Who’s That Gal: Kali Roberge, Finance Writer, Content Marketer, and JUGS Team Member
We've recently expanded the JUGS writing team so we can provide more exciting content from a variety of experts. Over the next few weeks, we'll be introducing our new writers to you through our Who's That Gal series. We're starting off with Kali, who we are thrilled to have joining the team as a personal finance writer!
Name: Kali Roberge
Occupation: Writer and Content Marketer, Founder of Going Beyond Wealth
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Current ‘hood: North End, Boston
Currently reading: Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout, and The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer (I usually rotate through a few books at once!)
We are psyched to have you bring your expertise as a JUGS contributor! How did you become so passionate about marketing and personal finance?
I’ve always been interested in personal finance from a young age. My parents grew up in near poverty, and worked hard to build something better for themselves and for me -- growing up, my dad worked as a firefighter but also had a landscaping company and did other part-time work for the local government when he wasn’t on his shift at the fire station. That example got me hooked on the idea of being able to work for yourself, but it also showed me what was possible if you were willing to work hard and hustle to earn extra money. It helped me see that I couldn’t wait for anyone else’s permission to succeed, financially or otherwise.
My parents came a long way from where they started, but when I started my own adult life I didn’t have much money (what my parents earned was their money; I was expected to work for my own and pay my own way in college and beyond). I made $22,000 in my first job out of college, and as a 21-year-old kid with a B.A. in history who graduated in 2011, my job prospects and income potential looked bleak. I was scared I’d always be stuck at this level, barely scraping by, and it quickly occurred to me that just saving my pennies was not going to cut it. I had to figure out another way to not only make money but actually create wealth if I wanted to live the life I wanted.
My history degree wasn’t totally useless: it taught me how to research and find the information I needed. I started researching personal finance and growing wealth. I learned about investing and the power of your savings rate. I figured out it wasn’t so much about what you made, but what you did with the money you had. As I researched and taught myself more and more about money, I started writing about it -- because as a writer, that’s always been my way of processing and truly retaining and understanding information. I started a blog called Common Sense Millennial (I thought Common Cents Millennial was too cheesy!) and it became a bit of a hit. That lead me to freelance writing gigs as a financial writer, which allowed me to connect and learn from true experts in finance like financial advisors and CPFs. I expanded my own knowledge and expertise -- while at the same time realizing those financial professionals lacked a skill I had in spades: the ability to tell stories and create compelling content.
Financial advisors are notoriously bad at marketing themselves. As a financial blogger, I knew there was a demand for financial content online, and saw that advisors could step up and create that content to fill the need while simultaneously attracting prospective clients to their websites and blogs. That’s where I dove into marketing (inbound/content marketing specifically), got educated and certified, and took training after training.
5 years later and here we are!
When did you decide that you were going to strike out and be your own boss?
I always wanted to work for myself. I hated working in an office and on someone else’s schedule, especially when there was no reason I couldn’t work from wherever and work whenever hours I felt most productive and energetic. The work I did in my day job just required an internet connection; being in an office wasn’t necessary.
I always joke I’m a bad employee because I don’t play the office politics game well, I challenge the status quo, and I’m not afraid to question authority. (I also tend to dislike authority in general; I don’t do well being told what to do!).
I realized pretty quickly that I was not set up for success in the corporate world. It probably took about a year working in my first job out of college to realize this was not going to work long-term. I started trying to develop my freelance career on the side of that job and spent a year doing both my full-time thing and establishing myself as a freelancer. I finally took the leap and quit to go work for myself once my self-employed income exceeded the paychecks I took home from the office job.
How do you balance running a business and still manage to find time to write for your own blog? Any tips to share?
Honestly, I don’t -- balance, that is. I’m not great at that. I don’t half-ass things, and that goes for working hard to being completely disconnected. I’m either all in or not at all interested. That’s an advantage in some ways, but when it comes to balance… it just doesn’t happen much.
At least, not the way everyone seems to think of balance as this perfect 50/50 state where everything is absolutely equal and you’re never pulled in one way or another. I don’t think anyone can achieve that -- or at least, if they do, they can’t maintain it for long.
Finding time for running a business, writing a blog, and everything else comes down to prioritizing my time and working efficiently as possible. I truly believe we have far more time than we think we do, but we’re poor stewards of those hours. I’ve learned to cut out the biggest drains on my time; I usually don’t listen to podcasts, I don’t watch much TV, and I don’t have the Facebook app on my phone (and I try to avoid Twitter and Instagram as much as possible. I like posting to IG, but I try to avoid the mindless scrolling). I never look at email on my phone because it’s an absolute waste of time and energy.
I’m also super aware of when I’m productive and when I need a break. I work around my energy levels rather than on a set schedule defined by traditional business hours. I value my time and I guard it carefully (I’ll rely on email rather than phone calls because it means I can communicate on my schedule instead of working around someone else’s, and I’m not afraid to say no to requests for coffee dates or networking meetings if I’m short on time. Work comes first.). I also use block scheduling and avoid context-switching -- for example, I never schedule meetings on Mondays or Fridays. Mondays are my hyper-productive, work-12-hours-without-stopping-go-go-go days because that’s just where my energy is and I can plow through a ton of to-dos. Fridays are for more creative work. I usually schedule meetings on Tuesdays and will pile them all on that day so they don’t interrupt the rest of my week. This way, I don’t have to switch back and forth between things that require very different types of thinking (that’s context switching, and it’s a time-waster and energy suck).
I actually have a few blog posts on my business site that cover this topic:
You are a Boston transplant! What do you miss most about the South and what’s your favorite part about city life?
I miss the fact that it’s warm for more than 3 months out of the year! Summer in New England is incredible… but it’s just too short. I do, however, love that I can walk around everywhere and I don’t have to rely on my car to get around. You have to have a car to live in Atlanta -- and although it’s warmer, it’s nearly impossible to stroll around in July and August like you can here. Go outside at 3pm in the dead of summer in ATL, and even if you just stand there you’re going to be sweating in less than 5 minutes.
And it’s true: the people are warmer down South. I miss saying hello to folks as you passed on the sidewalks or giving another runner a wave when you ran by each other. People are a little more gracious and a little faster to open up to you.
But other than that, I don’t miss too much about the Southeast. I have a very small family and I’ll go to visit my mom and dad, but my friends from college all scattered; we all live in different places and across the country now so there aren’t people to miss “back home.” Truly, Boston feels more like home than Atlanta did. I appreciate that people are more ambitious and forward-thinking up here, and everyone seems so driven and motivated to accomplish something. I love that energy. New England has always felt like home, ever since I moved up here, and that feeling has only gotten stronger as I’ve grown some roots, developed deep friendships, and gotten to know not only Boston but the surrounding towns and neighboring states.
...And a quick follow up. How are you adjusting to Boston winters?!
I’m not sure if I’ll ever truly adjust! I do okay in the winter until about February or March, and then I start going bananas. I just can’t take the cold anymore at that point and need a warm weather escape every year about that time.
But other than that, I do think I’ve gotten used to it. It helps to have true winter clothes! For the first two winters I was up here, it was a struggle because I just didn’t have warm clothes. Now, though, as long as I bundle up, I can happily trek a few miles in the cold (as long as I’m not having to deal with too much snow!)
Do you have any advice to share with other gals that are new to Boston?
It’s hard at first. That’s not advice, just acknowledgment. If you’ve been here for a year or less it’s tough and it’s really, really hard to meet friends and find your people. If you’re there right now, know that it’s okay and it’s normal and literally every other woman who’s a transplant has had this same experience.
It seems to get easier after that year mark, but it still takes work to establish yourself here. Stay open and try lots of new things to find your groove. Reach out to people; don’t wait for them to make the first move! Try networking events, check out meetups, join communities, take classes or volunteer -- I don’t think there’s any one way to do it, just be open to trying lots of different things (and if it doesn’t work for you, move on to the next thing).
What tips might you share for other potential boss ladies thinking about launching their own business but are a little hesitant to get started?
I’d first look at where that hesitation is coming from. Is it fear or is a legitimate concern? To answer that, you need a lot of grounded, centered self-awareness, so I think my best tip would be to invest your time in your own personal development, even before starting a business.
When I felt like I got stuck a few years ago and wasn’t sure if I should keep working for myself, I invested in a life coach and a lot of personal development courses. I figured if I could feel more confident in myself and understand who I truly was, the business decisions would be far easier to make. And I was right; when I started uncovering my true self, the choices I needed to make in business and with my work suddenly became so obvious and easy to make.
If you have that confidence and belief in yourself, and an understanding and awareness of your self (and that’s like self with a capital S!), you can do anything -- including launch that business or take the actions you need to make going out on your own a successful endeavor.