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Episode 17 Transcript

Episode 17: Financial Counselor Jessica Medina on Owning Your Purpose, and Your Career

Arivee Vargas: Hi I'm Arivee Vargas. I believe we're all so powerful beyond our wildest imaginations. We have the ability to overcome the fears, self-doubt, negative beliefs and all the other roadblocks that hold us back from having the life and career we really want and deserve.

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That's why I created the Humble Rising podcast. I want to help you get clear on what a joyful and fulfilling life and career looks like for you. And help you go after it with all you have. Each week, we'll talk to badass inspirational women sharing their journeys. We’ll dig into their successes, their failures, challenges, the different shifts, and their careers in their personal lives and so much more. Be inspired, get motivated, and get ready to rise. This is the Humble Rising Podcast.

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Jessica: I was a lead associate working on a very important area of the case. And we we were successful, we won, and I was not nearly as excited about it as I thought I should be given the night and weekend and time and energy that I had put into this work. And when the best-case scenario occurred, I was like wow that wasn’t worth it.

Arivee: Last week, we heard attorney and Justice Warrior and advocate Bianca Ford advise us to be fearless enough to trust our gut and fulfill our true purpose in life. She reminded us that the trajectory of our life path may not be Straight and that every experience we encounter allows us to learn, grow, and adjust. In this week's episode. I was joined by the courageous Jessica Medina, who conquered her fear of change in order to fulfill her passion for helping others as an accredited financial counselor. Jessica embodies Bianca's notion of identifying the most important things in life and adjusting. Your career path to align with your values before I welcome Jessica to this episode. Let me give you a better idea of Jessica’s experience and the law and the financial field. Jessica Medina is a former lawyer turned accredited financial counselor. On a mission to help attorneys figure out their finances so they can pursue their true passions, no matter the salary she graduated from Columbia Law School as a single mom of twins with over $200,000 in student loans. Took a stroll through big law and the federal government and now teaches other lawyers how to use their money to finance their dream lives. In this episode, Jessica and I have a comfortable conversation about an uncomfortable subject. We're talking about money, as you will hear later in this episode. Jessica was forced to confront the financially attractive yet unfulfilling nature of becoming a partner in big law. And we discuss how education was deeply ingrained into her idea of success and how her personal experiences allow her to relate to her current clients as she commits herself to promoting feasible financial plans that make her clients feel really excited about their future. And with that, let's dive into the conversation with Jessica.

Hi, Jessica. Thank you so much for joining me on the podcast. It's so great to have you here.

Jessica: Oh, thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Arivee: So for those who don't know you, I would love for you to share a little bit about yourself and how you got to do the work you do now.

Jessica: Absolutely. My name is Jessica Medina. I am an accredited financial counselor, but for the majority of my career, I was a practicing attorney. And like many folks, I wanted to be a lawyer back when I was in high school, I found myself at Columbia. I was super excited about it. But my story takes an interesting turn because I became a single mom of twins the second year at Columbia. So, I graduated with a very different family situation that I went into law school with, and I went straight into big law because that seemed like the only place that I could possibly afford my life. Whether I really wanted to be there or not, and uh, you know, I went through a lot of hard work and some really hard decisions. I eventually left my law firm to go to the government, which was a wonderful opportunity, but that's where I learned. I didn't actually want to be a lawyer, which was a very different transition. So the transition from firm to government. But I made that transition. I left the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2018 specifically to become an accredited financial counselor, and now I help other lawyers figure out their money so they too can pursue their own dreams, no matter the salary.

Arivee: Well, that's great. Let's go back a little bit cause I wanna hit on each kind of career shift you had and how you made those decisions and how you thought about that because a lot of people who are listening are going through that same thing. How do I decide? How do I make my decision and what factors do I think about even though everyone situation is different? I think there are some common themes there, but before we get there, I would love for you to talk a little bit more about just like your upbringing. And why you decided to be a lawyer and how you were raised and how that influenced who you are and this the decisions that you may have made.

Jessica: You know, it's interesting. I didn't realize that I had any lawyers in my family until I was much older, and that's because I am part of Dominican and part, Puerto Rican. And so my mother, who is from the Dominican side, she didn't know her father very well and didn't know his family. But it turns out we got the lawyers over there, but. But these were not folks who were ever part of my upbringing. You know, I my my mom and I both graduated college around the same time. If that gives you any indication of the home that I grew up in, and you know, both my parents worked worked very hard. And I knew that you know, I was always kind of, you know, a smart kid. And I wanted to do something that was going to be very intellectually challenging. That being said, I was also a bit of a ham. And I thought musical theater was really going to be my dream.

Arivee: I love it. Oh Jessica, I love it. I I wanted to dance. So my parents literally could not afford it so I could never do those things. But I feel you.

Jessica: Right. Never had any of the, you know, the the tutors or anything like that. But I was in Chorus, I was in theater. I absolutely loved it. But when I was in high school, I, you know, I was kind of thinking about what I was gonna do with the rest of my life. And, you know, musical theater wasn't wasn't really working out as like the potential career that I found in the past. And I I found the law and I realized, oh, now granted, I only knew about the law from what I saw on TV. Right. Because I didn't have any lawyers in my my orbit. I didn't really have any professionals in my orbit. And so, this just seemed like, oh. fancy lawyer, well that sounds fancy. Sounds like, you know, they have a comfortable life and they have they worked through interesting work and then look at the performance aspect this seems like the perfect marriage of all the things that I wanted to do. And so, I was all up in arms about changing the criminal justice system from the inside out and you know, being the compassionate prosecutor, that would finally, you know, bring, you know, fairness to the justice system. That was my dream. And so, you know, I basically ended up going through college knowing that I wanted to go to law school. And very, very focused on that. My parents were always very, very adamant that grades were really important and that was going to be an avenue for me to be successful for media, but to make a life for myself, I think you know, just being able to see my mom go back to school as an adult and pursue her degree. That really instilled in me how important education was. It wasn't something that you ever take off the shelf. Right it’s always there. Even if you have to come back to it and fight for it. How important it is. And so for the entire time. That I was a, you know, a student and and high school and also in college I had this idea that education is the most important thing in the world. And it is this great equalizer among all of us that as long as I have the education and I go to the right school. (Arivee: Yes. Yes, that is yes, right.) Maybe maybe I can overcome whatever struggles I may encounter because I didn't bring to the table the same kind of pedigree, the same kind of support, the same kind of familiarly connection, all of that, all of that stuff, but I didn't feel like I was I was gonna be entering the game with. And so education was always a very, very big focus for our family. And for me in particular, and it's how I ended up at Columbia. Because it was the best law school that I got into. And I thought thats tell you make a decision, right. Even though they were gonna give me no money because it was the best school I got into. I don't know if you guys understand how this works. It's better not reaching out to you. You're probably paying through the nose for it, even though I had gone into other schools that were very good and we're offering me money, I thought, no, I have to go to the best one because this is the leg up that I'm going to need to be able to be the kind of lawyer that I want to be. And so that was definitely part of my decision. And of course, being able to see how proud your parents were and, you know, kind of the look on peoples faces when I told them that I was going to Colombia, that stuck with me too. And. I got bit by the Prestige bug pretty early and that also, you know causes its own issues throughout the rest of my career. But you know, in terms of you know it's it's ironic that I'm a financial counselor right now because I never liked talking about money in my home it was seen as very rude, and you know something that you did not discuss. I didn't know what my parents made. I just know that I knew we weren’t homeless. I knew that we had food. I also knew that didn't have all the things that some of the other kids in my town had. When we went on vacation. Vacation was visiting family. That’s what vacation. Don't think I went on my first vacation that didn't involve some sort of relatives house. Until I was getting ready to leave my firm because this, that's what I said. I've never been on a real vacation, and I may never go on another one again, because I’m taking a huge pay cut. But you know, everything was about family. It was always about supporting family. And you always have, you know, kind of a stray relative living in our basement. And that was just kind of what I understood everybody lives were like, even though it's not at all what many people’s lives are like. But knowing about the support was there was also helpful, but if anything were to happen, I knew that there was gonna be some some couch somewhere that I that I could probably try to crash on. But, you know, at the end of the day, again, education was the most important thing. And money was something we never talked about. I got. I got no education and money, that's for sure. And just kind of, you know, embarked out on the world as a naive star-eyed student, thinking that education was going to solve all of my problems for the rest of my life.

Arivee: Yes. And Jessica, you you mentioned this earlier, you said that. You really wanted to take on the criminal justice system from the inside and do it that way and and when you mentioned going to a law firm after law school, you said that it was what you did, even though you you weren't sure it was really what you wanted. Can you talk about what happened? I say that sometimes people fall into a law firm. I felt like that that happened to me as well. But I'm wondering what happened for you.

Jessica: I think it was a little bit of a combination. When you're going to law school in New York, many of the firms are right there. When I showed up on Columbia campus, there is, you know, kind of this undertone that big law is place where everybody is really good end's up, even if you don't plan on staying there, everybody puts in their time there. It's just. Stop on the road to greatness, right? (Arivee: Just like make it train.) Yeah, exactly right. Clicking word. Supreme Court Justice is the road to Supreme Court. Right. And so, you know, that was definitely an undertone for pretty much a lot of a lot of the rhetoric that we heard at. Yeah, but also gosh, as a 1L, I remember the first real cocktail party that I ever went to was put on by a law firm and we're talking like at the Russian tearoom. OK, this is not like, you know, some dark dive bar, you know, on the lower East side like these were really nice mending with the people, with the appetizers on the plate.

Arivee: Wait Jessica Can we, can we just take a minute to pause on here? Because this is so important for people listening who come from similar backgrounds to us and who didn't grow up in these kinds of environments. I remember being culture shocked. College maybe a little bit. But law school and the and the fact that there existed, frankly, I will be honest, I didn't really know there were such thing as Big large law firms that did these kinds of things that paid this kind of money. I had no idea. And so each event I was like, what are? What are we doing that this exists? I just. I was shocked by it. I'm curious how you felt. I mean it it into the the hors d’oeuvres and the and the alcohol. And I was just like, how did you feel about all of that?

Jessica: It was very unfamiliar for sure. I had gone to College in California, so I had been a, you know, and I went. We ended up moving to LA in high school, not the the center of LA, you know, kind of like, right on the outskirts of the suburbs but had been exposed to money, but not where I was involved in the end. (Arivee: Yes.) It was something I saw from afar. (Arivee: Yes) new might exist but wasn't really for people like me. And then when I showed up in New York, I was in the middle of it and I was a participant, which was felt very different and also felt very uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Cause I wasn't sure what I should wear. And I wasn't sure what I was supposed to allowed to talk about. And you know, what are these people? What do these people talk about? What do these people, but they were just so friendly, right? Because they're wooing you. (Arivee: Yes.) I had never been wooed before. And so. It felt good. It also felt a little weird and strange and when I would try to think I could not actually articulate what anyone did at any of these firms, I didn't really understand the nature of the work because again, right, I was a 1L in law school. So, I'm like finishing up my Cipro course. I'm like oooo this is so fun like litigation It's so fun. Then I learned what litigation is really like. Not like what you learned at law school, but so, you know, I had very, very few points of reference. And then when I heard about the money, that was shocking in terms of learning kind of. Wow, this is I'm fairly certain more than my entire family ever made, you know. Come when I put my parents combined and I could make that right out. Right when I graduate. That would be my first job. That's insane. And yeah, maybe yes, please. Yes. That doesn’t sound bad. Yeah, OK, I'm definitely something I would consider, but you know, I remember. So, for my 1L summer, I did end up, I got a public service fellowship, and I was interning at the Youth Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. So, I'm down in Brooklyn, and it was exactly the work that I that I thought that I was interested. I'm like, oh, this is so exciting. Oh, my goodness. I'm working for the government. I got the white hat on. I'm feeling so good. And then I became a mom, and I realized. I don't think I can afford to have a family by myself and go work with government. I mean, maybe I could. I was on food stamps in law school. I wasn't making any money. I didn't have it. I didn't have a job. But I had family. I had children to support, and so I learned about wick. I learned about, you know, some of these support services are available for people who do not have a lot of income, but do have children and need to support them, and that was really really hard for me. My family had never had to participate in any of those services. We had never been at that point where we needed to really tap into right the social services network. And the fact that I was tapping into it as a last student was a bit jarring for me to think. Well, I am at I am at one of the best law schools in the country and I'm doing pretty well. Is this really what my life is going to be? Am I going to be? Am I going to be on food stamps for the rest of my life as an attorney? And no, I'm going to a firm. And that’s going to solve all these issues and there really isn't a question anymore. (Arivee: Yes.) And so that was, if I, if I had had any lingering ideas even after the cocktail parties. Right. That I still wanted to go straight into public service, and I wanted to practice the kind of law. That was really I was really passionate about that went away when I was thinking through with my very practical brain. I have $200,000 in student loans and I have two little babies that I'm supporting. Yeah. I'm going to big law. I’m going to get there.

Arivee: Yeah, just in that, that Jessica, that reminds me of, I mean your story is is very specific and it's really inspirational. How you able to navigate law school on food stamps with babies, with babies. Law school crushes people that have no responsibility whatsoever. So, the fact they were to navigate that is is pretty amazing. I just wanna make acknowledge that and I think there are people who maybe not have that same experience, but who go to law firms for a similar financial reason of. I actually have to support my family back home or I have to help with my sisters school or something where I always say it's like on that Maslow's hierarchy of needs. When there is a financial need for you to survive, if you to take care of others and their basic needs. That actually is what you do. You can't get to the self-actualization and all of these other things if you don't take care of your basic necessities first. So that makes sense that you were you said Hey, well, it's it's gotta be big law because I have to actually feed my babies and make sure they have a home and make sure they're taking care of and you too. So, talk to me more about your in big law and then you decide I'm gonna go to the SEC. What was that decision like for you? What? What prompted that decision? What was the impetus?

Jessinca: Also a much longer and windy road than I ever expected. Right. Here I am. I'm just like, OK, I'm gonna go to the firm. I'm gonna just suck it up. I'm gonna go there for a few years, right? I'm gonna put my time in, and then I'm gonna get out. And money is great. And I and I wanna acknowledge that, that being said, when you are single mom in a major metropolitan area, and you have $200,000 in student loan. The money at the junior associate doesn't go nearly as far as you entered, the painted picture that it would. So, on top of that you’re thinking. Gosh, I am more highly paid than 99% of the US population. What is wrong with me? What is happening here? I'm obviously doing something wrong, but I don't have the time to figure it out, so let me just stay here obviously because that's my only choice and I graduated from Columbia in 2004 so right around the sweet spot of when you would be a mid-level and you'd be starting to look for other places. The Great Recession hit, and I was just thankful to have a job that my firm, you know, was not laying off people left and right that they like kids would remain in this bubble that I had created for that, and the government wasn't hiring anyway, there was nothing happening, everything is frozen. For anyone who had a job at that point, was thankful to have a job not making any noise. We were just quiet, thankful, grateful. And so, you know that that timing, I think delayed for reasons both outside of myself and inside of myself, any real moves that I would have made. But it also right around the time that I knew that the firm life was not for me. I specifically remember I was in the litigation group and I wanna say, you know, my firm was pretty amazing as big law firm go. They had a daycare on site. They were one of the first firms ever have that. They had very proactive family-friendly policies. But they love, big law and the client, were on demand. And regardless of what your personal life is, you need to meet those if you're going to be part of the system. And so about probably about four years in I was working on a huge litigation. I had been on for a couple of years. That's just how litigation is. And I remember I was the lead associate working on a very important area of the case. I had to learn new technology. This was an antitrust case with a patent background. And so, I’m learning about patent law, I’m learning about chemical science I’m learning all these things that I can work with the experts, and you know I we worked very hard in this motion in eliminate to this very big piece that the Plaintiffs wanted to include. And we were successful. We won. And I was not nearly as excited about it as I thought I should be, given the night and weekend and time and energy that I had put into this work. At the time that I had missed spending with my children. The time that I had missed raising my children. Right. Like all those things that are the things you do outside of the office. I had given up in service of, you know, this work that I was doing and when the best-case scenario occurred, I wasn't that happy about it. I was just like, wow, that wasn't worth it. And I thought to myself. OK. So obviously I can't do this in my life, because that's a little too much sacrifice and not enough benefit, but it took me another four years to leave. Because I was so afraid of changing our circumstances of what that would mean for our family. And to be honest, I mentioned the Prestige bug and that sucker is real. I liked working at a fancy law firm. I liked introducing myself as an attorney there. I like the things that I got invited to. I like that circle. All my friends worked at law firms. You know, we were all in kind of the same boat together. We all had the same goggles on and couldn't really see anything beyond what we were doing. But when I was an eighth year, that is basically when you need to decide whether you're putting yourself off a partner. And that is a big decision because at my firm, we didn't. We only had one tier. It was equity partner or associate, right. That's basically all that we had. So, it's up or out. What are you going to choose? You know, I remember sitting in the managing partner's office and he was asking me if I was gonna put myself over partners if I had really good reviews. I was in a very successful practice group. I had, you know, people who were very supportive of me. I was really well known at the firm. I was a lady who showed up with twins. Like, that doesn't happen very often. Right. So, a lot of people knew me, and I had a pretty good reputation there, but I had been thinking about leaving. I had an offer from the SEC, and when I checked in with my gut, when I literally had to make a decision because he's like, yeah, we're gonna need done that couple of days. I knew I couldn't do it, but it took that long, right? It took me basically being forced by some outside criteria to force that decision because I was so just like dragging my feet the whole time.

Arivee: But Jessica, you had applied to the SEC. And you had interviewed, so what made you do that?

Jessica: So that was knowing that this thing was gonna be coming up and knowing and the industry had literally just opened up their hiring. That was the work that I had been doing. They, they, they, they listed because of the hiring freeze, which had been in place for a number of years. You know, I never imagined myself doing security work, that is, but that is a topic for another podcast of how I ended up being a securities lawyer. But that ended up being a very natural transition for me. And so, you know, when I was thinking of, OK, I can put myself up a partner, what are the other options that I could pursue. That makes sense, right. Because we're so practical, everything has to be a straight line. I'm doing this security’s work. Security Exchange Commission is federal government as I go into enforcement, I will basically be part of the “justice system” And it work’s that I'm familiar with. I know some people over there. And so, you know, I applied, I continue to entertain the idea. Because the idea of becoming a partner in a major law firm is very, very sexy.

Arivee: Attractive it is attractive checking that box is very attractive.

Jessica: Very attractive and I was a homegrown associate. We didn't have a lot of homegrown partners. You certainly didn't have a lot of homegrown, single Latina mother partners. And the idea that. I could be that person in the firm and create this hope for associates coming after me. It was a big emotional burden for me to carry around when thinking about leaving. I don't want to give the impression that I'm just like sacrificial, you know, like, oh goodness, everything for everyone else. But you know, obviously I left. But that it was a really big part of my decision, thinking about not only how much benefit I could bring to future associates coming down the line to be able to see that happening. But also feeling like what would people say if I could have done it and I didn't, you know? Are they gonna think, oh, she couldn't hack it? And isn't that isn't that just like a single mom and Latina no less. She did. She she couldnt. Oh, she. She couldn't take it and so. I always carried around the entire time that I was at my firm idea that I don't want to prove anyone, right? (Arivee: Yes), I need to make sure that nobody ever thinks that someone like me can do this job and do it really well and. So, you know, getting so close to the “finish line” and deciding not to profit fighting to be off, you know in a different direction with a really, really hard decision. And again, I had an outside force pulling me because my kids right like they’re their lives basically tracked my time at the firm. So, they were around eight or nine years old, and the thought of missing the next three years of their life on top of everything that I had already missed. They would be teenagers by the time I could really consider leaving like you can't, like, make partner and believe that next day it's not how it works. You all think that it is, but it’s not.

Arivee: People forget to like it's work when you're when you go out for partner, you have to do a bunch of work to get the people who actually decide to be like, Oh yeah, for sure, no doubt. And then when you, when you make partner at my previous firm. Was the same. It was either your your up or you're out. That's it. There was no council. Nothing at that time. And once you make partner you, you then have to get to work like there is this period that it's almost you have to accelerate. It's not you coast you actually accelerate.

Jessica: Oh yeah, no, being a senior associate is the second worst job in the firm. Being in junior partner is definitely number one. So much pressure.

Arivee: Jessica, tell me more about was there any moment before before that conversation of whether you would want to put yourself up for partner, was there any moment or opening or space where you in that 4 years where after the recession right there was four years more and you were thinking about it, but you just stayed at the firm. Any moment during that time. Where you said you know what this is not what I'm supposed to do. I'm. I need to. I need to go.

Jessica: This is the bad part right. I had that moment of the fourth year. I knew that I needed to go. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. And I think part of it was thinking through how much can I endure? Can I? Can I tolerate? How long can I tolerate this for? And what is the tradeoff for tolerating it just a little longer? Right. And thinking through well, you know what, if I can get to seniors associate. Welp, the income continues to improve and nothing’s happening in the economy right now anyway, nobody’s moving. So, I think I can tolerate this a little bit longer. You know, I think what started to happen. Is that, like, my kids became more articulate. They were able to guilt trip me a lot more. And you know, I thought, it's so sad that right? Maybe if I had. I not had children that I have like probably their life would be very different in so many respects, but they were also a very big catalyst for many of the decisions that I ended up making over my legal career because their lives been, my entire legal career. So, you know, thinking through it really was finally understanding. You know what I didn't really need to spend a lot of time with my children when they were younger. For lack of a better analogy, they're like dogs, right? Like leave them in the morning and you come back and like, oh, they're so happy to see you like, oh, you must have just left. Like they have no sense of time. Right. They have no sense of time or space or anything like that. But when they're older, remember when you're not field trips. (Arivee: Yes) They remember that you don't participate in anything at their school. They remember that you said no, they can't play soccer because you can't get them to practice (Arivee: And then let you know they know they let you. You weren’t there mommy. Like OK I know I was working.) They let you know that you don't, you don't cook. (Arivee: I'm raising my hand.) Right. And so I think part of it was feeling judged by my own children.

Arivee: No. Yes, but yes. But also, I always feel like when anyone judges us, if we feel something, it's because there's something there.

Jessica: Oh, there was definitely something there because right? Remember, I never wanted to do this in the first place. What am I doing? And so now I'm doing it for all of the wrong reasons, right? Or at least reasons that weren’t that I didn't. I wasn't super proud of. You know and, but I wasn't very good with my money. So, I didn't know whether or not I could, you know, do just as well outside of the firm environment. Also, I was just freaking exhausted and the idea of job hunting while I was doing my job and trying to find something that seems interesting cause I was so burnt out and overwhelmed with legal work generally. I remember I used to read. You know I would, you know, check the job boards. And I'm like, oh, that sounds like legal work. Oh no, I think all lawyer jobs are legal work. Doesn’t matter where I’ am I could be at a cool company I'm still gonna be the lawyer in the room. We're not gonna get to do anything cool.

Arivee: So that speaks to like you. So, you are this SEC and then you left cause you said in the beginning, I actually I actually realized I did not want to be a lawyer any longer. So, talk to me about that transition. When you finally decided to make that transition to being an accredited financial counselor and please define that term for us. So that phrase for us so they know the difference. People know the difference between accredited financial counselor and financial planner and the other terms that they hear often.

Jessica: Yeah. So, an accredited financial counselor, I also didn't know what this was when I was at the SEC, ironically because we don't regulate them. And accredited financial counselor is someone who works with people and money. So, you know, I am trained to it both in personal finance concepts and strategies. But I'm also trained in counseling techniques so that I can help people talk about money in a way that they might not, you know, have thought about in a way that might not have been open to earlier. I don't just crunched their numbers. I help them understand why their numbers are what they are, what behaviors they're engaging in that makes their numbers what they are, and what changes they might want to implement in terms of lifestyle and habits and the way they think about money that is the work that I do as an accredited Financial counselor and I do a specifically for lawyers and that's my story and I understand lawyers very well, I went through my own struggle, but so that's where and, you know, Accredited financial counselors are there part of the AFPCE, which is the Association for Financial Planning and Counseling Education. And they are basically the self-governing body and it's very similar to a law. There are ethics requirements there’s a test you have to take. There's curriculum you have to, you know, go through. So, it's all very comfortable. In that arena, coming from their highly regulated industry, but the one I was at the SEC, I was basically dealing with investment advisors, financial planners, right for securities industry that, that part that is regulated and I have to tell you I ran into a lot of bad actors over there. I didn’t like it. I didn't like what they were doing. I didn't like how they were taking advantage of their client. I didn't like all the Ponzi schemes that we were investigating, and it gave me a really a bit of a jaded idea of the financial industry generally, just as I was hyper exposed to bad actors. And so, I knew I didn't want to do investment advice. I knew I didn't want to be in that pool with, you know, with those folks. So, when I was looking for something else to do at the credit Financial Council program stood out and, you know, and I really enjoy enjoy that work. But going back to kind of what led me to wanting to leave the SEC. Part of it is being a lawyer at the SEC, basically the best gate that you can get. You are working for the federal government, which means you have really great job protection. You are paid extremely well because they're competing with the security level straight, right? They're trying to drag people away from investment firms, from big law firms who do Securities Litigation. So, there are different pay scales in the rest of the government. And the hours are amazing. Work life balance is amazing. And I had a wonderful supervisor who let me run my investigation. I had autonomy for the first time in my life. I don't know why sending the subpoenas not getting them as Friday at 5:00 o'clock. You have to spend all weekend responding and figuring out what we were gonna do. And so, to know that I basically had the sweetest escape possible in the industry. And to also know that I didn't really enjoy the work, I wasn't excited to get up to go to work in the morning and I knew from my bagel meeting with my colleagues that they were super excited to get up in the morning, they loved taking testimony. They loved getting discovery during their investigations. They loved writing up the action memo. I was just like. No, I don't love it. There’s something wrong here and it's not the environment. And now I know I had done a controlled experiment. I did basically this work, right? The best kind of work in the best kind of environment. And I still wasn't feeling like it, like it was purposeful. Like it energized me. And then I knew that this was not me. I had to do something different with my time and my energy and you know there are different types of lawyers, there's different types of practice areas. I was in a hyper hyper adverse aerial area, right. I went from litigation to investigation conducting that right. So, I basically just deal with people who are lying all day long. And that grated on me, I realized the part that I loved about my work, both at the firm and the SEC were about collaboration. They were the project I did across the apartment across agencies. I loved running the mentoring program. At my firm, I loved mentoring young associates. I continued to do it. When I went to the SEC and I realized most of my job had nothing to do with that. And could be in an argumentative and adverse aerial roll all day long, and that's not my natural tendency. So, when I realized that the counseling part was actually what I really liked about whatever it was I did in the law. I’m still a counselor I’m just not a counselor at law. I flicked it up. But that’s the part I love about my job now. Everything that I do with my client is collaborative. We are working toward a joint goal that we have discussed, and both agreed makes sense for them. And I get to see them grow. And they're cheerleader. I'm there as a support, not as an attack dog. Like there the kind of jumped down somebody's throat when they say something wrong. And it just fits my personality and my natural skill set and how I wanna be spending my time, my energy so much better. But that's how I knew. When you're in a golden space and you still don't feel good now you really need to start doing some of valuating.

Arivee: It's internal. Yes, it's all internal, yes. It's so true, and I love how you describe that of parts of the job or most of the job that everyone loved. You actually didn't like, and you naturally wanted to be in a more in an opposite place of more collaboration and counseling. That's the natural pull for you. That's what naturally gave you energy and made you excited. And I love how how you said that. It's about what's natural to you and how you can feel it. It's literally a vibration about it you can feel when you're doing it. It feels good versus the adversarial part, the argumentative part. It didn't necessarily feel good, so tell me more about though, Jessica, because I know a lot of people listening want to know, you know, OK, what are some of the things that I may be doing right now with my money that is not serving me? And I'm talking maybe let's think like early to mid-career individuals.

Jessica: You know, I work specifically with lawyers. I do have some, some, some of my best clients that are actually not lawyers because I started with them a while ago, but now I really focus on the lawyer journey and you know, I think what I see. So much in early career are the same kinds of struggles that I had a really big focus on student loan debt and I'm I'm a bit controversial because I don't believe that everyone should pay off their student loan debt as quickly as possible. I believe that there are different repayment strategies for everyone, and there are a lot of factors that have to go into the calculation of whether paying down your student loans as a priority makes sense for you. And I do that kind of work with my clients. But the first piece of work I have to do is ripping off the baggage that student loan debt is the worst kind of debt to carry around. You have to get rid of it because it’s an albatross around your neck and it will prevent you from being able to live your life the way you want to. Student loans debt is a very, very special animal. It is even more special when you deal with lawyers because the amounts are usually so astronomical and figuring out how you incorporate that into a long-term financial plan as an attorney is a really important piece of the puzzle. Because it is so large, but also because there are other things about your trajectory that are different than the typical American. We don't necessarily make the a and gently increasing amount of money over the entirety of our career, right? I specialize in folks who probably peak early into their income, or at least that's their hope, right? They don't want to have to make that high high, big law salaries that they're making for the rest of their life, they might want to do something else that doesn't maybe pay that kind of income.

Arivee: And Jessica about how many, how many lawyers do you work with? Who, like, just a rough percentage who are in big law right now? But who know this is not what they wanna do?

Jessica: So, if someone calls me, it's almost a qualifying feature about that. I used to call myself a big law exit strategist like that was my title. So, anyone who places the call to me has already self-identified, most likely as somebody who doesn't want the law firm life for the rest of their life. Now granted, I also work with, you know, I also work with junior partners. I also work with people whose been practicing for 20 years and they enjoy the law, but maybe they won't wanna practice some different way or they've always been interested in nonprofit work or they wanna do impact litigation, right. They wanna go into, you know, the public interest sector, and they're trying to figure out what. Does that mean for their life moving forward, and especially for early career lawyers, I have a I have a client right now that I'm working with, who called me before she even started at her firm. If that is any indication of how early this start. She knew this was her long-term plan and she heard about me, she said. I wanna make I wanna. I wanna hit ground money. I wanna make sure that I am optimizing everything because I don't wanna be here

Arivee: Because earlier you start the earlier you start everything, the better off you're going to be if you have a plan. It's so much easier if you have a plan, you have and you have support.

Jessica: Yeah, exactly. And so, I think, you know, so the student loan debt, especially for only career lawyers, is a huge, huge emotional and financial block. I don't wanna. I don't want to underplay how big this issue is especially for folks who go to law school. Because we don't all make big law salaries when we graduate. But we all graduate with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, right? So that is something that that I see in my client and what I try to do is, you know, it sometimes repaying them as quickly as possible is the absolute best strategy. But for fewer clients than people would expect, and so helping them understand what the long-term plan looks like, it's a really important piece of alleviating some of this stress that goes along and the guilt that goes along with feeling like you have to pay off this degree before you can do anything else with your life you don't. For anyone listening. I still have law school. Well, I'm still paying them off. And the reason is because they're at less than 2% interest and there's just no reason for me to pay them off any quicker than I am right now. Are there federal loan and so, you know, there's all these different levels that you want to pay attention to when you're thinking about a student level repayment strategy, but you want to have a strategy, that's the number one thing like, just like you said, you want to have a plan and a plan that fits into your long term financial and career trajectory because student loans are such as you know, a specialized area of finances. Other than that I think for especially for early career lawyers, if you're not familiar with lifestyle creep, learn what it is and try to avoid it. Huge, huge, huge issue and I think it really is for folks who have never been exposed to the kind of environment that you're gonna get dropped into. Like I said, I made more money as a first-year associate than probably my family made when I was growing up. Again, I don't know exactly what my parents made cause they never told me, but I guarantee you it was not what I was making as a first year attorney with the firm. And there's a certain lifestyle that goes along with being a a fancy lawyer. And if you think that you have to subscribe to all of that, everything else is going to be much more difficult for you because that's where all the resources are going to end up going. And you know, if you're in a firm, you probably have that lock step up. Graduated. Valerie, it's a very, very clear expectation of what you're going to make in the following year and many people let all that money get eaten up by the next thing that they're going to add into their lifestyle. And that system works as long as you plan on always making more money than you made before and working until the day you die. It's perfect system, the perfect system for that, for that set up. But many people don't want that set up and they would like to eventually both stop working entirely and also maybe not work you know, at that capacity for the entirety of their career. We need to start planning for that and the best way to plan for that is to make sure that when you see extra money coming to you, whether it's from a raise in income or we because an expense goes away. Either of those scenarios results in additional money, making sure that that money is going towards something that's really important to you is going to have you're going to get the best return on that investment rather than letting it just get eaten up by the day-to-day present-day haze. If your present-day needs met, then we need to start thinking about what is your long-term financial plan. You know and I have. I have a lot of clients who struggle, especially early career if they have families, young children, daycare in a major metropolitan area is like another mortgage. (Arivee: So expensive. It is ridiculous. It's actually ridiculous.) It is ridiculous, right? And there they're stretching and they're straining to make it work. And when that goes away. At the mortgage payment that they got back. So, let's figure out where that's gonna go because maybe we can make some real headway given, we missed out on from, you know, financial planning that we were able to do in the earlier years. Doesn't mean that you never get to do it, but you gotta capture those surplusses when they come back in, and that can be so powerful in the long run.

Arivee: Jessica wait, what about people who say I work so hard I deserve those Gucci shoes. I work so hard, I deserve. I deserve the vacation too Saint Lucia Jade Mountain, which is like the most expensive place ever. What about people who say that I deserve? I deserve that.

Jessica: I am a huge proponent that my clients get to spend their money on whatever they want. They just can't spend it on everything that they want. If you can figure out what your top priorities are, are Gucci shoes are top priority? Get your Gucci shoes, but then you don't also get to go to Saint Lucia. We don't get to do everything simultaneously, right? That's another thing. It's very difficult, I think for us as humans to think about life in terms of these phases and it is a long journey. Right. You might not be able to get Saint Lucia this year, but if we plan for it, I guarantee you we can get you there five years, not a problem. And you know, maybe you can get some Gucci shoes in the meantime, but you can't get them at the same exact time. That's going to be difficult unless you wanna go make more money. Right. There's only so many resources that we have. A lot of the work that I do especially in the beginning with my client is figuring out what's most important to them. What do they really want? What do they really deserve? Because I want them to have that. They should have that. They do work very hard, but there's something that they aren't even really that important to them. It’s not to say that they don’t deserve that. Who deserves something they don’t even care about no one? So let's examine do you really care about this? Because I will figure out a way to make this work for you. But I'm not gonna figure out a way to make everything work for you, and the only way to do that. Yeah, you're gonna stay at the firm. I hope you make partner.

Arivee: Oh my gosh, Jessica, I could talk to you for a long time about. So much more than we even talked about, and we talked about a lot. I I would love to have you back to dig even deeper into even more key strategies, because I think you may have blown people's minds, especially especially children of immigrants who this money management thing is so new and how a lot of us grew up with our parents not having a lot and savings or even they don't. They're not familiar with money management and investing, and everything is about zero credit card debt, zero debt, zero debt. And when you say, hey, repaying your student debt immediately may not work for everybody. In fact, it may not work for most people. You may be blowing people minds right now, cause, they're like, wait, I've been conditioned to believe that zero debt is is the way to go. And so, I would love to have you back for that. So, we have to do that, but OK, Jessica so if someone wants to reach out to you, connect with you, find you what is the best way for them to do that?

Jessica: The best way is to go to my website at You can read a little bit about my story. You can set up a free consult with me. I spend 45 minutes talking to you about your financial situation because sometimes I'm not the right financial professional for you and I wanna understand where you are and whether we're going to be a good fit. And if I'm not, best fit, I'm going to point you in the direction of the next best step for you. I just got off a consult this morning for somebody who was not my ideal client and I center some recommendations because I think everybody deserves to have the best support, so that's the best place to find me. Also connect with me on LinkedIn, I'm pretty prolific on their hosting and I get a lot of you know, I love connecting with folks and hearing their stories and so LinkedIn is a great place to find me

Arivee: Great. Thank you so much, Jessica. Thank you so much for for being on the podcast and for those listening, if this is resonating with you, please reach out to Jessica. I think she's fantastic. And please do follow her on on LinkedIn, she has she offers great value even on in her posts on LinkedIn. So please do that. Thanks again Jessica.

Jessica: Oh, thank you for having me this so fun. I can't wait to come back.

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Arivee: Thanks so much for listening to my conversation with Jessica. I hope you leave this conversation, feeling optimistic about not only adjusting your own career path, but also about creating financial plans that allow you to live your life to the fullest, and if anything, you should know that it's possible. It's possible to shift. It's possible to rethink it's possible to do all of these things, and with that I'm gonna share with you some key takeaways from my conversation with Jessica. Number one, we gotta get comfortable talking about money. Number 2. It's not always in your best interest to pay off your student loans as quickly as possible. Create a short- and long-term plan that is best for you and your situation, and that allows you to live your life. 3. Figure out what is most important to you financially and emotionally. This will help you spend on the thing you want, not all the things you want. We have to be practical. 4. Don't get bit by the prestige bug. I know this is hard. You are not any less of a person if you put your own needs first and take an offer for a more modest position if it means your life will be bettered in the long run. The attractiveness of a job may blind your vision of what is truly best for you and your work life integration. So, trust your gut and be practical about it. 5 come to terms with your work life integration. What is it looking like? What do you need and be realistic about how you're able to manage both with your time, your money, and what you really care about and what's really important to you. 6 Consider the benefits and sacrifices you're experiencing in your current position. That is, is it worth it to stay? Am I benefiting from staying? 7 embrace change. Look, change is scary, especially when it impacts others outside of yourself, but consider your values and if those values and your needs are not being met, they're not being satisfied they're not being fulfilled. It's time for some change.

Alright, that's all for this episode. If you're interested in scheduling a consultation with Jessica, you wanna connect with her or you want to learn more about her personal story, please head to her LinkedIn profile so you can just type in Jessica Medina M E D I N A is the last name. Or you can go to her website. I will put that also in the show notes.

Don't forget to subscribe, rate and review this podcast. I'd love for you to share it with others if you want my biweekly doses of inspiration and motivation and some coaching tips, of course delivered to your inbox. Click the link in the show notes to subscribe. You can always also connect with me on IG I'm @AriveeVargas or you can connect with me on LinkedIn. I'd love to know what you'd like to learn and hear more about on the podcast. And finally, if you've been asking yourself how to figure out the next step in your career, I've got a quick career clarity guide just for you. Check out the show notes for the link until next time, continue to step in to how incredibly powerful you are. You got this.

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