Meet Bola Sokunbi
Hi there, my name is Bola Sokunbi. I am a Certified Financial Education Instructor, money expert, and the CEO, best-selling author, and founder of Clever Girl Finance. I am also the recipient of the 2021 Financial Education Instructor of the Year (FEIY) Award from the National Council of Financial Educators.
My main goal is to help women become accountable, ditch debt, save money, and build real wealth.
Growing up, I was the last of four children and the only girl. My father was the breadwinner, and my mother was a stay at home mom.
As time went by, my mother who got married really young, began to notice certain things about herself and within her community of friends that she wasn't too thrilled about.
For instance, my mother realized that she didn't really have much insight into our family finances because my father managed all the money. She also began to feel like she wanted to be able to make her own financial contributions towards our household and she also wanted to be able to put money aside for herself.
So she took it upon herself to change things. She became the hustle queen. She went back to school, got her degrees and worked as an investment banker, owned a hair salon, had a typing school (remember the typewriter?), was the principal of a girls school, had a Coca-cola franchise, considered starting a bakery and so many other things that I can’t even remember them all.
Her main goal with all this hustling was financial peace of mind and she was serious about it.
While all this was going on, my father was spending a large amount of the money he was earning on educating my 3 older brothers abroad. A few years later, just before I graduated high school in Nigeria and started thinking about what colleges I would be applying to in the US, my father was forced to retire about 15 years earlier than he planned due to a job loss and health concerns.
This, in the grand scheme of his plan to retire, was a huge deal especially because he had spent a bulk of his earnings educating my older brothers and he needed more time to put more money aside for his retirement.
The major sacrifice my mother made for me
And this is where my mother, the hustle queen, stepped in and changed my perspective about money forever. She decided, that I would be able to go to college abroad and that she would be paying for it, with her own money that she had worked really hard for and saved up all those years. Alongside a partial scholarship, she paid for all 4 years of my international college tuition and this is a gift I am forever grateful for and will never take for granted.
Seeing my mother make this sacrifice for me, changed my life. It laid the foundation of me wanting to become financially successful, independent of anyone else. I realized that having my own money would open the doors for me to be able to make my own decisions and live my life on my own terms.
I realized that having money would give me options and I would never find myself stuck in an unfavorable position if I planned carefully. However, it’s taken a lot of trial and error to get me to this point where I am now, telling you my story.
My first big financial accomplishment
After college, my parents set me off on my merry way to figure out my life. My mother had paid for college and that was the extent of their financial support.
I was able to apply the money lessons I learned from my parents and by figuring things out on my own as a then single woman (through trial and error, learning from other people, reading books, etc) towards saving my first $100,000 in a little over 3 years with a starting salary of just $54,000 before taxes even though I had a mortgage and other expenses.
What I did are things you can do right now, on your own, and they were:
- Contributing to my employer-sponsored retirement account
- Keeping my expenses low
- Saving half of my salary and most or all of every bonus, raise and tax refund I received, and
Increasing my income by starting my own side business (a wedding & lifestyle photography business) that earned me $40,000 in the first two years
- And most importantly, believing in myself and developing the mindset that I could succeed - especially when other people doubted that I could do it.
My money mistakes
However, along the way, I've still managed to make a few of my own money mistakes like:
- Applying for my first credit card in college and subsequently maxing it out without caring or understanding my crazy interest rate of 24.99% (yikes!).
- My epic and very ridiculous designer handbag collection that I barely used and held on to for years
- Losing money in investments, I didn't fully understand
But each mistake was a learning opportunity to do learn and do better and that's just what I did - I paid off my debt, I let go of those handbags and put the money to better use and I set a goal to learn about investing and how to do my due diligence in researching every investment I made.
Why Clever Girl Finance is here
As I've gotten older, the biggest recurring theme I see with women is that we are not talking about money and financial wellness enough, or we don't involve ourselves as much as we should when it comes to our finances.
I've also realized that just like me, there are other women out there who've made money mistakes and are attempting to navigate their own murky financial waters but don't always have the support and encouragement they need.
This is the driving force behind Clever Girl Finance.
As a certified financial educator and money expert, my goal is to help women just like you take charge of their finances, stop living paycheck to paycheck, build real wealth and get you in control of the life you REALLY want to live. My mother did it, I'm doing it for myself and now, so can you.
When I am not working or pursuing my other interests, I dedicate my time to my wonderfully supportive husband and our beautiful twins. I am passionate about my family, faith, and friendships. You can read my personal blog at bolasokunbi.com.
P.S. I recently wrote a statement for the record on the challenges women and minorities face accessing financial services and capital for the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion. You can read it here!