Nora: I am so happy to introduce my guest today on our show because she was born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York City. In 2011 she hit rock bottom. You are going to be so encouraged and strengthened when you hear her story from being completely broke as a single mom and what she did coming to today, where she has bought her own $500,000 home, she’s on her own, she owns her own business and she is taking care of herself. Welcome Brenda Sanchez.
Brenda: Hi everybody, hi Nora I am so glad to be here.
Nora: Well you have an amazing story and I am so excited that you get to share it because I know this is going to help a lot of women. Let’s start with going back to where you were born in Puerto Rico. What age were you when your family moved to NYC?
Brenda: I was nine months old so I wasn’t even a year old yet. I was born in Puerto Rico, in San Juan, Puerto Rico and I was raised in NYC in the Bronx.
Nora: Wow! In the Bronx even ok. So tell us about your family life especially when it came to career or money….. what was your history there.
Brenda: So I was raised on welfare so we did not learn much about money. I saw that money went by fast , there was never enough, I was told to save for emergencies to save some of my money but I was never really taught what to do with my money.
Nora: Tell us more, did you go to college or what was your education path after that?
Brenda: After high school I didn’t have money to go to college obviously because my family wasn’t financially independent so I ended up going into the military, in the Army and served a contract of three years. My job was logistics and I got out of the military and I went into school and got an associates degree in Court Reporting but I really didn’t like that when I did the internship. So, I went back to school and got a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting and then I was a single mom, I got my CPA (Certified Public Accountant), license in New Mexico and also got my MBA, Masters in Business Administration, as a single mom as well with Texas A&M University.
Nora: Wow you have a daughter?
Brenda: Yes I do. She is nine.
Nora: She was really little when you were putting yourself through school.
Brenda: Yes, it was challenging to try to do homework and work full time and take care of my daughter.
Nora: Ok, good for you! That’s a great background for our friend listening to know that you had come from a family that was on welfare where you really didn’t learn about money but you were able to go ahead and put yourself through school . I appreciate that people often pick some kind of major that we think is going to be what we like and it doesn’t’ work. That is the hard part of education….sometimes we don’t really know about what we might like to do.
Brenda: That is so true. If they allowed you to do a few months in that specific field, you can kind of get a feel for it and then decide whether you’re going to spend thousands and thousands of dollars in school on that particular field. I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one that went to school for a certain major then got out there and thought “oh I really don’t like this”
Nora: That’s absolutely true. Back in the old days in the 1800’s or whenever they had apprentice jobs. You started as an Apprentice. Education was different then. Some of it was more “caught” than “taught” and I talk about that because where I ended up in my career it was actually “caught” from my dad rather than a college education. A college education is not for everybody. I know in our country we have a big value on it and that’s great but it has to be the value where you graduate with a degree of expertise where you want to do and you’ll be good in.
Alright, let’s fast forward to your time when you hit your financial hardship. You’re a single mom, this is after you graduated and you’re a single mom and broke. Let’s talk about that and what happened after that.
Brenda: I do want to clarify something really quick. When I had my financial hardship I had my Bachelor’s but I did not have my CPA or my MBA so I just didn’t want everyone to think “oh she’s got all of these degrees and should be easy”
In 2011 I was separated from my husband and we were going through a very bitter divorce. I still get emotional talking about it sometimes. We were living in Hawaii, and he was in the military, so his chain of command forced him to buy plane tickets for me and my daughter. My daughter was seven months old. He bought us plane tickets to leave. At the time my mom didn’t want to give us a place to stay so I did not have a place to stay. I had some friends in San Diego that offered to let us stay with them and like I said, it was a bitter divorce. He wanted to make it very difficult for me so he ended up calling military housing because my friends husband was in the military and they were allowing us to stay with them so he called military housing to get us kicked out. I didn’t have a place to live. I stayed with different friends and I had some money in the bank so I ended up getting this trailer out in the middle of nowhere in Julian? CA. It was a very high cost of living. At the time, the market wasn’t doing so well either so it was hard to find a job in accounting because everyone wanted 3-5 years of experience and you’re not going to have 3-5 years of experience if you’re fresh out of college. I had graduated with my Bachelor’s in May of 2910 and this was June of 2011.
Nora: So you were basically homeless after your divorce. Yet you had a friend you were staying with and that’s really sad that your ex-husband intervened like that
Brenda: Yes, there are times when people do really nasty things to each other when it’s a bitter divorce. Anyway, so I had to go to court and the money that I had was going to a place to live for me and my daughter, for food in her mouth, and to pay an attorney. In two months I had lost 20lbs because I wasn’t eating. I didn’t have money to feed myself but my priorities were that my daughter needs to be ok so I used my money for that, I ended up dating this guy that he was really good to us and we ended up staying with him. He was an awesome dad figure to my daughter and she was a beautiful baby but he was in the military so I ended up finding a temporary job in San Diego so we were back to San Diego. We were staying with friends in San Diego then I had to move to Julian because we got kicked out went to Julian then came back to San Diego because of the guy that I was dating and he ended up getting orders for Japan. We weren’t married so we couldn’t go with him. I ended up getting a temp job but then that ended so I was looking for jobs in CA. I opened up my search for other places that I knew that I could either stay with someone or something like that and I ended up finding an accounting job in Albuquerque, NM.
Nora: Let’s talk about that, what did you do. Really you were back homeless again and broke. What did you do in your search in finding that job?
Brenda: I went online and tried everything. Since that was a temp job, it ended abruptly. They basically called me on a Friday and said, “this is your last day”. After I had completed that last day, they called me at home and said that was my last day, “We don’t want you to come back on Monday.” I was scrambling. I went on Craig’s List, I did basically everything I could do searching for jobs. I Googled “Job Search”. I ended up finding a job through Craig’s List in Albuquerque, NM. My job ended on a Friday, they called me on that next Monday and said “oh we want you to come in” for an interview on Friday. I got in my car and I drove to Albuquerque. I had some friends in Albuquerque so they let me stay with them. They were thrilled that I divorced my husband because they didn’t like him
They were thrilled to have us with them. I got a job and about a month later I had an apartment so I kind of built up my career from there. I did some property management and accounting in Albuquerque and then I found an insurance job and then finally found this Federal Agency job that I have now.
Nora: Ok so you were there for a month and I love that you go to your support system and stayed with them and what I like is that when you did that I’m sure there was some kind of communication like “Hey I’ve got this job, I’m just going to be there temporarily” and you kept your word about moving out, you got your own place, and finding our support system and finding those people who will support us and especially when they know we’re making good decisions. We’re changing if there’s something in our lives that get us to the place where we are broke. Some of us it’s because of poor decisions and some of us it is circumstances in life like if you get fired or if you get divorced or sadly your husband passes away. There are some things that are out of our control. I like that you were always thinking that I need to go get my own place to live, I need to be on my own and here you are as a single mom and your daughter and that you always had that goal. That’s good
You moved out……you kind of went fast forward through the different jobs that you had and the other ways that you were maneuvering with your career. I want you to share with our friend listening what were some of the thoughts you had that you improved, that you got better jobs, that you got more clients…..let’s talk about that.
Brenda: Sure, so when I was growing up I wanted to be ….I don’t know if you remember this movie “Working Girl”? It was where this secretary then became this big shot so I’ve always liked business. I’ve never had any kind of direction so my thing was ….ok I want to build this background of all this kind of accounting, auditing and taxes, because ever since I was in college I was doing taxes like kind of on the side even if it was just for myself even if I didn’t have clients. I wanted to refresh myself every year on tax laws and stuff like that. I knew I wanted to have a well rounded background of experience so I did the property management thing and that’s like services, then I did the reinsurance thing which is still kind of service but it’s still it’s more complicated then I had that past then now the law office I have the auditing so I have that as well. I’ve been working on doing my own thing. I still work for the Federal Government and I’m very grateful to work for them. They paid for my CPA license and they paid for my MBA as well so I am very grateful but I want to go on and do my own thing. Empower other businesses to be more efficient, be more productive, in any way I can using my accounting and business, and auditing, and tax knowledge and things like that.
Nora: I love that! It’s interesting that as a child how movies can impact us in such a way that they can be motivating or they can actually suck the life out of us. You see some movie are not really realistic it’s just Hollywood, and we can get stuck on that. I was thinking about that on my way over here to the studio that in America we follow what we call influencers or celebrities. We kind of idolize television stars or sports stars that do things that we are never going to do. It’s almost like we jumped into their dream and we are enjoying their dream rather than building our own. I think it’s wonderful that as a child you saw this movie and hearing you talk, I can see that it was your mindset that helped you to keep thinking that I can do better, I can do this, there’s help, there are ways I can use my mind in a great way. Our minds are our very best asset or our minds can be our worst enemy because our conscious minds are made to protect us……”oh don’t do that, it’ll hurt” then our subconscious minds are another part of that and we’re learning more and more each day through science the impact of growing up and how that affects our subconscious mind. We’re on autopilot without really realizing it.. We drift through life without being intentional. What I love about your story is you are very intentional. That movie growing up that you saw, “Working Girl”. Ok friend let’s watch that movie “Working Girl” because that inspired you, which is really wonderful. I like that even though you did have a job working for the Federal Government that you strategized with them helping you out with your education so you probably looked at the benefits that someone else can do because there are those benefits. Everyone is either paid by the time you give a company or your paid by results. Like what I do is I’m paid by results then you kind of are doing both. Let’s talk about you when you were paid for results. When you had some of the clients and I love that you kept your area of expertise up, you didn’t let that go.
Brenda: I help businesses use accounting and business knowledge to become more effective and more efficient. For instance, using a small business as an example, structure can be best friend or your worst enemy so as an accountant, one of the business structures that I discourage businesses owners from becoming a sole proprietorship because of the tax side and you get killed on self employment taxes. There are things like that where if you shift your business structure, legally, where an S Corp can work for a business and save themselves on ton on self employment taxes. Just looking at how they do their accounting, are there deficiencies there, tax planning like I was talking before, it deals with the business structure as well. Internal controls, here is something that business owners don’t even think about unless it’s a problem. For instance, there was a business that the accountant embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from them because they didn’t have the proper internal controls. I don’t say that to scare people but to help them. If you are proactive with these things you can avoid so many different problems and issues that you didn’t even realize so that’s what I help clients do.
Nora: That is awesome and very important because in setting up a business, we do need to know what entity to go with because I appreciate what you said, ”structure can be your best fiend or your worst enemy”, if you don’t set up your business right. There are experts like you who can help with that because it’s like someone might be thinking that huh, legal what’s that? But the nice thing is you can just rewind and just listen to everything to what Brenda said about what you need to know. Because there are some different entities like a Limited Liability Company so if you’re going to flip a house you want to put it in that liability or like you said the S Corp when it comes to self employment businesses that we have. There are these different structures that can help or if you choose the wrong one you can over pay in taxes and you can run into trouble.
That’s what I really like about Brenda, she’s really sharp. Brenda and I met at a book writing course and she is the upcoming author of the book “Keep More Profits” and she is the author of the upcoming book “Keep More Profits” and what is that about?
Brenda: It’s seven ways to use tax and business planning to create business efficiency. It’s what I’ve been talking about in looking at your business structure, looking at your tax planning, looking at your accounting systems. It’s more for established businesses but start ups can use it to if you’re planning to open their business but it’s geared more to established businesses to take another look at your business plan for instance. If you create a business plan and you throw it in the drawer and you never look at it again, it’s not going to help you. You want to scale, you want to create more and keep more profits. It’s looking at those things to see where you can tweak and keep more money in your pocket and it’s based on all legal strategy. I say that very strongly because if you get into a mode of doing things unethically, you will run into problems. You will have some kind of negative consequences. Look at Enron and companies that were able to get away with it for years, but eventually it all caught up with them. It’s not worth it.
Nora: It is true, it is not worth it and I love your mindset because we can also live better with ourselves when we know we are a person of integrity and we are honest and we don’t have to worry about the Government coming after us. We can sleep better at night. Its not worth doing things dishonestly or doing things dishonest or entertaining anything illegal. What for? It does come back on you.
That’s what I also like about you there are great ways to be legal and set up your taxes in a better way so you can save on taxes. We do pay taxes but why not take advantage of what the Government has set up because businesses also have to make money, we can’t just keep paying taxes. We want to pay our employees and keep our businesses profitable so we can pay our employees.
This has been wonderful! I absolutely love our time together. I’m sure our friend listening is thinking this girl is very intelligent. I love how you went from being homeless and in 2019 you bought your home ….. a $500,000.00 home.
Brenda: Yes, so actually, 2020. 2020 is my year. So, in January I bought a half million dollar home as the sole owner of the home. I am very proud of that because it is something that I never thought, again, getting back to what you were saying about mind set, it was never something I thought I could do and I did it and you can do it too.
Nora: Our friend listening, if Brenda can do it, so can you! Like you said, you did this on your own and you are engaged now. But I love that you did it on your own because for our friends that are married and that’s great because you have somebody to support you, somebody at home to help with the kids, bills, chores but as single moms we don’t have that and often times we come out of it very hurtful situation, some divorce, some out of domestic violence we have a lot to work through with our minds and our emotions and our self worth. That is very important. We have everything we need. I believe that God put in us everything we need to have for strength and thinking rightly which is what I love that you have done here in 2020! Going from homeless to buying a half million-dollar house all on your own. Congratulations
Brenda: Thank you so much!
Nora: Is there anything you want to share that I didn’t ask about or didn’t cover?
Brenda: I want to go back to what you were saying about the support system. If you’re out there and you feel like I just want to say this to women because we tend to be kind of harsh on each other. If you’re in a tough place whether you’re a teenager or you’re married or single or whatever you are, reach out and try to get someone you can talk to. It doesn’t have to be a therapist or anything like that. Having a sounding board….maybe a meet up group of single moms or single parents because when you’re in your lowest of lows, you need someone to lift you out of that. To say “hey you can do this” even if it’s some kind of emotional support because that would make a world of difference to know you’re not alone. There are other women who have been through way worse than me. I hope that you can find someone that can e your support system, even if it is just one person.
Nora: That is right, and you hit the nail on the head. There are people who want to help, there are communities and people groups. There are churches, there are meet ups, there are clubs, there are opportunities that don’t cost anything. It doesn’t cost to go to church and you will find people there that care. Here in Arizona where I live there are 183 nonprofit agencies, charities, Christian ministries like that for women to support women. Support is out there and Brenda is absolutely right, there is support for you. Find it and one day you my friend listening will be where Brenda is at. If she can do it, so can you then you will be someone else’s support system.
Alright Brenda I love your story and I know you have encouraged our friend listening today!
Brenda: Thank you for the opportunity!
Nora: Well my friend, thank you for reading Brenda’s story. Our next story will be about a young woman who went from being on welfare to enjoying a life of well-fare!