I first found out about Tiffany “the Budgetnista” Aliche from the amazing and one-of-a-kind Munaluchi Bridal Magazine, an international magazine that is the leading authority of bridal inspiration for women of color everywhere. I was really impressed by her financial story: she has bought every car she has ever owned in cash, had a credit score in the 700s and 800s by age 23 and owned her home by 25!!! Are you listening now? Plus, she is an African woman, a Nigerian woman to be exact. I was floored.
What set me over the edge was when I found out that Tiffany credits her father with starting her off on her financial journey that has ultimately led her to live a purposeful life and pursue her passion as an author (get her amazing book here), passionate speaker and financial coach. She has been featured everywhere: Munaluchi Bridal Magazine, MSNBC, Essence Magazine, Black Enterprise, CBS, USA Today, News 12 New Jersey; and worked with such organizations as Dress for Success, American Express, The United Way, and Princeton University among so many others. I’m so blessed to have had this opportunity to interview her now that she’ s still available. I guarantee that she’ll blow up within the next few years. Just watch!
I interviewed Tiffany late last year and this is one of my favorite interviews. It (sadly) has taken me a while to post this but this is the perfect time to post this because it’s a wonderful introduction to a new section for the site I’m working on. Prepare to be inspired, moved and challenged by this interview. You might even want to take notes! Trust me!
Because this is such an in-depth interview, I separated it into 2 parts.
*[I highlighted certain parts in blue because I think they are pertinent. My questions are in bold]*
What’s your full name?
Tiffany Odochi Ihuoma Aliche.
And you have how many siblings?
I have 4 sisters.
Ok. I know that’s something I read before which was interesting to me: you are all girls. So, generally another stereotype of the Nigerian man is that everybody wants to have a son who will carry on the family name and the legacy. How did your dad take that? Did you ever feel that your dad….
Of course. That’s why we have four, five …. [We both laugh] because he kept trying for a boy. [laughs again] But after the baby, they were like, “Okay! If it was meant to be, we would have one by now.” So, they let it go. Because we were all born 2 years apart and then the baby was born 5 years later….but they were trying for a boy. I think almost every culture, you know, thinks having a son is important, but after a while, my dad realized, Okay. Enough is enough! (laughs)
(Laughter all around) Okay. Great! And you mentioned that your dad basically got you started on your journey, but before we talk about that, can you tell me a little bit more about what you do and where the name, “Budgetnista”, came from?
Well, I am a financial coach and I specialize in teaching fun and engaging financial literacy. I just noticed I was always good at managing money – just from my background growing up in the family that I grew up in. We learned about finances at home and I kind of thought everybody did. It wasn’t until high school …. ’cause kids are very self-centered so you think what your life is everybody else’s life is when it’s not true at all, you know? It wasn’t till college that I remember with my college room mate, there used to be bill collectors calling. I didn’t even know that that was possible. And they would call every day and I said, “Wow! People get harrassed by people?” It was really then that my eyes were opened up to see – and mind you, the bill collectors were calling because her mother had used her [the room mate's] social security number…
Yeah … and I couldn’t even believe that!! Parents do that? The bill collectors not only called her but also her 11 year old sister because her parents had used their social security number. So, it kind of opened my eyes up to realize that I was really fortunate to grow up in a financially literate household and that that wasn’t my experience. And so, it was then that I started helping them to teach them the lessons that my parents taught me. My dad was a CFO. He worked for a nonprofit for a number of years before he became the Executive Director. It’s funny, the year that I was born is the year he started working with this organization called “Newark Tenants Council” and that was his very first job. He has his Master’s Degree in Finance. It was his very first job and he stayed there. That’s the only job he ever ever had. He stayed there the whole time.
He was a junior accountant. Then, he became the accountant; then, became the CFO; then, became the Executive Director. The place closed down when I was like 29 [or] 30. So, he was there for 29 or 30 years.
The “Budgetnista” name actually came from my sister because I wanted to teach people how to manage their finances and take it to the next level, really just to volunteer. But I wanted to start a site so I was Googling and everything was taken: “budget queen”, “budget princess”, everything! My sister at the time was 19 and she said, “Well, what about ‘Budgetnista’?” You know, the “-nista” thing, it wasn’t as popular as it is now like “fashionista” and all that, but it was starting to peak a little bit so she said, “Why don’t you try that?” So, I googled it and no one had it so I said, Okay! This was only so I could start a blog. But then, one of my friends said, You should really trademark it, a year after I had it and I was like, I don’t have the money. It’s 275 [dollars]; but he made me trademark it. Thank God I did because now some people try to pop up with the name but the trademark is all mine!
That’s great! That’s something I need to keep in mind …. You mentioned in one of your interviews that your family used to have monthly financial meetings. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Well, it was really just our family meeting. We would meet, sometimes once a week, depending on what was going on, but at least once a month. The basis of the meeting wasn’t just finance; it was everything from homework to who’s doing their chores … just a family meeting, but in the meeting, we would always discuss the state of our family’s finances. One year, I remember that my dad thought his job was going to close; so, he said, “I may not have a job and it’s almost Christmas,” and I think at the time, my mother’s hospital closed or something, but in an effort to not spoil Christmas, he said we’d get our Christmas gifts a month later. So, we kept the tree up and we celebrated Christmas at the end of January.
I think the mistake most parents make is that they don’t talk to their kids about money. Imagine if we would have not gotten Christmas gifts and my dad didn’t explain: I mean we would have been devastated because as a kid, you don’t understand. But by him telling us that, I wasn’t going to be disappointed. I just knew, Okay. Christmas will come a month later. So those were the types of conversations we would have. He would say: the water bill is too high, you guys are running it too long; or the light bill is too high, make sure you turn off the light when you leave the room. You know, things like that!
Nice! Because I know some people have the opposite belief: that you should keep your kids in the dark so they’re never worried about what’s going on, but that’s a realistic way of approaching it.
You know what? That’s the worst thing you can do with kids because a 4 year old who doesn’t learn about money is an 8 year old is a 16 year old is a 20 year old …. The parents will say that until when? [My dad] didn’t make us worry but he would just be honest, [saying] ”This is what is happening”and the reason why. Because kids sense things anyway. If all of a sudden, they aren’t getting as many sneakers as they used to get or you’re not getting name brand food and you have to explain to them that it’s because mommy lost her job, you’re forcing them to live the reality without explaining what’s going on. So, in essence, it’s not fair. It’s not about worrying them. It’s just kids are smart; [tell them,] this is why we’re doing this so they feel included in family decisions.
Good point! Another thing is that you chose to not go the corporate route, like to work for a major financial company. Instead, you decided to start your own business and to work in nonprofit. How did you dad feel about that because I know, for me as a Nigerian, it’s usually, “Oh, go to medical school or law school.” So how did that work out? [We both laugh ]
My dad, at first, was very disappointed because they just knew. They were like Tiffany, you’re so smart, you talk so much, you should be a lawyer. I went to school for Business and hated my internships. I knew I didn’t want to do that for a living, and I’m very stubborn – my dad knows. So, out of all my sisters, they have kind of always let me be because my dad understood very early that if Tiffany loves what she does, she’ll do well. I remember that if I didn’t like my teacher, I’d get a B. If I loved my teacher, I don’t care how hard the course is, I’m gonna get an A. I’m the type that [is] very emotional. From the very beginning, they’ve always given me a little leeway to be myself. My older sister is a typical Igbo older sister: she’s a scientist, she got straight A’s, she’s married to a Nigerian doctor; so, they’re like let her be the perfect one. This one [referring to herself], let’s see where this one will go.
So for me, I wanted to be a teacher and I was scared to tell them because I knew they were going to be like, A teacher! Odochi, what are you going to do with that? But I remember that I got a teaching job and I almost accepted the offer and I was whispering and telling my sister, and [the job] was going to pay me hardly anything, like $31,000 and my dad heard me and was like, “Mtchewww [Hissing Sound]! Fine! I see you really want to do this teaching thing. At the very minimum, come work for my company.” He said, Come work for us and we’ll pay you 39,000. That’s the going rate in Newark. I said, Okay. Really it worked out because my dad got to see my strengths because, in essence, he was my boss. I used to win all these awards and would always be praised for being such a great teacher. So, very quickly, he kind of got over the fact that I didn’t become a doctor or lawyer. And eventually, I made almost $70,000 a year teaching and he was like, “Okay”.
Yeah and then I went to school and got my Master’s in Education. After a while, they kind of accepted the fact that I was going a different route. He didn’t mind! He would say, I have every profession in my home. My sister’s a scientist. The second, me, is a teacher. After that, my sister is in finance. She’s not really an accountant but she works for Prudential. The one below her is an engineer. And Lisa, she was at the time in school for journalism. She has since graduated … So, all in all he was happy. And, of all my sisters, I used to send them away on vacation every single year, on my teacher’s salary. When I did that, they were like,She can do whatever she wants! (Laughs) My sisters would chip in, but they would put in like $200 and I would put in $2000.
That’s amazing! So, can you share some of your dad’s story with me because, also in the interview that I read when I was doing some research, you mentioned something about him coming from basically this little village and now, he is who he is. Can you share some of his success story?
Yeah. Well, my dad came from a small village in Igboland in Nigeria, from Abia State. [That's where I grew up!] He’s from Umuahia … So, just a small village and they didn’t have much. My grandmother was illiterate and he would always say … One of the things that impressed me about him is that he always did very well in school, like finishing #1 or #2. He would always tell us, like if I didn’t do my homework or something, “Imagine if I didn’t do my homework: my mother would never know. She couldn’t read or write; he could’ve tricked her and played around too but to whose detriment? To [his] own, right? And he always talked so much about how his mother believed in his dreams and how he used to tell her, “I want to go to London to study or England to study or America to study” and the only thing she knew how to say in English was, “That’s right!” He says now that he looks back on it, he might as well have told her – this little village boy – “I want to go to the moon.” I mean that’s how [im]possible it was. Like, you have nothing: no money, no means, and just your mother and your sisters, and to say to her that you want to [achieve] this impossible feat of going to one of the richest countries in the world to study is basically impossible! But he didn’t know it was impossible because she never told him that. She would always be like, Oh yeah! …. Because of that, he said it put it in his mind that he could really do anything and since then he’s .. you know, all Igbos have to build that big, beautiful home in the village.
Since then, we have this, in the Aliche compound, beautiful home that kind of overlooks where my father grew up, and you see just how small and impoverished it is, but one of the things that my dad has done is to really help his village. Outside our compound, we give free water; so, twice a month, they pump water outside and its free. Because you know, some places, they will charge you … Everybody lines up their buckets on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My sisters and I now contribute: we give my dad money every month that he sends home to help to continue that tradition …. My dad’s parents passed when he was really young. His father passed when he was really young and his mother passed when he was 19; so, he was the breadwinner for he and his two sisters that he helped raise. He just tells us stories about …. Well, my dad always says, I’m not the smartest, even though he’s super smart. But he remembers people who were way smarter than him. You know he always says, “I wasn’t the smartest. I’m not the most handsome or the tallest. I’m not the …” but it wasn’t about that: he put in all the work possible, and that’s the tradition that he tried to pass on to us. That it’s not about having the most talent; it’s, How hard are you willing to work? One of the things I love most about him is that, I’m sure there are times when he had 2 or 3 jobs. I remember when my sister was born, he was telling us, he literally worked and went to school for 24 hours a day. I think it was maybe a 3 hour gap in his day: 2 jobs and school and a 3 hour gap. How is that even possible? Plus, with a child and a new wife. But the thing is, he never complains. Even growing up, if we didn’t have, my dad wasn’t the type to say, “Oh men! “The man” is holding me down” or “It’s so hard!” or “Why is life so hard?” You never hear that. If we were in a financial situation, my dad would say, “Okay! My job may be closing so I’m looking for another one.” Everything was so matter-of-fact … It was just: this is my duty and I do what I have to do, and that’s one of the things I respect most about him and I wish more men had that about them. If you know that this is your duty, do it! Stop complaining! Just do it, you know?
Wow! [Your dad] sounds great!
Yeah, he’s great! Especially to raise 5 girls. You know how hard that is!
I know! All that estrogen!
I know! We drive him crazy. My dad always said that he wanted to go to Wall Street. His dream was to get his Master’s and go to Wall Street. Then he said, Your mother kept pushing out girls. So I said, Alright, I have to be in the house. He knew that if he worked on Wall Street, he’d be working 15 hour days and he said he couldn’t do that! He said he knew, if I have all these girls, then they need a strong male figure. So, he gave up his dream to make sure he could be home at 5 o’clock. I remember…
That’s beautiful! Oh wow!
Yeah! He used to check our homework …. My dad played the role of a mom and a dad. My mom was a great mom, but she wasn’t raising us alone like so many women do. No, he was very integral … My dad would ask every question. If I got a 96 on my test, my dad would say, “What happened to the other 4 points? Why are you so happy with yourself? A 96? Is that 100?” [ We both laugh loudly because every Nigerian child can relate to this.]
See Part 2 of this interview tonight at 8 PM
[Image Credit: The Budgetnista on Facebook]