've had the money talk with my parents; I've had the money talk with my boyfriend; I've had the money talk with friends. IT IS AWFUL. Money is an awkward conversation, because not everyone has the same goals/priorities and not everyone is starting at the same baseline. It can also become uncomfortable if you don't want to look at your finances and face the music (which was me for a while).

FG: How did your first quarterly review go? Did it make you change any of your goals?

DL: I was terrified for my first quarterly, but I killed it!! I accomplished my big goal of paying down credit card debt, and now I'm on to my next goals--making my money work for me by opening a high yield savings account and focusing on saving for travel and home ownership rather than "saving" to pay off bills.

FG: What does “financial freedom” mean to you?

DL: Not having to say “no” because I don't have my finances in shape. I want to be able to travel; I want to be able to buy a home. Financial freedom means I can do both because I'm not too busy worrying about not having the necessary finances.

Elizabeth Roberts