Name: Doreen Ayafor
Hometown: Cameroon, South Florida
Occupation: CEO of Rayeen Consulting
Fun Fact: “I enjoy skydiving but scared to death of rollercoasters!”
Doreen Ayafor is a leading financial trailblazer, specifically working to help women break the cycle of letting their significant others make the financial decisions in the household. Originally from Cameroon and a biology major, coincidentally, she took only one finance course in undergrad that re-routed her career as a finance expert. Using her life experience as being one of six siblings, having to be budget-conscious in college, and working in corporate America for several years in finance, she was able to start her own business as CEO of Rayeen Consulting.
Now, as an MBA graduate and certified individual and small business coach, she works fiercely nonstop to empower women of all ages to transform their wealth with simplistic financial concepts. With a new e-book, wealth workshops, and client consultations under her belt, we can tell her passion is imminent. We interviewed the ‘financial feminist’ as she educates us on how maintaining health is equivalent to maintaining wealth.
MN: So let’s talk about why you decided to become a finance expert. What was your inspiration behind it and why you decided to be your own boss?
DA:Well actually, my undergraduate degree was biology. My initial aspiration was to pursue medicine. In my last year [as an undergrad], I took a finance course. And I became completely in love with management theory and investment theory, and as a result of that I decided to switch careers abruptly. I then went further to pursue my masters in finance. I learned in corporate for sometime and I was working with individuals who were making a lot of money. Senior management were making six figures and at that time I was a junior. I just noticed that the women that I worked with were making amazing amount of money, and they always looked really great, but they always complained about money. It never dawned on me until a couple of years later.
In my own personal experience, living in Africa I grew up in a household where money was never a problem. My father had a great job and I had a great childhood. It wasn’t until I moved here [in the States] for college that I had to start managing money on my own. I found myself in college making $8 an hour and struggling to pay things like rent and phone bill. All these responsibilities, all I had to do was make a phone call to my parents for help.
After graduating, coming from a big family of six siblings, I knew that I had younger siblings that needed the resources more than I do. I had to get smart about my money. So, that’s when I started learning more about money management. That, along with hearing about women and other individuals always complaining about not having money, and as a junior making a fraction of what they were making, I was trying to understand the dynamics.
The women that were going through divorce or separation, there were money issues as a result of that. All of that allowed me to realize that there’s a problem with financial literacy and financial management in general. I decided that I wanted to learn more about this topic and teach women. I started with my circle of girlfriends which launched the business from there.
MN: Did you start your own business as a side hustle?
DA: Yes, it was absolutely a side hustle! But I wouldn’t call it side hustle because I think when you have a side hustle you go with the intentions of making extra money. When I started my first year, my intentions were to help people. I would teach classes without getting paid. I enjoyed it. A good friend of mine whose an entrepreneur told me I should get paid for this. There’s so much more with this gift and with that I structured it at that point into a [full-time] business.
MN: How long were you running your own business before it became profitable?
DA: Actually in my first year of making [Rayeen] an official business, it was profitable. Keep in mind, different business has different structures in regards to starting up as a business. For my particular business, I already had the knowledge so I didn’t have to pay or acquire any additional knowledge. It was really now about putting out the structure which made it very easy to be profitable because I didn’t have any high start-up costs.
“To me, when I think about debt, I have a visual of a black metal ball that would be chained on people’s leg. They could move, just move very slowly. The extent of your debt is the weight of the ball.”
MN: So with your financial consulting business, what are some general money management tips you would give to anyone?
DA: One definitely starts with the mindset of [money] being powerful. We’re always very shy to acknowledge that money is essential. We need money. Money is good. There’s nothing wrong with it. So getting the individual to understand that they have to get control over their money. So really getting that mental strength to accept that money is part of life and you have the ability to manage it and build on it.
Debt is a plague, especially within our society. To me, when I think about debt, I have a visual of a black metal ball that would be chained on people’s leg. They could move, just move very slowly. The extent of your debt is the weight of the ball. The second thing I would suggest is definitely do whatever you need to do to eliminate your debt and don’t get any more. Debt will keep you poor.
The third thing I suggest, regardless of your age, is to set up a retirement plan. What people don’t realize when you work like 50 years, from adulthood to the age of 65, that income you made within those years has to last you for about 85 to 90 years. So start looking at your retirement planning. It could be investing or it could be starting a business. There are so many options depending on the individual but you’re definitely never too young or too old to start working on your retirement planning.
MN: Have you ever made any money management mistakes yourself?
DA: Oh absolutely!! Oh gosh, I mean even to this day! Money management, I always compare it to weight loss or health in general. You can look at the fittest personal trainer that works out every day and typically have a good diet; but, he decides to have pizza or wings on game night. That doesn’t make him a bad person or make him a less credible individual. It’s just we’re human. I certainly have made money mistakes and I learned from them. I will continue to make money mistakes and learn from them. Luckily, my mistakes are not detrimental to my future.
I remember my first vehicle in undergrad. It was a Mitsubishi Galant that I purchased at like 20% interest. An absolutely ridiculous interest rate! I had no credit and I couldn’t get a cosigner. So that was a major money mistake but I did keep the loan for the full four, five years without refinancing it.
MN: So lets a create an imaginary percentage budget pie graph. How much should your income go into expenses, savings, or miscellaneous items?
DA: Good question. When I teach budgeting, I believe in simplifying concepts. Finance does not have to be complicated.
So the first [category] one is living expenses.So when I talk about living expenses, I talk about your household: rent, insurance, and utilities. That should be 50% of your budget. Keep in mind, within that category, you should not spend more than 25% of your income on your housing which is your rent or mortgage. For example, you make $10,000 a month. You should not spend more than $2500 a month on your rent or any kind of housing. The remaining $2500 should go to a light bill, phone bill, water bill, all necessities. It also accounts for food that you need. You need to eat, but you don’t need to eat lobster at an expensive restaurant.
Then we have 20% that goes into savings. This also includes your debt repayment.
The other 30% goes to miscellaneous expense. This is your nail salon, restaurants, and other expenses that belong to that category. When you have a heavy debt repayment, you should be scaling back on other expenses. You must never decrease your investing and savings bucket.
MN: So I love to travel and taking extravagant trips. How can I include traveling into my budget? What about others who have a hobby or things people enjoy doing that requires a substantial amount of money?
DA: I love to travel. Traveling is expensive. You can move things around your budget. I would never tell a person to cut back on the things they enjoy doing. I would advise a person who enjoys traveling is to cut back on expenses such as housing. When I was in graduate school, I wasn’t going to give up traveling. I would get the travel itch. I ended up purchasing my first property and rather than living alone I ended up renting out two bedrooms. Gave up a little bit of privacy, but I got to travel. And I got my housing expenses low.
So you need to pick what makes you happy and keep doing that. But it’s going to be the expense of something else that may not matter so much to you. Life is all about balance.
“Fifty percent of divorces were because of financial disagreements. Women didn’t pay attention to finances and then they get forced to pay attention to finances. They are now forced to learn because they passed that responsibility to their husbands.”
MN: So being a woman, I’m always hesitant to be aggressive in the stock market, and I’m pretty sure that most women are. Why is there such a lack of confidence when it comes to women and investing?
DA: Well finance in general, not just stocks, is a male-dominated industry. If you could close your eyes right now and visualize a stockbroker, it would be a man. With such a male-dominated industry, and for years, women only managed the household finances that would have to do with making sure there was food on the table. Making sure there was clothing but women never really manage retirement or investing. This mentality was passed off for years and years and it was not until recently women stood up and wanted to know more. Otherwise, they were only comfortable letting the man managed the money.
It also has something with the divorce rate increasing. Fifty percent of divorces were because of financial disagreements. Women didn’t pay attention to finances and then they get forced to pay attention to finances. They are now forced to learn because they passed that responsibility to their husbands.
Then, there’s a lack of knowledge. We humans usually avoid things that we don’t know. If you don’t know money then you don’t want to manage it.
MN: Is it important to have a financial advisor? Some people believe that they can manage money pretty well with their current job and set a 401k retirement plan is feasible.
DA: First of all, your job does not take care of your 401k. Nobody can take care of your money. Not even a financial advisor. The reason you want to have a financial advisor, a mentor, or a coach is the same reason you would hire a personal trainer or nutritionist. You need someone who has expert insight or whose going to guide you to what’s going to work for you.
Unfortunately, as human, we tend to procrastinate. Especially, with tasks we find challenging. There are certain things you can’t push off for too long. As a coach, I essentially push my clients to seek out the right resources. Get the right advice. Contact this person; this may not work for you and these are the reasons why not. Basically, have someone there that’s going to move you to do the things you need to do so you don’t have to self-motivate.
MN: What about married couples or a person who has a long-term partner? What advice would you give a couple when it comes to building a financial relationship?
DA: It’s tricky because they are a couple. The first assessment is to determine if they both have the same [financial] agenda. The household has to be in agreement. If one person wants to save a lot of money and the other person wants to spend a lot of money, there’s going to be a cause for concern. Ultimately with married couples, you have to get everyone on the same page and then move forward with a plan.
We live in a society where weight loss is a big deal. If you understand weight loss challenge, you can understand money challenge. If you’re in a household and you’re trying to lose ten pounds but your husband brings pizza home every night, that’s going to be a challenge. But if you’re trying to lose ten pounds and he’s trying to lose 10 pounds, make salads together, work out together, that’s actually going to bring results.
MN: Have you thought about writing an e-book about personal finances?
DA: Yes! I just finished my first book. (Congrats!) I’m in the process of getting my website a facelift, which will be one of the items on my website. It’s called ” The Wealth Jumpstart Program”. So, it’s basically divided into five sections. The first section talks about the “Mindset” and really get into the “wealth mindset.” You have to say that you’re going to be wealthy and financial literate for it to happen. It goes into the “Net Worth” and determining your net worth which is very different from actually saying you have a lot of money. Then I talk about “Budgeting” and setting up a budget. Then it goes into “Financial Goals”. You have to have financial and lifestyle goals. Last, I go into “Investing”.
MN: Are there any books you live by when it comes to money management?
DA: I’m a sucker for “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. “Secrets of Six-Figure” by Barbara Stanny, and “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert. All three of these books are not necessarily technical books. They are more on the motivational side and required you take action.
MN: Final question for the readers to take away: 3 Dos of Building Wealth 3 Donts of Building Wealth.
DA: DO Eliminate Debt.
DO Save for Retirement.
DO Be Happy.
DONT Compare Yourself to Others.
DONT Give Up on Yourself!
To learn more about Financial Feminist Doreen Ayafor, check out her website.