A Personal Journey to Financial Freedom

Christina Olstad

May 29, 2018

As a student affairs professional, I often hear about how we are not in this field for the money.  While we could be making more in other professions, we find value and purpose in our work.   I have always been interested in personal finance and investing and at the same time, I felt like I was not building momentum for my financial future and a comfortable retirement.  I had been making minimum payments on my student loans and they were just hanging around for over a decade.

A few years ago, I came across a financial program that led me down the path toward financial freedom.  I stumbled across Dave Ramsey and his best-selling book The Total Money Makeover. The first time I read the book, I borrowed it from the library and read it within one day and I was hooked.  I started listening to his radio podcast The Dave Ramsey Show and together within two years of getting serious, my wife and I paid off all of our student loans and a car loan.  Now we are working to build up 6 months expenses in an emergency fund.  We are working through The Baby Steps and finally feel like we are in control of telling our money where to go.

My wife and I sit down every month to budget out our expenses with EveryDollar, a zero based budgeting system developed by Ramsey Solutions, a company founded by Dave Ramsey.  EveryDollar is a free tool that revolutionized my budget.  For years, I was using another budgeting tool but was not consistent with tracking my budget.  EveryDollar allows you to tell your money where to go instead of wondering where it went at the end of the month.

In my work with students, I often connect students with different resources and support to promote student success.  Over the past five years in my role, I have noticed an increase in students seeking assistance for financial hardship and food insecurity.  Through my everyday conversations with students, I am able to assist them in taking control of their lives.  Two months ago a student came to see me for the second time.  She mentioned that prior to our meeting over a year ago, she thought she would need to drop out of school and through the resources and support on campus through financial aid and her using EveryDollar, she mentioned she felt in control of her finances and her future.  She was excelling as a student and in her personal life.

I have read many different financial books throughout my life as it is a personal hobby, The Total Money Makeover helped me put into action simple steps to financial freedom.  Those student loans that were sticking around for over a decade have since been paid off and that is a really good thing because my wife and I just welcomed a baby boy into our family and we have budgeted to send him to daycare.

I challenge you to take control of your financial life and join me in the quest to financial freedom.

Christina M. Olstad, Ed.D. is the Assistant to the Vice President for Student Affairs at Towson University.  She is passionate about addressing issues of food insecurity and financial literacy on campus.  In her role, she serves on the CARE Team and works with students in crisis.  Her educational background is in social work and educational leadership and policy studies.  She lives in Baltimore with her wife and son. 

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