Lauryn Williams isn’t just a student loan consultant here at Student Loan Planner. She’s also a four-time Olympian and three-time Olympic medalist who grew up learning to save and work hard for what she had. Though she graduated without student loan debt, she had many friends who struggled under the pressing weight of it.
At only 20 years old, she began earning a $200,000 income, and she trusted financial advisers to sort out what to do with her money. But when those advisers didn’t end up having her best interests at heart, she decided to learn as much as she could about student loan financial planning to be the change she wanted to see in the world.
She earned her MBA and CFP and started her own financial firm Worth While in Oct. 2015, where she currently works along with performing consultations for Student Loan Planner.
In today’s episode, you’ll find out:
- How Lauryn became one of the most prolific student loan consultants in the world
- What her experience in the Olympics was like
- How she transitioned from a career as a professional athlete into the financial industry
- Her personal experience with the private wealth management world
- Her path from being a track and field star in college to becoming the first American woman to win a medal in both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games
- Lauryn’s thoughts on professional athletes dealing with finances
- How she started her firm Worth Winning
- Why Lauryn is passionate about finances and helping people
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Episode 16 Transcript
Travis Hornsby: [00:00:03] Hello and welcome to the Student Loan Planner podcast. I’m really excited today to have one of the Student Loan Planner top consultants Lauryn Williams joining us today. How you doing, Lauryn?
Lauryn Williams: [00:00:13] I am doing wonderful.
Travis: [00:00:15] So Lauryn is part of the Student Loan Planner family. She’s one of the consultants. You know — me, Rob, Justin and Lauryn are the four of us right now. Welcome to the show, Lauryn.
Lauryn: [00:00:24] It’s good to be on. I’m excited to be on the podcast as I’ve been an avid listener since we started.
Travis: [00:00:30] Tell our folks that do not know what you do for Student Loan Planner what you do for us.
Lauryn: [00:00:35] I offer one-hour consults where I try to help people change their student loan life. I think a lot of times, people are reaching out to us and they’re very overwhelmed with the student loans. They’ve been ignoring them. And what we do is provide people with hope in addition to a clear game plan for how to best tackle their student loans. How to best be able to save in the midst of paying their student loans. And what’s going to be the best repayment strategy. And what’s going to be most cost effective. And it’s work that I’ve really come to love and enjoy.
Travis: [00:01:05] That’s awesome. Well, you’re one of the most prolific student loan consultants in the world, right? ‘Cause you — she’s laughing because that’s not that big of a threshold to cross. Because there’s not very many of us. But Lauryn’s closing in on 100 consults, which is exciting, and you’ve only been on the team since October, so that’s been really exciting to watch you grow and be able to help more and more people. Right now, you’re helping our $50k to $200k debt clients. So that’s really interesting segment with a lot of different problems and opportunities that we’ll talk about more in the later the episode.
Before becoming a financial planner
Travis: [00:01:38] But I wanted to talk about something that is, I would say, that 99 percent of people would say is far more impressive than what the great work you’ve done for Student Loan Planner so far which is the fact that you are a four-time Olympian. So maybe you can tell people that don’t know that about you a little bit about your life prior to joining the financial planning profession.
Lauryn: [00:02:02] I’d love to. I think I can work a little bit of finance into that story as well. So at the age of 20, I was a junior in college, and all I wanted to do was win the national championships for the college track and field. And not only did I win the national championship, but I ran the second fastest time in the world.
Lauryn: [00:02:21] Prior to that it had not been on my radar at all to become an Olympian, to be a professional athlete. I knew very little about that. I was a finance major, and I was planning on getting a job after I got out of college and moving on with life like everyone else. But I got this curveball, and it was a really great curveball that led me to being able to compete in sport for 12 years. Go to four Olympic Games. Become the first American woman to get a medal in the summer and the Winter Olympics.
Lauryn: [00:02:48] But during that journey, I hired two financial planners that sucked. Travis has been pretty open about what’s not good about the financial industry, and the short story is I wanted to be the change I wanted to see. So I did end up in the hands of one of those gentlemen that I’m sure you all might have heard of you. If you haven’t listen to some of the episodes where he talks about, like, insurance salesman and these big commission-based guys. Not once but twice I ended up in their hands, and they didn’t do it was in my best interest.
Lauryn: [00:03:16] I was 20 years old with a million-dollar life insurance policy, with no husband, no kids, so we don’t have to go down that rabbit hole. But what led me to financial planning from being an Olympian was not getting the service I needed. And once I asked my friends, “What are you guys doing with your money?” And, “Do you guys have this SEP IRA too?” And, “Do you understand the investments?” And I realized that there was a door that just wasn’t open to even have conversations or communication about money. I felt like I needed to do something to help people get the information they needed and get it in a more digestible manner. That’s what led me down the road of student loans, and I know you’ll talk a little bit more about how I got actually on the team.
Travis: [00:03:55] We’ll definitely have a lot more to say about that. I don’t know, Lauryn. To me, it seems like running world record-setting hundred meter dash times is a pretty risky thing. A million dollars in life insurance sounds like a great idea, right?
Lauryn: [00:04:08] Right. You could totally die from running the hundred meter.
Travis: [00:04:12] I don’t know about you dying, but I think I sure would have died running some of the times that you put up. One thing I think is really interesting is not only do you have these Olympic medals and you’re a four-time Olympian, but you’re also an MBA and a CFP. Before this podcast I’ve said I was reading about a case of a New York Giants player named Justin Tuck — seems like a great person, grew up in a similar area of the country that I grew up in, went and got an MBA and then took a job at Goldman Sachs in private wealth management. So you and I know that that’s basically a very high-fee, high-touch kind of prestige type job, right?
Travis: [00:04:46] In the private wealth management world, you probably have some sort of wow factor for the people that you’re hiring, right? That’s not to say that people that are on those teams don’t do a great job or aren’t very impressive or worked very hard. They do. But I feel like with your credentials, you probably could have written your ticket to work at some high-fee, high-compensation financial planning slash financial adviser role, right? And made a lot of money, but not necessarily have been dealing with regular people, right? You probably would’ve been dealing with very high-net worth people that might not have benefited as much from your knowledge. It’s a roundabout way of asking what led you to get involved in the financial planning profession in the way that you did? Because it seems like a lot of people would try to cash in on that Olympic fame just to try to make some more money.
Lauryn: [00:05:31] Yeah. The short answer to that question is having been mistreated not once but twice. By people exactly in that world, in that field. And not really knowing the difference and feeling like people preyed on my ignorance as opposed to, like you said, actually doing what’s in my best interest. I was never interested in serving the big wealthy people because I was not a big wealthy person.
Lauryn: [00:05:52] So to put it in perspective, I did as a 20-year-old make around $200,000 a year, and earnings got up as things went better. But I was not a multi-million dollar earner. And so you would say, like, wow, 20 years old, $200k, that’s pretty significant. Most of these firms are looking for people with a million dollars in assets. You need to have this. You need to have that. And as I learned more about the industry, and I did find firms that were fee only — they came with these big minimums, which they needed to be able to charge a certain amount so that they could make a certain amount. And I was just like, well, what about people like me? This still seems like I would have been left out back then, even as a $200k earner. What about people like me who wanted to make the decisions? Who needed the help and the advice of an expert, but didn’t have availability to do that? And I kept getting like, “Well, they got to get their million in the bank on their own, and they’ll figure it out. And then they can come us.” And it’s like, well, after I’ve got a million dollars in the bank on my own, and I managed to save that much, what do I need you for?
Lauryn: [00:06:48] And it just really hit home with me. But my friends that didn’t earn as much as me also needed help. It wasn’t about being able to get prestige or being able to charge large fees or continue a career that was going to keep me with similar earnings. It was really about how can I help people in he way that I needed to be helped, in a way that I feel like young professionals deserve to be helped?
Travis: [00:07:08] It just so often to me seems like a lot of firms, their way of doing business is just to get a bunch of smart, famous people working for them, especially things with really high margins. For example, I read this article in The Wall Street Journal about how if you’re an Alabama quarterback, that you pretty much always sell commercial liability insurance in the state of Alabama. Which I thought is kind of funny, right? They’re like, two career paths for Alabama quarterbacks: becoming an NFL player or selling commercial insurance in Alabama. Why is that? Well, it’s just basically because I guess for commercial liability, a lot of times you’re talking to men that probably care about football a lot more than they care about the coverage for their business, right? Or at least they’d much rather talk to somebody that’s famous, right? And if they have that discussion, they closed the deal. It’s just interesting to me how a lot of these sort of insurance investment financial services-related roles just to have people that are just sort of told to, “Hey, go sell this” or “Go do this.”
Lauryn: [00:08:02] Yeah. It makes me insane, actually, because you’re right. Athletes are preyed upon quite a bit because they think of athletes, and they think, ‘Oh, these are people that are super competitive. We can train them to compete and sell, sell, sell.’ And it speaks to, like you said, the idea that you don’t have to know a lot about investing or insurance. You just need to know how to sell. And that’s what they’re looking for, is who has the characteristics to sell as opposed to who has the characteristics to provide good financial advice to the people who need that advice. And I think that’s the thing that really makes me upset about the way that we’re recruited and the way that the industry works with getting people who have very little interest in finance at all or investing or insurance or the things that really matter like helping people pay down their debt. And then just teaching them this one skill set and letting them call themselves a professional and ruining it for the rest of us who are spending a lot of time trying to get educated in all areas of financial planning so that we can actually offer comprehensive help to everyone based on what their need is, not just these one or two areas, like you said, investing in insurance.
Lauryn’s childhood: Compensation for providing value
Travis: [00:09:04] You’re making the rest of the interview kind of easy, Lauryn. Because you’re showing people the passion that I saw when I wanted you to join the team. But tell us a little bit about your childhood. What was that like surrounding money issues? Did you have any clear attitudes towards money as a result of growing up or any anything notable?
Lauryn: [00:09:21] I’d say the things that stand out to me about my childhood is I have five sisters, two brothers. So a large family. And there was never a lot of income. We always had what we needed, and I didn’t really think in the moment that we were poor or without. But I remember a lot of scraping money together. It’s like, OK, well, how are we gonna get money to be able to do this thing? Or people loaning or giving gas money to one of my parents so that they could drive me to a track meet. I remember instances of being without. But I remember also the way that we came together in order to be able to get the things that we’d needed and really take care of things. So there was not a lot of financial literacy. There was not a lot of conversations about how to be responsible with money. But there was a lot of conversation around how to make money, how to be responsible with the idea that you need to earn. And I think from as early as I can remember, at 7 years old actually, I worked at a catering company with my mother. So I always had some sort of hustle or some sort of work going on, and I was just constantly trying to be busy. And I knew that by me providing value to someone, I should be compensated for that value. And I think that is the kind of theme that carried on throughout my childhood and all throughout my life.
Lauryn: [00:10:31] Another time I remember is in middle school, there was the penny candy store that you could pass on the way to school, and you get the ball bags of candy. So I’d buy those for 25 cents, and I’d go to school and I’d sell them for double. And people were like, but it’s 25 cents at the penny store. And I was like, I bet you didn’t go to the penny store this morning. I got the candy. Do you want it or not?
Travis: [00:10:48] At least you bought it. One of my memories, and I think this is accurate, but I was probably like five or six years old, something like that, and I just took candy from the convenience store because I thought it was just free candy, you know? And so then my dad conspired with the convenience store clerk to pretend to have some sort of relationship with the police or something, like, you know, we’re going to have to take you and book you in the county jail because you just stole 25 cents worth of bubble gum or something. And I didn’t really understand the concept, but that was one of my first lessons that things cost something. And I’ve remember crying and crying.
Lauryn: [00:11:21] Please don’t take me to jail.
Attending the University of Miami
Travis: [00:11:24] I might have even been like four or something. Then I was just like, oh, things cost money. That was one of my first situations where I realized that. So you were ahead of me actually realizing that you have to pay for your inventory and then mark it up. I was just, you know, busy consuming. That’s funny. So when you graduated from undergraduate, I’m assuming that you probably went on scholarship to University of Miami. Did you graduate debt free? And did you have any friends that had student debt at that time?
Lauryn: [00:11:51] I was blessed enough to graduate debt free. I did go to the University of Miami on an athletic scholarship, and it was paid for full ride. And one of the things that I’ll point out there is that I left school with about $7,000 in the bank, if I remember correctly. And I know you left with like, a bunch more Trav, but you beat me. But it just speaks to the point of everyone thinks about the broke college student, and I was always trying to think about ways to be responsible from an early age. So it was ingrained in me that a credit card is not something that you go ahead and rack up or is not free money. I didn’t have a credit card in college, but I made sure that every single month I sat down, I matched every receipt of which I purchase to what was on the statement. And you know, I had already been tallying it up so that I could pay it in full. So I had really good habits in place whereas I think a lot of people get out of school, even with the opportunity of having a scholarship, and they end up with credit card debt or very little to show. And I was like, it’s important to me to be able to put a little bit of something aside so that I’m not just starting from scratch because I don’t know what’s happening when I get out of school. And I was lucky to end up in a really cool situation. But no student loan debt.
Travis: [00:12:54] OK. And friends didn’t have any that you knew of?
Lauryn: [00:12:57] I hung out with a lot of athletes, and a lot of the athletes had scholarships as well. But my immediate friends, the people that I grew up with, a lot of them had student loan debt. They weren’t quite aware of it at that time. The student loan debt conversation became to be a really regular conversation amongst me and my friends around 25 or 28 years old, when people who kind of been ignoring it for a while, and they’ve been doing forbearance or they had might have gone in default or you know they were finishing law school at this point. And now everything was sinking in, and it was like, they say hashtag adulting is like, “Oh my God, what am I going to do?” And I’m like, “What do you mean, what are you going to do?” And they were just like, “Well, my payment is so high.” And I was like, “Well, doesn’t someone help you with this?” Like I didn’t really understand the concept because I didn’t have student loan debt, but it was definitely the thing that was the forefront of their brains whereas I was having the opportunity to be able to put money aside and not have to worry about that.
Lauryn: [00:13:46] And so it started to become a point of panic for me because these are some of my friends that were near and dear. And there was no real solution. I didn’t know, you know, you do a quick google search, and you couldn’t come up with anything. That was probably pre-Student Loan Planner days, and I just wanted to be able to find a resource and find something to be able to help people. And I was doing as much research as I could in general because this was me on my journey to becoming a financial planner at that time period. So it was tough.
Travis: [00:14:11] Yeah. Now, just what you said about the cash in the bank when you graduated. This is an aside, but I think it’s so ridiculous that the NCAA won’t let athletes be paid because I was academic scholarship to the University of Florida, right at the interstate, right? But it was OK for me to get $15,000 more than the cost of attendance whatever it was in the scholarships that I had been stacking and that was totally fine. People could give me free things, and I could make money off of my image, and that’s like a completely different conversation, right? I was a good student, but probably didn’t bring the economic value to the college that I got paid. So I think that’s just really interesting how you can be on an athletic scholarship and have all these regulations on you and then academic scholarship and it’s just, whatever they want to do is totally fine.
Lauryn: [00:14:54] Yeah, I completely agree with you. I definitely should have graduated college with a lot more than $7k in the bank by that standard, and it’s right, we put in a lot of work and we put in a lot of effort and we do bring a lot of value to those universities. And thinking about other people’s long term financial future as opposed to just the way that the university can profit in the short term is something that the NCAA is going to have to start thinking about sooner or later because the pressure is on right now.
Earning as a professional athlete
Travis: [00:15:18] Oh yeah. So I guess you’re saying that you decided that you wanted to be a pro athlete when you won that championship, right? What was that thought process like when you first started getting your first several paychecks? You started making money as a pro athlete. What was that like?
Lauryn: [00:15:33] I was 20 years old. I had no idea that this was going to happen to me, and so it was a steep learning curve. But learn as you go, learn as you go. And the first paycheck I was just like, oh — are we allowed to swear on this podcast? Yes. I’ll just say yes. What am I supposed to do? Because this is more money than I’ve ever seen. You know, at college I might have like a thousand dollars a month stipend, and we had to pay the rent and get groceries and that was pretty much the extent of money coming in. The Pell Grant and things like that were where I had the opportunity to save. But I’d never seen money like this, and I didn’t have anyone in my family who had ever seen money like this. So the first thing that crossed my mind as a finance major and having been a saver pretty much my whole life was, what do I do, and how do I get help? And that’s when I reached out to some family friends and got introduced to the financial adviser and started down that road. But I wasn’t getting any help with the basic things that I needed. I didn’t know you needed to set money aside for taxes because as a professional athlete in the Olympic world, all the income is 1099 income, so you need to put the money aside. You need to know how much money to put aside. So all that money is not mine. Then I wanted to move out from living with my college roommate. And I was like, well, what does that look like? Can I get a different apartment? Can I buy a house? And a lot of people around me in my circles, because they didn’t have a lot of literacy, it was like the first investment you got to do is get a house. A house is the best investment. Don’t be stupid with your money. Get a house. I don’t necessarily believe that anymore. The house thing worked out all right. I do actually own it, and the world has not collided on me. But houses as an investment is not something that is necessary part of my value system.
Lauryn: [00:17:07] But there is a lot of stuff that I didn’t know as I became a professional athlete, and there was a lot I had to navigate. And that’s why I recently wrote a book about what it means to become a professional track and field athlete and how do you go about that. Because I think there’s a lot of information that people just don’t have access to. They don’t even realize that we are professional athletes as track and field. They just see us once every four years at the Olympics and they think that’s it. But there’s a lot more to it.
Highlights of Lauryn’s Olympic career
Travis: [00:17:31] That’s great. So Lauryn, I want to spend a little bit of time talking about your Olympic and professional career just because I think it’s going to be super interesting to folks. And then I want to have enough time to also talk about all the student loan stuff that you’ve been working on. So you, like you mentioned earlier you’re the first American woman to medal in this Winter Olympic Games, and according to the Wikipedia page that I read about you, you’re one of five athletes I think ever to do that. So can you tell folks about your Olympic career? Just some highlights and what that was like.
Lauryn: [00:18:00] It was amazing. So I was a athlete for 12 years in the professional realm and my first Olympic Games was 2004 Athens, Greece. And I feel like I was kind of a deer in headlights back then because I was a junior in college. I switched to being a professional athlete. It was just months until the Olympic Games when I chose to make that decision, and I had the opportunity to represent team USA and they’re — Just so much that I couldn’t think about or see or do or plan for. It was just kind of like, go over there, the whole world is watching you, and all of America is counting on you, and I just was like, “Ahh!” I managed to survive it, and it was a really good pep talk from my dad the night before that just kind of reminded me that I am not just a track and field athlete. This race will be a moment in time, and though I feel like it’s the most important thing, in fact whether I get to the finish line first or last, it will be a moment. And that moment will pass. And then there will be other moments in your life that you have to take advantage of and make the most of. That kind of really put me at rest and at ease to just say, like, “OK, make the most of this moment, and then worry about the next moment.”.
Lauryn: [00:19:03] And I earned a silver medal, and then in 2008, I went to Beijing, China as my second Olympics. And I felt a lot more pressure than I did the first time, which I didn’t think was gonna be possible. Because the first time I was like, oh my goodness, what’s happening? The first time I had nothing to lose either. In 2008, I was the silver medalist from 2004. The gold medalist was no longer competing, and so I felt the pressure that everybody was counting on me to step into the spotlight as the gold medalist. And 2008 didn’t go anything like planned. I got fourth place, which if you guys were wondering, is the absolute worst place to get at the Olympics. You’d much rather be eighth place than you would be fourth, and we were like wait, what? And it’s like the first one to not get a medal is the hardest position to rebound from after the Olympic Games are over, and you’re thinking coulda woulda shoulda. Compensation opportunities. Endorsement opportunities. Etcetera. It is a really hard position to be, like, I got fourth, and I got a really close fourth, so. And I beat the Olympic medalist a week later. Can you believe that?
Travis: [00:20:10] Yeah, that’s crazy because, and I think this is kind of true for a lot of sports, a lot of people who are sort of casual fans, right? Like they watch the Olympics, and they don’t really know that you have this massive schedule of competitions. So it’s one event right. It’s one race. I’m assuming you race against a lot of these people a lot more than just that one time, right?
Lauryn: [00:20:27] All season long. Yes. The sport of track and field is very small. So you’re seeing the same people week in and week out. And like you said, this is the one stage where everyone’s watching, and everything is counting on it. But you’ll see that person, you might have seen them the week before, and you’ll probably see I’m the week after as well.
Travis: [00:20:43] So 2008 Beijing that was a pretty tough Olympics for you then.
Lauryn: [00:20:47] Yeah. That was really tough. To add insult to injury my dad passed away shortly after. So in 2004 he was able to make it to the games and eight of my family members as well. And that was due to the city rallying around us and doing donations and taking everything in because we didn’t have a lot of money as a big family. And I actually ended up with 11 people at the Olympic games in ’04. But in 2008, only my mother and my best friend were in attendance. And my dad was supposed to come. But what I didn’t know is that he got sick right before he was supposed to fly, and they didn’t allow him to fly. And he ended up in the hospital. And they didn’t tell me until a couple of days after my 100-meter race. It was right before my relay race that he was in the hospital. And I got to speak to him, and he told me how sick he was. And so that was a little bit devastating because they showed that me so that I could focus on the race, but then I still got access to the information that was really unsettling. That was August, and he’d passed away in October.
Lauryn: [00:21:43] So it really made me think about who am I outside of an athlete. What is my contribution to this world? What on earth am I here for? I guess for lack of a better word. Because you realize really quickly when life and death come into play, and it comes into play in a situation that’s very close to you, that there’s so much more than just this one thing, and that my identity is not this one thing. And I think that as an athlete, it kind of keeps creeping on you that, athlete, athlete, athlete. Sport, sport, sport. Win, win, win. Medals and all that kind of stuff, as much as you try to stay grounded. But this was like the rude awakening for me that I had better make the most of my life.
Lauryn: [00:22:17] And so I ended up taking a year off after he passed away. And kind of take time about like what am I interested in? What I want to do? Some of the people that I’ve met, how did they get where they are? Because one of the things I started to learn was that there’s no linear path to where you’re going. You don’t just ,ajor in mathematics, become a mathematics teacher, then become a mathematics professor and then die. That’s very seldom people’s story. So it’s not a linear progression for anyone. It’s whatever your story is. And I needed to write my own story. And it became very important to me to start thinking about what am I going to do. Life after sport, and who am I off the track. And that’s kind of where I started reading a lot more financial blogs and… Podcasting wasn’t really a thing yet, but trying to get my hands on more information. And I even bumped into the Series 7 coursework because people kept telling me, like, oh, you know. I was describing to them what I wanted to do, and they kept saying, “Oh you want to be a financial adviser. You need to study for the Series 7. When I opened the Series 7 book, and I was like, this doesn’t seem like the kind of stuff that I want to help people with. This just talks about investing.
Travis: [00:23:23] That’s not even like the useful part of investing in my opinion. It’s like options, strategies, random compliance stuff. It’s just hilarious that that’s the exam you have to pass to be able to just barely say that you’re a financial planner, right, or financial adviser. With 2012, was London kind of a recovery from the 2008 level? Was that a better Olympics?
Lauryn: [00:23:44] It was not necessarily a better Olympics. It was a different Olympics. And so I learned a lot during that time of over the four years between 2008 and 2012. And I went into that Olympic Games as the ultimate for the relay. So I didn’t make it in the 100 meters, which was pretty devastating. But they knew the value of me as a participant of the relay, having been on in 2004 in the 2018. And so my role there was very much one of creating good chemistry amongst the team because I saw what bad chemistry did in 2004 and 2008. So I had to think about what’s the way to create the energy around this team so that they can be successful? And what is my role because I might run, but if I don’t run I still want this team to win. And it was the first time that I’d ever really changed my mindset to not be so selfish because track and field is an individual sport overall. But to really start thinking about your contribution to the team as opposed to being the spotlight of the team or you having to contribute in a way that’s like performing. And we won the gold medal, and I initially still felt a little bit anxious about it, like, well, I didn’t win a gold medal because I did run the preliminary round but I did not run the finals. And I was like, this is not necessarily my medal. This is their medal. But they wouldn’t have made it to the without me having done my job in the preliminary, which is what didn’t happen in 2004 or 2008. We dropped the baton both times. So it really just drove home the importance of being a part of something and understanding what it means to contribute as opposed to, like I said, just perform or you know to take all the accolades for yourself.
Travis: [00:25:21] Sure. You know, I think you know, what do you call a gold medal? It’s called the gold medal, right? You know, there’s no asterisk, and you won plenty of medals also on your own reconnaissance too. So I’ve got to ask this because when I read this about you for the first time, I was really kind of shocked. So you took a bobsled, and then you went to the Winter Olympic Games, and you got silver in women’s bobsled. What was that like? How did you decide to do that? And how does one go, I’m assuming, from never having done something like that to all of a sudden being one of the best in the world at it?
Lauryn: [00:25:55] So this is what I was just saying about things not being linear. So I would have never guessed if you asked me would I be a Winter Olympian? Would I compete in bobsled? There’s no way I would have known that about my life. But I do believe that the 2012 Games and that story I just told about it not being about me and it being about the team really prepped me to be successful for that 2014 experience with the bobsled. I ran into a girl at the airport and I read an article about her having tried bobsled. And so I said, “How did you find bobsled?” It’s really interesting me. I was reading that article about you, and I don’t even know where one would get started with that.” She’s like, “Lauryn, you would be great at bobsled. They’re looking for powerful athletes. You can definitely make the next Olympic team.” And I’m like, “Olympic team? Like I was just asking like what your experience was like.” And at the most, I’d be thinking about like doing it recreationally, or you know, kind of life after track because I knew that part of life was winding down. But I definitely was not thinking Olympics when I asked the question.
Lauryn: [00:26:53] But a month later, I reached out to the gentleman, and asked, you know, how do you get involved the process? And we were right up on the deadline of the USA championship. So I flew over, competed in the USA championships for bobsled and got third place after just being on the ice one day before the championships began.
Travis: [00:27:14] That’s amazing.
Lauryn: [00:27:15] And I was off and running. Six months was ridiculously crazy. Really high intensity of all the things I needed to learn to be a great brakeman. But I had a really awesome team around me that helped me. And that speaks to that point about you said making the contribution. So a lot of those girls have been training for for years, some of them have been training for eight. And they had to show me what to do. And I was the competitor because only three of us were gonna make the team, and we start out as nine. But they thought about, like you said, how dangerous it would be if they didn’t teach me what I needed to know. How good I could be if I did have what we needed to know. And what Team USA could do if the right three brakeman got on the team not just them for themselves. And so it just further drove home that point of participating in something that mattered and making your contribution. And I was so grateful to those girls for that, and six months later I was a silver medalist in the Winter Olympics at the bobsled.
Travis: [00:28:10] Wait, so how many months were in between your first step on the ice and a silver medal?
Lauryn: [00:28:15] Six. That’s it. It was July when I tried the ice for the first time, and we competed February 19.
Travis: [00:28:21] I’m not speechless very often, but I’m kind of speechless right now. That’s unbelievable. It’s just really cool. What is it like living in the Athletes Village? Compare the winter athletes village to the summer. Are the Olympic athletes — what are they like? Are they any wiser, dumber than the rest of us? Like maybe money issues, stuff like that?
Lauryn: [00:28:41] Well, I think the biggest difference between the winter and the summer is the scale. So to give you an example, just the track and field team for Team USA was around 182 people. I think that was 2012 numbers. And for 2014, the whole Olympic team all sports for winter was 230. So Summer Olympics is gargantuan in comparison to the Winter Olympics, and that creates a completely different experience. There’s only so many people you can meet and know and get to hang out with in different countries and all that. And it’s just, the village is humongous whereas with the Winter Olympics you’re pretty much kind of tripping over people because it’s a smaller environment, which makes it a lot more intimate, and it makes it easier for you to be able to get to know the other athletes well from both Team USA and other countries. So that would be the biggest thing that stands out to me between the summer in the winter.
Olympic athletes and finances
Travis: [00:29:33] OK, and what about, would you say that like Olympic athletes, are they more prone to making financial mistakes, would you say?
Lauryn: [00:29:39] I don’t know. I’ve seen some pretty good mistakes amongst millennials in general or just people in general, so I don’t know that we’re more prone. But definitely very focused on your sport and not very focused on other things, which makes you, I would guess you’re right, more prone to making some financial mistakes because you’re not clued in. And that was one of the things I was guilty of. I wanted to make good decisions. I hired some people, but I never really clued into what they were doing or tried to understand what they were doing. I just said, I got people that handle that for me. And with being an Olympic athlete, we’re frequently told don’t worry about it. You just get out there and compete. Don’t worry your pretty little head about anything else. We’ll just take care of that, and you take care of competing. And that sets you up to not have good life skills for life after sport.
Lauryn: [00:30:22] The transition in and of itself is really hard because so much of your identity has been wrapped up in this one thing for so long. You don’t have as many work skills, if you have any at all, depending on when you started to compete. And so now you’re maybe 30 years old, and you’re getting your first job that a 21 year old when they got out of school had nine years ahead of you if they left school at the same time as you. So you lack life skills. You lack probably the appropriate funds. A lot of the Olympic athletes don’t make a lot of money.
Lauryn: [00:30:48] So I know I threw out a big number there at the beginning. But the majority of Olympic athletes don’t make money like that. There’s a few sports where you’re able to earn in that regard. And every Olympic Games, they pick a few names to highlight or headline in such a way that they might be able to be catapulted to the point of making good earnings. I’ve met Olympians who lived in their car while pursuing their dreams. They were earlier in the year — When the year they made an Olympic team, earlier in the year they were living in their car. And so it’s not very glamorous at all. There’s not a lot to go around, and so there’s not a lot of time for those people to plan for their futures because they’re just working enough to get the next piece of equipment that they need to get to the next race that they need to pay the trainer for a massage. They’re just making ends meet. So it doesn’t put you in a really good financial situation. With the high earners, though, there’s not a lot of information being passed to you, and not a lot of financial literacy. And so you end up either one, spending more than you’re going to make when you get out of sport and then your savings being depleted pretty quickly, or hopefully someone comes alongside of you that is actually a very good planner and has your best interests at heart. That helps you save.
Travis: [00:31:53] That’s awesome. My next thought would be you had to retire two times if you’re a professional athlete. So I’m assuming after that Winter Olympic Games, you decided OK, now is the time that I’m going to retire as a professional athlete, and I’m going to pick up my next phase of life. And so you got involved in the financial planning profession. How did that go? You got your CFP. You got these different credentials. When did you start your firm? Those kind of questions.
Heading into financial planning
Lauryn: [00:32:15] I finished competing in sport in 2014. I found the CFP course work in 2012. 2013 was supposed to be my last year in track and field, so I was like, I better get preparing. And a simple google search actually led me to the CFP coursework. knew there just had to be something else out there. This is when I had kind of reach wits end with the second financial planner. The business was tanking because they took a bunch of NFL players money and invested in a casino. The casino never opened, and those NFL players lost 100 percent of their money. And the guy who orchestrated all of it ran off, and they had to shut the company down. So that was one of my financial advisers. And as that was happening I was just like, OK, enough is enough. I was grateful that I didn’t have the millions to be investing in the casino, and I hadn’t had losses. But I was just like, this is crazy. You know, it affected a lot of my friends, NFL buddies that I know. And we deserve something better than this. How can I help people? Because these guys clearly don’t help people. These licenses that they have don’t help people, so what else is there out there?
Lauryn: [00:33:18] That’s where the Google search led me to the CFP. And so I literally clicked online and rode, not knowing anything about the industry or what I was planning on doing. I just knew I needed more knowledge, and I needed more knowledge about something other than this, just investing.
Lauryn: [00:33:31] So you fast forward. I moved from Miami to Texas. And my boyfriend at the time was getting his first job, and his mentor told him, you need to go to this place called NAPA to get an adviser. And so, I was like well, “Wwhat’s that?” He’s like, “I don’t know, but my mentor said do it, and if he said do it, it must be right.” So he was interviewing NAPA advisers. And I was like, well, let me find out what this is. I’m in the CFP coursework, and I did some research and learned that in order to be a part of NAPA, you needed a CFP and that there was this thing called fee only. And I was like, this just sounds a little bit better. I’d love to learn more about this. So I click that ‘find an adviser’ button in Texas, in my new area, and there were two financial planners in College Station where I was living. Two companies. I got my résumé together, and I went over to one. And I said, “I want to work here.” And they’re just like, “Who are you? What are you doing here/ We’re not hiring.” And I was like, “Yeah, I know. But I looked online, and you guys are NAPA advisers, and I’m studying for this thing. It’s called the CFP. And I noticed” — I was literally this naive — “And I noticed that you all have the CFP. So I thought this would be a good place for me to learn.” And they were like, “Well, we require a cover letter in order for you to be a candidate for a interview.” So I guess they thought that was going to get me to go away.
Lauryn: [00:34:45] But I went home. I made a cover letter, which I had never had a résumé or a cover letter up to this point. So I had to figure all that out. And I showed back up later in the day, and said, “OK, here’s my resume and my cover letter.” And they’re just like, who is this girl? So that’s what got me the interview was just simply being bold enough to walk through the door and say I wanted to do what they do. And I told a little bit of my story to them and said I was looking for a way to do it differently. And I was really lucky to end up in the hands of a really, really high integrity certified fee only financial planning company. And I got to see financial planning completely different than the two gentlemen who had served me. And I was like, this is the profession that I want. This is the thing that I want to do. I knew that that wasn’t gonna be my long-term home, even though I had a really great internship with them, is that they had that million dollars in assets before you could be a client. And I asked a lot of questions about like, well, what about the people who don’t make that much money and why. That was not the service model of many people in the industry, and though I understood it, I felt very passionately that there had to be a way to be able to serve people who made less income and had less than a million dollars in the bank to be invested.
Lauryn: [00:35:48] And so I set out on my journey to find another option. And I found a place in Dallas, Texas that was one young lady. Her name is Katie Brewer, and she was running her own firm. She took me to a conference, and it was the first XYPN conference actually. And I found out that I wasn’t the only one trying to figure this thing out. Most of the people that I met at the XYPN conference were people who had been in those big firms and were just kind of fed up with serving rich people and said it wasn’t that fun. I was a career changer, but I had kind of found my people at that point. It was other young professionals my age that were looking to serve young professionals as well. And that’s where I decided I’m going to start my own firm. And that was October 2015. I got registered in April of 2016. And I was open and yeah. Worth Winning will now be three years old in April.
Travis: [00:36:38] That’s awesome. It seems like student loan planning is kind of like a refuge for people that used to serve super rich people, and now we just try to help out people that are totally broke, right? I’m just kidding.
Lauryn: [00:36:48] How dare us have a kind heart and actually want to help people, right?
Travis: [00:36:51] Yeah. The reason is because if you have a million dollars in assets most financial planners, even the fee only people, the most consumer friendly will charge a recurring flat fee. But there’s people out there who will — Most people charge a percentage of your assets. So when you have a million dollar minimum, this is basically saying that you have a minimum fee of $10,000 per year recurring. And they do more work than we do when we’re having one-hour consultations with people. But a lot of the work is similar, and we’re doing it for $300 to $600 in terms of getting a plan in place for your student loans. And they might be going over model portfolios or something. And having calls when the economy falters, when things are not going well, right? But you’re getting $10,000 per person. So rationally, if you want to make a lot of money, doing what we’re doing is really not that smart. Oops.
Lauryn: [00:37:42] Right. I agree, and I don’t do the whole a-u-m thing at all. I feel, like you said, if you sign up for a comprehensive planning, you should just pay one price for everything, and it should encompass all of your financial questions. So I do a retainer based on income. So the other thing too is if you make less money, then I also, like, my fee could go down. So it’s based on a range, but I don’t want to be charging people out the wazoo and when they might have lost their job or situations change and they go up and down, etc. I think we should be able to adjust accordingly. And yeah, my fees end up being a lot less than any of those situations, or just in the way that I charge and the way that I do planning. So I do kind of like what I call a modular approach where we work on one subject at a time, and we kind of flesh that out. And then you feel good about it, and then we move on to the next thing. So I’ve done it completely different, as different as I could from the traditional financial planning firm because I felt like we needed something different as young professionals.
Travis: [00:38:37] Hopefully people won’t be too upset at us for not talking more about student loans. So I’m going switch us over to that a little bit. So I was on your podcast “Worth Listening.” So folks should be able to find that too if they search whatever podcast stuff they listen to. “Worth Listening” is the name of the podcast, right Lauryn?
Lauryn: [00:38:51] Yes, that is the name of the podcast. We discuss money topics. So people come on, and they tell their money story. And I think that’s one of the biggest things that we’re up against is people feeling embarrassed or ashamed about different things that have happened in their financial life, and they don’t want to tell anybody. And so they suffer, and then the situation becomes kind of catastrophic. And we bump into that quite a bit with our student loans. They get down to what they feel like is their last straw, or they can’t go any further. And then they reach out to us for help, and it’s like, we wish you would’ve reached out three or four years ago instead of just letting this issue fester. It’s great that we’re able to help them even in the midst of that. So the podcast is really like around getting people to have money discussions and have them with each other, if not a financial professional.
Travis: [00:39:32] Full disclosure: We were attempting to do stuff on Instagram at the time for student loan posts, and you, I think, found me on Instagram. You reached out. You were like, “Hey, you want to be a guest on the podcast?” I looked you up, and I saw you on the fee only financial planning organizations. I saw you were a CFP, and I was like, wow, this is really legit. Because a lot of times, people reach out, it’s just like some random thing. And I’m like, uh, no thanks, I don’t have time for that. But I was really impressed just with what you’d been working on. So I was on your show, and we got to talking. And I’m, I think I was pulling like 16-hour days or something like that, and I was just doing so many student loan consults, which is fun. I do enjoy it, but too much of a good thing can kill you, right? So —
Lauryn: [00:40:12] Yes, work life balance is important.
Travis: [00:40:14] Yeah. And my wife was like, ” Travis, why are you having consults until 9 p.m. again? I think that’s kind of messed up.” I needed to have another person on the team besides just me and Rob, and so I could sense your passion. I could sense your values, everything, and I was just like, wow, we really need Lauryn to be on the team. And after that podcast recording that we had, I don’t remember what episode number it was. We had that podcast interview on your podcast, and at the end of it I was just like, I need to come up with a plan to try to convince Lauryn to join us. And too, I was really impressed that you engaged with Heather Jarvis, and you worked with her some. She’s a student loan expert that works primarily with financial advisers. But I could just tell that you were intellectually interested in the space. I just really loved that. And we spent, I think, probably a month training, having you listen in on calls and going through everything.
Travis: [00:41:02] Three months later, you’re almost a hundred consults. And for folks listening, if we ever do bring on another person — We had a lot of people ask. We try to make sure that every one of our consultants is either a CFP, CPA or CFA, just to make sure that we’re bringing a level of professional expertise to the table that’s at a high level.
Travis: [00:41:17] And I was really impressed with your background, so maybe you could share some of the cases that you had. Or some of the issues that you’ve had so far with student loans, like PSLF issues. Or maybe some cases where people had private loans and federal loans at the same time, or they’re struggling to make their payments. What kind of stuff have you run into so far with your time on the team?
Lauryn’s experiences at Student Loan Planner
Lauryn: [00:41:36] I’ve bumped into quite a few different things, and I’ll take a step back in a second to what you just said. The same way I found Heather Jarvis was the same way I found that internship initially. I found out that there was a lady who was doing something with student loans. She was the only thing that came up when I typed in student loans. I had a client reach out to me and had a bunch. 300,000 and — over 300,000 actually have student loans, and $150,000 in income. And it’s like wow, this is a good income, but this is a lot of debt. It’s pretty much a house. What do I do? So because I didn’t want to be that planner that sucked, like the planners that I had that sucked, I’m trying to learn everything about everything I could. I was like, there’s gotta be someone that knows about this. And I found Heather. And I reached out to her, and I said, “I’d love to engage with you and learn more about what you’re doing. I can pay you to learn.” And she’s like, “Well, I’m happy to have you as kind of an intern, and you can do some things for me.”
Lauryn: [00:42:26] And so that’s kind of how that engagement got going, and I found the CFSLA, which was a student loan course. I was trying to find all the information I could to get into this world, and I was really lucky to bump into Trav because it’s been important to me to be able to help these people. Because so often prospective clients come to me, and they just feel like, I’m not gonna be able to get married. I’m not going to ever be able to buy a house. I’m never gonna be able to get out from under this debt. And it’s all this, I’m not not not not not. And it’s like, yes, you can do all of those things. We just need to create a plan. And so being on the Student Loan Planner team has taught me a lot.
Lauryn: [00:42:58] And one of the cool cases I just bumped into was the TEPSLF, which is the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness, where there’s not a lot of people that are going to be eligible for this plan. And there was a lot of people who thought that they were on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness route, but went to submit their paperwork and found out that they were not. And so there’s an opportunity for some people to be able to apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness despite having been on the wrong plan. And so helping this young lady sort through the actual rules and regulations, which are a little bit murky and grey and kind of overwhelming for someone to have to go through. But having enough knowledge and expertise from all the other consults I’ve done to help her easily navigate, that was a really rewarding experience because there’s not a lot of people that are applying for TEPSLF. And there’s not a lot of people who would be able to help her navigate that. So she sent a really long email recently and was just so excited to have found us, and to have gotten the help, and to get the right payment plan, and is now just 10 payments away of getting the rest of her debt forgiven after thinking that it wasn’t gonna be an option at all, which is pretty amazing.
Travis: [00:44:07] The government program is the thing that’s actually saving them the money, of course. But we can help people utilize the rules that exist under today’s rules to the best way that we know how. We certainly can’t waive ones and make things happen magically. But what we can do is make people realize they’re making certain mistakes, right, or that we need to talk to their CPA about a tax filing strategy that they need to get fixed.
Travis: [00:44:29] Just yesterday I had a couple who had been filing taxes separately since 2014, and I put them in contact with a CPA that I know that’s local to them. And is going to do an analysis on their tax filing strategy for the past three years because they were filing separately when they shouldn’t have been doing that. And I wasn’t able to do the tax calculation because we don’t have that software. But my guess was that they were going to save $15,000 by amending their tax returns. It’s pretty exciting to see these various things. And in terms of how we organize things: the reason, Lauryn, that you’re working with the $50k to $200k consults is we’re kind of starting our consultants with that segment for a couple reasons. Because if you’re already a financial planner, you know more about budgeting and a lot of those things than I do. In the student loan piece, sometimes when you’re in that $50k to $200k segment of debt, a lot of times is forgiveness related. There are some budget forgiveness related kind of conversations to have.
Travis: [00:45:24] But sometimes it is sort of a spending and a budgeting and that kind of a conversation too. So I think you recently had a case where somebody had mostly private loans, right? And they had some federal loans, and they weren’t really sure about how to approach it. Do you remember any cases like that?
Lauryn: [00:45:39] Yeah, so that was really interesting as well because there was a lot of private debt, and there was very little income. And she reached out feeling pretty hopeless, and the message that she sent initially I’m thinking that it was gonna be a pretty sad and negative call. And we did get on the phone, and she was very overwhelmed and kind of immediately burst into tears. And I’m like, OK, let’s just take a step back. Let’s think about what our options are here. And so we came up with a strategy for her to one earn more income because there’s nothing you can do with private debt except for to be able to pay it back. And she wasn’t gonna be in a situation to be able to refinance immediately, but what can we do instead? So we thought about what to do with her federal loans. And she had some Parent PLUS loans in addition to some personal federal loans, so we had to be able to take care of that and get the focus on paying down the private loans immediately.
Lauryn: [00:46:31] By the time we’d gotten off the phone, we had four different ways that she was gonna earn money. She was super pumped about what each of them were, and she just hadn’t even had the opportunity to speak to someone about the different things that she could do. It was kind of like life coaching, career coaching. And she’s really interested in yoga, so she’s gonna create an Airbnb experience and offer yoga to people as a way to kind of side hustle and earn extra income. So now she’s getting to do something she loves, earn money for it, and she’s already committed to putting 100 percent of that toward her private loans.
Lauryn: [00:47:02] We also went through her budget and found some areas. It was really cool because she’s actually in a situation where her rent is really low. And so even though she didn’t have very high income and it looked kind of like an insurmountable amount of debt compared to her income, once I learned more about her, I learned her living expenses were so low that she was actually spending a little bit more than she could. And there was a lot more money she could be throwing toward these loans. So we kind of broke it down line item by line item and found an extra $1,500 that she could be throwing toward her student loans. And so it was amazing and super gratifying for me because it wasn’t so much about digging into the federal loan system rules that a lot of people don’t understand, but it was about talking to her about what’s important to her. What does she value? What are some ways that she can earn income, and how can you do these things in a way that’s creative? And just helping her brainstorm and give her the hope and the understanding in addition to the tool within her budget to find that money was a game changer. And she even emailed and updated today and said she got an interview with a particular place that she was looking at, and she just wants to keep me up to date because it was so helpful having gone through that process with her.
Travis: [00:48:10] It’s exciting because we never know exactly which way the consult is going to go, and pretty much if somebody is super obvious refinancing case, they can go to StudentLoanPlanner.com forward slash refi, r-e-f-i, and they can just refinance their loans. They don’t really need to talk to us. But a lot of times when people are not sure what to do, that’s when the consult service is really helpful. And what I love about that example is a lot of people would look at that situation and just be like, well, how do you help that person? For different income-driven plans, they’re not going to apply. You can tell them refinance, but they won’t qualify for a refinancing. But that’s one thing that’s kind of cool about being involved in the financial blogger communities. I know a lot of different people that have all these different ideas, and I just draw on these ideas. And I steal ones that can help people change their lives.
Travis: [00:48:52] So one of the things we talked about for this particular case was a 2 percent role where every month, you try to save 2 percent more and earn 2 percent more the next month. And you just basically alternate that where you’re not trying to fix it all at once, but you’re slowly trying to work relentlessly towards getting to a point where you’re going to be debt free because of this focus little by little.
Travis: [00:49:13] And that’s, Lauryn, I think one of the things that’s best about you as a professional is you’re always incredibly humble for somebody who’s as accomplished as you are. You always kind of admit what you don’t know or what you’re not sure of, even when you do know it. You sometimes want to get it double checked. And so you and I will talk about various cases that you have just to make sure that the client’s getting the right advice and that you’re giving the right help, and they’re being taken care of. So I just really want to say thank you for being on the team. Hopefully you’re on the team for a long time because it’s infectious to have your energy. That’s what’s exciting is, whether or not you’re earning a silver medal in six months or through a career or starting your own firm. It’s just cool to be on a team of people that are very, very passionate about helping others. That doesn’t mean we’re going to be perfect.
Lauryn: [00:50:02] I’m really grateful to have been invited to be a part of the team. I think the biggest value for me is integrity. And what was really important and really cool about meeting you and understanding the way that you operate is the integrity with which Student Loan Planner is trying to help people. When you’ve been a victim of people who did not have great integrity like I was, I don’t want to sacrifice that for anything. And that’s the reason I started my firm because integrity is the most important thing. So I was very careful to think about finding a place that was gonna be a good fit for me. That was going to operate with the utmost integrity. And I’m so grateful to have found you and to be able to learn from you about the different things that I can do because I never want to make a mistake for a client. I never want to not have an option. And this has taught me a lot about looking at the opportunities instead of the obstacles, even that case we were just talking about. So, thank you for inviting me to be at Student Loan Planner.
Travis: [00:50:49] That’s awesome. Well, when people want to reach out to you related to student loan-related things, they can reach out to Lauryn@StudentLoanPlanner.com. That’s Lauryn with L-a-u-r-y-n at StudentLoanPlanner.com. Not an e-n, it’s y-n. But for some of your other stuff you have going on, where can people learn more about you or learn more about your financial planning business for your podcast?
Lauryn: [00:51:10] Yeah. So everything has a dash in the middle, so my financial company is called Worth-Winning.com. The podcast is Worth-Listening.com. And then my personal website is Lauryn with a ‘y’ dash Williams dot com. And those places will get you started, and I’m pretty much everywhere on social media. I’m not hard to find, so happy to help you in any regard that I can. Whether you have a little kid that’s running track or a college student running track and they’re getting ready to go pro, the book will be great for them. Just happy to help because like I said, that’s the most important thing is giving people the help they need.
Travis: [00:51:45] Yeah. What’s your book’s name, by the way?
Lauryn: [00:51:47] Oh, the book is called “The Oval Office: A 4-Time Olympian’s Guide to Becoming a Professional Athlete.”
Travis: [00:51:53] That’s awesome. If any of the listeners out there are curious, definitely reach out to Lauryn. Lauryn, thank you so much for being on the show.
Lauryn: [00:52:00] Thank you for having me, Trav.
Travis: [00:52:02] Thanks for listening to today’s show. You can e-mail us your comments at Podcast@StudentLoanPlanner.com
Travis: [00:52:08] You can also find show notes at StudentLoanPlanner.com forward slash the number of today’s episode. If you know that you need a custom student loan plan, schedule one today with one of our team members at StudentLoanPlanner.com forward slash book. Or if you want to learn more visit, forward slash help.
Travis: [00:52:24] If you’d liked the podcast, please share it with someone who owes more student loan debt than you do. Keep calm and build wealth and have a great week.