After graduating from college in 2004, Bola Sokunbi challenged herself to save as much as possible. She had admired the way her mother became a “hustle queen,” jumping into business after staying home to raise four children, and she wanted to start laying her own financial foundation.
Working as a tech consultant in New York City from 2004 to 2008 before she was married, she managed to save 40% to 50% of her $54,000 annual salary. Sokunbi, who grew up in Austria and Nigeria, educated herself about the American retirement savings system along the way. One book that particularly influenced her was Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach. “I read that book to shreds,” she says.
Today, Sokunbi, 36, is an influencer herself. She quit her consulting job two years ago to focus full-time on running Clever Girl Finance, her financial education site for women. She has 4-year-old twins and lives with her husband, a doctor, in Hunterdon County, N.J.
Here, she shares insights into her aggressive savings plan.
Set Your Intentions
None of Sokunbi’s friends were saving as aggressively as she was right out of college. Some were making twice what she earned and saving nothing at all. But that didn’t faze her. “For me, it was setting intentions and wanting to do it,” she says. It helped that Sokunbi didn’t have student loan debt. Her mother paid for her college education, which she began in Austria and finished in the U.S.
Another tailwind was the fact that she didn’t have much time to spend money. She travelled a lot for work during the week and began a side gig as a wedding photographer on the weekends. Not only did her two jobs take up a lot of time, but they also took care of most of her meals: her company would foot the tab for her food when she was on the road, and she’d also eat at weddings as part of her compensation. When she was left to her own devices, “I was pretty much buying ramen noodles and Coke, my guilty pleasure,” she says.
She enjoyed getting to work early and reading personal finance blogs over her breakfast of a free company bagel. She loved seeing how Mr. Money Mustache and others approached investing and calculating their income in early retirement, but she didn’t necessarily aspire to follow in their footsteps and reach FIRE, an acronym for financial independence, retire early.
So, her mother paid for her college, so no student debt. She travels a lot, so no permanent home/rent - and the travel is often covered by her employer. She also gets a lot of meals comped as part of her work. Oh, and she got married to a doctor, which probably made her website income discretionary.
I get the feeling there are some aspects of her story that make her advice somewhat... dubious.