I recently watched the “Millennial Money” segment from CNBC featuring 25-year-old UCLA grad Wendy Gonzalez. In the segment, Wendy discussed her passion for investing and how she spends her money and makes $80,000 a year. A little over a year ago, Wendy launched a YouTube channel, Invested Millennial, to inspire and empower women to invest and to share and document her transparent investment journey. I reached out to Wendy via Instagram to see if she was interested in being interviewed for my blog. She enthusiastically agreed, and we met up for coffee in Pasadena, CA, where we talked about investing, self-care, and doing what makes your soul happy.
As a child, Wendy Gonzalez would always try to save as much money as she could. She quickly grasped the importance of saving money after witnessing her single mother struggling to pay the bills. Wendy realized that she would have to save every penny to secure her future and give back to her parents who had sacrificed so much.
“We were always living paycheck to paycheck…There were certain things I couldn’t do because my mom couldn’t afford it,” Wendy said. “So, my high school years were the years I realized how important it is to save and be as frugal as possible to secure your future.”
Wendy’s parents often instilled in her the value of money and made several sacrifices to ensure that she could live out her dreams. “For me, being raised by immigrant parents, it meant that there were certain things that I wasn’t going to be able to have as a child of immigrant parents.”
Wendy says her parents always had plans for the future, but were not able to make those plans come to fruition. Today, Wendy says she is grateful that her parents set the stage for her financial and investing success.
“For me, I followed along that track, but now I’m actually…I’m the generation that’s able to make those plans into reality. Being raised by immigrant parents, it was their ability to formulate plans and have a vision that helped me actually follow through with that as an adult.”
In high school, when she turned 15, Wendy picked up her first part-time job at Cold Stone Creamery. She was inspired to work and save money at an early age after seeing her mom work long and hard hours. “My mom has always been that role model that has instilled in me the value of hard work and consistency, so when I turned 15 and a half I was able to work.”
Wendy would save at least 90 percent of her gross pay from her part-time job and set it aside, no matter how tempting it was to spend. She would save every penny earned as difficult as it was.
Wendy’s money discipline carried on from childhood to college and inspired her to continue her journey. From then on, her savings account continued to grow. Throughout college, she also kept a close eye on her expenses and didn’t give herself anything glamorous, she said. “I was working really hard and saving money to pay for whatever remaining tuition.” Wendy received financial aid and scholarships for UCLA, and graduated in 2016 as a communications and Latin American double major.
Shortly after graduating, she got a full-time job as a logistics supervisor while hustling several side hustles, like working for VIP KID and Dada ABC as an ESL teacher for students in China. She would often start her side hustles at 4 in the morning and then commute to her full-time job at a tech company.
Growing up, Wendy recalls that she didn’t have any role models or see representations of business women, who were Latina, like herself. “Not having that role model delayed my ability to jumpstart my ability to start investing early in my life. It wasn’t until I started working for a big company that I realized investing is important.”
About a year and a half ago after watching a ton of YouTube videos on investing, Wendy felt inspired to start a passion project known as “Invested Millennial,” an honest, transparent platform on YouTube where millennials–particularly women of color—could go to for support and advice on investing.
“I’ve been such a big saver since I was 15 and I never really learned about the power of investing until maybe a year and a half ago.” While Wendy has always been mindful of saving money since childhood, she admits that she often got caught up in the tunnel vision and monotonous routine which halted her ability to start investing until after college due to fear and the stigma or myth of investing being dubbed as “gambling.”
As a millennial herself, Wendy wanted to create her brand, “Invested Millennial,” as a way to document her investing journey. “So for me, that name signifies us millennials being invested whether it’s in the market, house, or whether it’s in career or education.”
Wendy has been growing her content and marketing her brand with the hopes that more millennials will be inspired to make their own investment decisions without being held back or fearful of the term, “investing.”
“I wanted to create some type of brand that resonates with millennials and empowers millennial women because as a woman myself, I feel there’s not a lot of representation of female investors online. There’s mostly men, especially in the YouTube space when we talk about content creators…it’s only men for the most part,” said Wendy.
Wendy started investing after realizing one day, that although she had saved a lot of money in her bank account, the amount of money she saved compared to the interest was nothing. She needed to shift her attention to investing.
“That was the driving force. Start a side hustle, start investing money. For me, investing was the best option…”
So, she started thinking about creative and practical ways to make more money. “I started finding out about a high interest savings account – pay two percent that’s higher than what I have so I realized I have to do something.”
Before starting her “Invested Millennial” Youtube channel, Wendy had reached out to YouTube “Financial Education” personality Jeremy for some advice. “He was the first person who believed in what I wanted to do.”
Her conversations with Jeremy and her growing interest in investing led her to jumpstart her passion project, “Invested Millennial.” Wendy envisioned her channel to be a platform where she could document her investment journey ups and downs, what she learned from her journey, as well as the money that she lost and made.
“I just want to be transparent because there’s a lot of YouTubers out there that share their wins…For me, I wanted to be different and show the process like when you start from a small amount and you build it over time.”
Wendy shares that she didn’t start investing until she officially turned 24. One of the biggest reasons? Fear. “Because for the longest time, I didn’t know about investing. I wasn’t interested until I worked for a bigger company.”
She also shared that she delayed investing because she didn’t know where to start, where to invest, and what company she should invest in. That’s when she dived into YouTube and spent hours learning from other people. Wendy said it took a while for her to start investing because she was trying to understand the fundamentals before she could share that knowledge with others.
“One of the biggest things that held me back was the fear of losing my hard earned money because I worked so hard for so many years and I heard really bad things about people losing money…For me, it took a while for me to start investing because I was trying to understand the fundamentals.” Now that she has the fundamentals down, she’s ready to share her investing journey with others.
Most recently, in August of 2019, Wendy was diagnosed with stage 1 thyroid cancer — which caused her to take a step back from her passion projects and side hustles to take care of her health. She shared that she has been battling thyroid conditions since the age of 11 and has been taking medicine to treat it and never imagined it would turn into a cancerous tumor until she saw a doctor who confirmed the diagnosis.
“Getting diagnosed with this made me realize the importance of living a more meaningful life…like I think we all go through these ruts where we just don’t know what direction to go, we just feel like we’re going through the motions and there’s no end goal.”
During the first two weeks of the diagnosis, Wendy shared that she felt like she was in a grey, foggy space where she didn’t want to talk to anyone or share the diagnosis with others until she was ready.
Wendy said that for a long time, she felt like she was working herself too hard and getting burnt out and not taking the time to enjoy life. When she received the cancer diagnosis, a switch went off.
Her perspective on the importance of self-care and living in the moment changed and became more immediate. Her cancer diagnosis was also a reminder for Wendy that she needed to also slow down a little bit and enjoy life. As of now, Wendy continues to work full-time and is focusing more of her efforts into growing her passion project, “Invested millennial,” while taking care of her health. She let go of some of her side hustles in order to give her body the care it needs. “I’m just trying to feel better. I’m still on meds, but now my body is different. It needs more care than before. So I’m focusing on balance now and trying to grow Invested Millennial.”
When asked about any tips for investing, Wendy said the best thing to do first is to start investing through an IRA. “Your money is growing. You won’t be able to touch your money so you will be depositing money, investing money. It’s just going to snowball over time and that’s going to create a cushion for your retirement.”
She also suggests that if you have an employer who offers a 401k, consider going with a 401k plan, or going the Roth IRA route instead, which she says are the best way to start investing and getting your feet wet when it comes to the market.
For freelancers or employees who don’t have the option of a 401k, she suggests going the Roth IRA route. Wendy shares that although her employer offered a 401k, she decided to decline and go with Roth IRA instead. “My employer offers a 401k. I didn’t do it. I decided to go Roth IRA especially because it grows tax-free so when I retire, everything I’ve invested and all the gains will be mine.”
Wendy’s long-term goal is to go to business school and pursue a career in clean technology. “I work for a tech company now and I want to take that experience and maybe start something on my own, but focusing on Latin America.” Wendy says she hopes to focus on finding ways to help bring clean tech to Latin America. “The infrastructure for clean tech in certain parts of Latin America is not doable, so how can we actually make that happen and drive change?”
Wendy believes that business school will help her figure out her next path, whether that’s serving as a consultant for investing or starting her own company. In the future, Wendy hopes to get certified so she can serve as a consultant and empower women who would like to meet up, discuss savings and investments, and steer them in the right direction. “We would talk about what they want to invest in and i can guide them and tell them from my experience what works and they can make a decision.”
At the moment, she is currently looking into various schools to pursue further education, some of which include Harvard, MIT, Columbia, and Stanford. Wendy says she is looking to own her own home by age 30, but as of now, her focus is on business school which might change the direction or put a temporary halt on home buying. “There are a lot of things up in the air, but ultimately, yes–I would like to own something. It doesn’t have to be a home, it could be a condo. Just something that is mine — it’s an investment.”
For a long time, Wendy admits that she would put so much emphasis on the value of money and fall into the trap of comparing herself to others and feeling behind on her journey.
“It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with cancer that I realized this. Like..am I happy right now? For a long time, I was just going through the motions, I wasn’t enjoying the process.”
Wendy says a big part of her discovery was realizing that she needed to restore balance in her life, and to just enjoy the process of investing without comparing herself to others or being bogged down by what others make in a day. Because in the end, everyone is on their own financial and investment journey.
“So I think finding balance, enjoying the process, and having a plan is what will truly make you happy and you’ll be able to reach your goals without overdoing it and killing yourself over things that might not matter five years from now.”
–Written by Monica Luhar, for Mornings with Moni.