On today's episode, I sit down with Anna Szabo who shares some of her experience with money and some things that she's learned along her journey.
Check out Anna's podcast, "The Anna Szabo Show", her YouTube channel and her website.
Hope you enjoy the episode!
Listen to the full episode on one of these platforms:
Check out the transcript below if you'd prefer to read our conversation.
Hey, Anna! Thanks for joining us today on this episode. I am really excited to share a little but if your money story and your journey with money.
First off, tell us a little but about who you are and what you do.
The most important thing to know about me is that I am a child of God. And I believe that God is the king of the entire universe. And He’s my father. So, I am a Princess, a daughter of the king, loved and accepted, sanctified and redeemed.
That’s really how I see myself and it’s the most important thing to know about me.
Secondary to that, I’m a person who is very passionate about quantum physics, the power of mind, brain neuroplasticity, and renewing your mind every day.
Quantum physics is really about how the power of energy works. When Christ asked us to renew our minds every day, to take every thought captive and submit it to the truth of Christ, I was wondering “How does it actually really work and how can I make it work for me?”
So, quantum physics explains how we can take the power of our mind and create physical, tangible, measurable thoughts out of it and build brain circuits and neuropaths, new neurons in our brain.
God also says that His blessings are new every day. Every day we wake up with new neurons in our brain. So, quantum physics and quantum mechanics explain how it’s happening.
Brain neurplasticity teaches us that we have a plastic brain. We can renew it. The science is just catching up with the Bible.
So, we are able to renew it. We can choose the thoughts that will build a new brain for us. And consequently, the new brain will give us a new future so we can be renewed. And that’s really what I’m passionate about.
And thirdly, to share all my passions, I am the founder of Online Discipleship for Women, a ministry for women where we have conversations about God, Gospel, the matters of life... And I have an iTunes podcast called The Anna Szabo Show. And this ministry is really based on the six pillars of joyful living. They are faith, food, fitness, finances, felicity, and fortitude.
And I’m a Mom to this beautiful Red-White Cocker Spaniel rescue Bruno.
Thanks for sharing. I think it’s so interesting when you hear about that science is catching up with the Bible. It’s just facilitating to me as someone who grew up in a church my whole life. God knows what He’s doing.
So, tell the audience a little bit just about your journey, your money story I like to call it.
Yes. I was born in Russian to a single Mom. We were extremely poor. I loved through the whole crush of USSR, the inflation where today you gave money...
Like for example, my Mom had saved 172 rubles for my wedding when I was little, like 7 years old. When I was supposed to be 18, this was supposed to be money for my wedding. And then the next day we went and got that money and it was enough money to buy a little round box of makeup.
So, what I learned from that was grab the money you have today and spend it because tomorrow it’s going to be worth nothing.
That’s how I lived my life. I think I had a great ability throughout my life to earn money, but it all went through my hands, there was nothing to show for it, and I got into a lot of debt. And I realized that those money believes and behavioral patterns I acquired through my childhood experiences are not going to serve me well for the future.
So, I came to Buckhead Church, to Moneywise, I met you. You gave me a great book “Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey. And it really changed my perspective.
It changed my brain because it gave me new ideas about how to think about money and why and how to build new behaviors.
And then I got a mentor. And I got my finances in order. And I got on a debt-free journey. I went to Financial Peace University, graduates, became a very loyal listener of the Dave Ramsey Show on podcast and YouTube channel. And I’m paying off that debt that I acquired. It took many years to acquire it. It takes years to pay it off.
It is very very true. Two things I want to point out that you mentioned about working on your mindset and how that interacts with money. I think it’s so critical to think about our relationship with money. And we always tend to focus on what app should I use to budget and what strategy do I use to pay off debt, when oftentimes it’s our behaviors that prevent us from making progress.
The other thing you mentioned that I thought was so interesting is when you think about the money that we get as a salary each year... but if you took the last five years of salary and think about how much money has come through your hands and what do you have to show for that...
It’s kind of a scary exercise to do but it really puts things in perspective and can show you “Maybe I need to do a little bit better in this area!”
And that’s why I don’t use any tools. I don’t use any apps. I manage my money manually with notes. I write everything out in my actual physical tangible journal with a pen.
And I’m only 35. I’m not that ancient. But I also have a running budget that is like a note in my iPhone and every time I buy anything - everything is logged in, even $1.99 for Google Drive. Everything is logged in there, every dollar.
I do it manually and I don’t automate anything because I want to be aware of my behavioral patterns, my goals for my money, and how I tell my money where to go instead of wondering where it went. Right?
I want to also always be looking for ways to save money, to cut my budget, to pay my debt even faster... I like taking on some challenges with myself.
Well, that’s why doing it manually helps you stay on top of it. Tell us about some of the specific areas you’ve struggled with as it relates to money.
Number one is awareness. Not really knowing: how much money do I actually bring in? Where is this going? Where’s all my money? Who spent it? That person right there in the mirror. And then why do I behave with my money in this way and not that way?
Also, regally facing the consequences of your own behaviors and decisions: letting go of the shame, accepting the grace of God, and really bombarding the negative self-talk of self-condemnation with the thoughts like: “Look, I’m already doing this, I’m already taking care of the problem!”
That’s really what’s been the hardest. And of course battling the society, because we shall not submit to the pattern of this world but we must be transformed by the renewal of our mind every single day. So, doing that for myself, not drifting to vacations, new shoes, new houses, new whatever... you know? Movie theaters... Every Friday people are talking about what they’re going to do, and I come home and I spend my time with God, at home, doing productive work and I don’t have an entertainment budget.
So, I’m able to use all my money that’s extra, outside of my bills, to pay off my debt.
One of the things we talked about - and this was off camera - we talked about that “I DESERVE IT!” mentality. You know, I deserve that brand-new car. I deserve that fancy vacation. Those late good things, those are not bad things to have. But one of the things you said was “I deserve to be debt-free” and kind of countering the culture and the world with “No, I deserve good things for me, not just these shiny things over here, I deserve these good things that will last a long time.”
So, I just thought it was an interesting thing you shared, too.
I think to myself... I talk to myself all the time like “Hey, are you currently focused on eternity or are you focused in the here and now and the worldly things?”
“Because” - I tell myself - “Hey, me, myself, and I - we need to always be focused on eternity because we know where we’re going.”
When I say “We” that’s me, myself, and I.
I know that God saved me so that He can sanctify me and make me more Christ-like and then I enter my eternity for His glory. Glorification is coming. Right?
And for that purpose, I know He wants me to curve Him and not any other master. The Bible says you can’t serve two masters. You’ll either hate or despise one or the other. Right?
Right now, I have not just God as my master. I also have Bank of America, USAA AMEX, my student loan... Too many masters and I only want to serve God as my master.
If I truly want to do it, I need to think: I deserve to be debt-free. I deserve to have complete freedom where I can choose to serve my Lord and Savior. And I deserve to know exactly how money works and how I work with money... I deserve not to conform to the patterns of this world.
I deserve to walk with the wise and be wise and not foolish, and be prudent and not simple... I deserve really being an adult. Because the Bible says that when I was a child, I thought like a child and I reasoned like a child but when I became a man - an adult - then I put my childish ways behind.
And that’s really what I’ve been trying to do and it allowed me to pay off some good amount of debt.
Yes. And it’s harder in today’s culture because the culture just says: spend, spend, spend, you deserve it, you deserve it... Wisdom says: let’s get financially free so we don’t have to worry and stress about this.
Tell us a little bit - to the degree you’re comfortable sharing - how much debt you’ve paid off and why should someone consider paying off some debt.
Since June 10th this year I paid off about twenty thousand dollars and a little over five thousand dollars I paid off in the last three weeks.
Why somebody should consider paying off their debt? I think, there are four reasons:
#1 is Whom do you want to serve as your master? If you want to serve God as your master, then you need to be free from all other masters. I’m not free. I’m currently in slavery to Bank of America, USAA AMEX, and my student loan company.
I want to buy myself out of slavery because I’m the one who got myself into slavery. I sold myself to them. So, that’s number one.
#2 Paying off your debt allows you to create future plans. So, what is it that I want for my future? I want to work toward that.
#3 Whatever it is that is a pain for you... For me, for example, I lived in the shelter for victims of domestic violence in 2009 and I was new in America. I didn’t know about car loans or anything... The man who abused me stoped paying for the car I was using and so my car was repossessed on April 16th, 2009, taken away from me!
Later, I was given an opportunity to buy it back but that experience I never wanted to be repeated in my life.
And so my Prius I paid off very aggressively because I don’t want anybody to own my car but me. And I have a title framed, it’s on my wall because it’s such an accomplishment for me.
So, if you experienced anything like this, you want your car to be paid off. If you every were evicted from your house as a child because your father left and your Mom had no money to pay rent or mortgage, you definitely want to have a home that you actually own, not a home that a bank owns. Right?
#4 is because God wants us to serve His kingdom. His kingdom is people. And I want to serve Him in a big way. And I want to help Him.
My passion is…
#1 Victims of Domestic Violence. When I was in a shelter, I taught myself English, I passed an Academic English Test and I was accepted to Georgia State University Premium MBA on a partial scholarship because my 5 essays were focused on my story of surviving Domestic Violence.
And I want to establish scholarships for victims of Domestic Violence to go to Georgia State University and get their MBA or whatever degree because I want to give back in that kind of way.
#2. And the other thing is I’m really passionate about animals. Bruno is a rescue Cocker Spaniel and he’s been such a blessing in my life.
When I got him from Fulton County Animal Services, they were going to put him down in a few days. And I’m so glad he’s still here. He’s healthy, happy, and I want to provide an opportunity for life for other animals like this.
#3 And number three is I’m passionate about women who experience suicidal thoughts and women in crisis, whatever causes that crisis. And i think sometimes just a month of rent, a month of a car payment can make a huge difference between the person deciding to… “go” and not be here on this planet anymore, and deciding to stay and deciding that there is still hope. You know?
And I want to be financially able to support women in crisis at my church.
I love that that’s one of the driving reasons, that’s probably one of the main reasons to getting the debt gone and continuing on the journey to financial freedom and to help others. That’s one of the most fun things we can do with money.
So, tell its. You started this journey in 2014. What prompted you, or what motivated you to make the change?
Being suffocated by debt. Being suffocated by working hard and not having any money to keep. And thinking, finally, for the first time: ‘Who got me here?“
And it was the woman in my mirror… And then thinking: “Where am I going this way? Where will I ultimately be if I continue like this?”
Not a place where I actually want to be. Well, then, what is the place where I want to be? Debt-free! And then: “What should I be doing to get there?”
Because if we set our GPS to go to New York but we actually go to North Carolina, there is no way we will end up in New York. We actually have to go in the direction of New York to end up there. And so that's really what happened.
Let’s talk a little bit about what were some of the tools and the content that were helpful along your journey as you were starting this?
#1. Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover book where I learned how to think about money, why think about money, and really think about money long-term, not just today, which was what I learned from my childhood story.
#2. Then, Financial peace University. Going to actual physical location with Financial Peace University where a group of about 10 people get together, focused on the same goal, and hearing people being afraid of homelessness and talking even about their family members being homeless, talking about their parents having nothing to eat because they were not thoughtful with their money, and just getting a lot of context for thinking: “How should I act with my money?” It was really powerful. And accountability I think is really a big part of why I like Financial Peace University.
#3. Number three is Dave Ramsey’s show on iTunes.
#4. Number four is his YouTube channel.
#5. Seeing actual real-life people’s stories, how people struggle with money, how they go about it, how they renew their minds, build new habits and set themselves free from slavery to debt and their creditors, that is encouraging and inspiring to me. It’s empowering and I believe that I can do all things through Christ when I like see how other people did it.
There’s something to that feeling like you’re part of a community that really fuels you as you’re going through that process. Whether it’s neat places like wait watchers, they build a community around it so you don’t feel like you’re on your own.
And I think that hearing someone else’s story of their experience of paying off debt just makes you feel like “Oh! There are other people who are in this situation with me, I’m not the only one!”
And that helps to start tearing down some of those barriers that prevent people from making progress.
And I think also the fifth category of the content that helped me, like seeing those people in real life… My friend Francesqua whom I recommended to you for Moneywise, she went, she paid off her caramel care loan debt-free. Now, she loan, she paid off her student loans… She’s completely debt-free.
And seeing Francesqua sacrifice, make plans, sticking to them also empowers me and kind of shows me how it’s possible.
So, being on this journey with other people or even one other person also I think supplies you with content and context for thinking about your daily life and whether or not to go out on Friday or come home and not spend any money.
Yes. And to bounce ideas off of because this is the topic of money, we don’t want to talk about it with everybody. It’s very personal and we all kind of keep it close to our vest …
So, to have someone you can talk to and be open and vulnerable with is so helpful.
I just appreciate you being willing to share all this today. I know it will encourage some people who are watching or listening to this.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our audience today?
Yes, I would like to invite everyone to listen to The Anna Szabo Show on iTunes and let’s continue the conversation about the six pillars of joyful living: faith, food, fitness, finances, felicity, and fortitude.
And I also would like to pray with your permission for anybody watching. I really would like to encourage you to look up to God and focus on eternity and ask Him to enable you to trust Him with your money and to put the desire in your heart that just dwells there which is the desire that allows us to sacrifice.
When everybody takes a vacation, you are able to take a staycation, because you have a desire and focus on eternity, not just today and what the conversation that will happen on Monday in the office about who did what on their vacation.
So, let me pray for you.
Father God, you are a good good father and you gave us the Spirit of love, power, and sound mind. And we can do all things through Christ. And we have a mind of Christ because we are like Christ. And so, we are capable of facing our financial situation. We are capable of gathering those numbers, looking at them, and making good, wise decisions.
We are capable of renewing our mind every day and not conforming to the pattern of this world but being transformed every day by the renewing of our mind through the power of Christ if we focus on eternity, your word that you teach us and your future for us, the actual purpose of living this life.
So, Father God, I just ask you to please lift up everybody who is listening right now and watching, asking you to place the desire in their heart to glorify you, to focus on eternity, to be renewed every day as it comes to their finances, and to serve you in a big way.
Place, Father God, a huge dream so that they are able to sacrifice in ways that they could have never imagined. In your son’s name, I pray that you make this person listening and watching right now so focused and so able and so disciplined in their behaviors that whatever it is that their financial situation right now, whatever debt that they have, that they are able to dig themselves out of it and be completely free financially from any slavery to any creditors and that they are able to serve your kingdom and purpose with their money and be generous.
And I pray this in the marvelous name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Amen. Well, if you are watching and listening to this and you’re in that part of life when you’re trying to pay off some debt, or you’re just trying to get on a budget, or whatever that looks like for you, I hope that Anna’s story was an encouragement to you.
And I hope that you use this a a fuel just to continue the path that you are on making progress with money.
Thank you for joining us today, Anna.
Thank you so much for watching.