July 28, 2020

How This Nurse Paid off $1M in Debt in Just 2 Years with Naseema McElroy

How This Nurse Paid off $1M in Debt in Just 2 Years with Naseema McElroy

In this episode of The Systems Made Simple™ Podcast, Courtney Elmer, business systems expert chats with Forbes featured Naseema McElroy to show you how to become financially independent.

Did you know that most people can’t afford a $400 emergency? Few are able to save for retirement. 

The average wealth for single black women in the prime of their working years in this country is $5, while the median wealth for single white women during the prime of their working years, meanwhile, is $42,600 (according to data from the 2007 Survey of Consumer Finances). 

This is one of the reasons why this topic needs to be talked about now more than ever.

I can think of no one better to talk about it than Naseema McElroy, our special guest today, whose Forbes-featured debt strategy allowed her to pay off $1 Million dollars in debt in two years, and to save an additional $200,000 since she became debt free. 

Today you’re going to get her simple, actionable tools so you can learn how to become financially independent.


  • The underrated power of your mindset as it relates to money

  • How to identify your “money story” and begin to look at your finances differently

  • The fastest way to improve your financial situation, no matter where you are so you can learn how to become financially independent

  • The easy steps to tap into the abundance that is always available to you 

If this episode inspires you, leave a review and share your biggest takeaway with me. And while you've got your phone out, make sure to follow me on Instagram @thecourtneyelmer for more quick tips on how to streamline your business systems and spend more time in your zone of genius.





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Courtney Elmer  0:04  

You're listening to the Systems Made Simple™ podcast, Episode 27, which is all about how to become financially independent and women's equal pay.

When you look at the statistics about debt in America, it's startling. It's been reported that most people can't even afford a $400 emergency, few are able to save for retirement. Did you know the average wealth for single black women in the prime of their working years in this country is $5. While the average wealth for single white women during the prime of their working years is $42,600, which is one of the reasons why this is a topic that needs to be talked about now more than ever. 

I can think of no one better to talk about it than a special guest who’s here on the show with us today. Because as you're about to hear, our special guest takes a powerful approach to create wealth and abundance in her own life and in the lives of the people she serves. by shifting her own mindset around money by being consistent and intentional. She was able to pay off under $1 million in debt in less than two and a half years and become financially independent. 

Today she's going to show you the simple actionable tools that you can use right away to set you on the right path to becoming financially independent. That's because today's guest is Naseema McElroy, who firmly believes there is no better way to learn than to teach. She's been featured in Forbes and her debt strategy has allowed her to save nearly $200,000 in the two years since she became debt-free. When you finish this episode, you're going to walk away with a clear plan to understand the underrated power of your mindset. As it relates to money, you'll be able to identify your money story and begin to look at your finances differently. You'll learn how to start from where you're to improve your financial situation so that you can tap into the abundance that is always available to you. 

Best of all, you're going to discover that you're truly worthy of wealth, and you'll be able to use these simple, actionable tools to create it to become financially independent. So if you find yourself in a similar situation, never seeming to get ahead of your finances, you're going to love what Nasima is going to share here with you today. Because you have what it takes to reach financial independence, to live the life of your dreams, and to leave a legacy for your family. 

If this episode inspires you in some way, I know for a fact that Naseema would love to hear your biggest takeaway, so make sure you dm her over on Instagram at financially intentional and tell her you heard her episode here on the effortless life today and let her know what action you're committed to taking after listening. All right, you're ready to dive in this one you're gonna love about how to become financially independent and learn all about women's equal pay.



Courtney Elmer 5:00

Naseema, welcome to the show!


Naseema McElroy  5:05  

Hey Courtney, thank you for having me. 


Courtney Elmer  5:08  

I can't wait to dive into your story because from what I was reading, and from what I know of you, you have overcome a lot.  the work that you do in the world. There is such a huge need for, and so I would love to start by having you tell us who you help and how to become financially independent.


Naseema McElroy  5:26  

So hey, I'm Naseema. So I'm a mom, a labor and delivery nurse.  Kind of a personal finance nerd. didn't always grow up being good with money. As a matter of fact, I was pretty bad with money when I look back at it, but I was always the kind of person that because I always knew how to hustle and grind and make money.  I always did fine in school and did all the things I was supposed to. People looked at me like I was super successful. But inside, I knew that I had some issues, unresolved issues around money. I reached a point where I’d been making six figures for a long time, I have this little girl who's turning one, and if something were to happen to me, I don't have anything for her. 


I learned how to become financially independent so I teach people how to take control of their finances.  Usually, I work with young professional women, people who are the first in their families to have a six-figure salary, or go into a profession, and first in their family graduate from college. But specifically, I work with nurses now, in making sure that they are on the right path financially. Because I really feel like women in general, we have a long way to go, when it comes to knowing how to deal with our finances. But, we have the power to really, really impact not only our lives but the lives of our children, if we could figure it out. 


Courtney Elmer  7:08  

I want to dive deep into your story and to hear where you started and how you got to where you're today including how to become financially independent. But to speak into this, because I mean, this is such a huge need. I love what you said about taking back control of your finances and teaching people how to do this because it's not really a skill that is taught. It's not really something we learned along the way, we kind of hustle and grind, figure it out. you hear these statistics, I heard something on the news the other day that said,  I don't remember the percentage was a very high percentage of people that can't even save for retirement. Think about the impact that that has not only on your life, and the lifestyle you want to live, especially once you're not able to work anymore, when you want to stop working, and then also the impact it has on future generations. So take us there, tell us where you started?  really what was that pivotal turning point for you that you said, Okay, I've got to figure out a different way.


Naseema McElroy  8:03  

Well, there's plenty of statistics out there that say, there's if the average household cannot withstand a $400 emergency, the average net worth, especially for black women, is $5.  so that's where I was. I was making a lot of money, and it looked, I had everything on the outside. But I didn't have anything, any money.  The point, I was tired of having all those things that gave me the external validation that I was successful. But inside, knowing I was struggling, that was in 2015, my daughter was turning one and I was, if I'm not going to make a change for myself, I have to do it for her. Because, sometimes really, we won't do it for ourselves, but we'll definitely do it for our kids. so that was my motivation to turn things around.  I have to figure this out, I have to figure out why I'm struggling.

It's about what you spend and then learning how to make sure that my spending reflects what my lifestyle goals were, my ultimate goal is to go on through life keeping up with everybody else, or doing what I thought I was supposed to do.  So I mean, being broken in debt is normal, because we grow up in a consumer’s culture, right? Trying to shift what my norm was, was my number one focus, so making sure that I surrounded myself with people who did things a little bit differently and follow in the footsteps of people to who I aspire to.  So that started kind of going down this path of following Dave Ramsey. We’re doing things that on the outside seem pretty abnormal to other people, but ensure that I'm setting myself and my family and financial wealth and health in the long term.


Courtney Elmer  10:33  

That's amazing. It's so interesting, you mentioned, kind of going back to our childhood and how we grew up around money. My dad has been in the finance industry for over 40 years so growing up, I was always, I don't want to hear anything to do with numbers I don't want to talk about I heard about it in my life all the time, he was always checking. I don't want to have anything to do with that. I can remember so clearly around the time that my mom decided, my mom was a nurse as well, she decided to stay home and raise me and my two sisters.  My dad was getting his business going. So we had good months, and we had hard months.  money became a really stressful topic so I developed the idea that money was stressful.  Growing older, I  kind of carried that with me through my life. I never really had money, money was always one of these stressful things, I didn't want to talk about it, I didn't want to go there.  

Then later, realizing that this belief was really misaligned, it wasn't serving me, and that it wasn't actually money. That was stressful. But it was the lack of money, which is what of course, my parents would argue over my mom having to be on a budget and this and that. That was really getting to the root of what was going on there.  it changed everything for me. So I'm so glad that you mentioned that because a lot of times we carry around these beliefs and mindsets that aren't really ours. That we can take that control back, and take your power back.  to start learning how to spend, how to invest, how to manage our money in a way that,  you said, meets our lifestyle goals.  that really serves us. So tell us about it because you overcame an incredible amount of debt.  You did it very quickly. So walk us through what that was.


Naseema McElroy  12:17  

So yeah, ultimately, it was about a million dollars in debt. I paid that off in about two and a half years.  So that wasn't what I initially sought out to do. I want to feel I knew what I was doing with my money.  Then determined quickly that what was holding me back was my student loan debt, which I never thought about as debt. So talk about a mindset shift, when I was always taught to go to school, by whatever means necessary, and figure it out.  then I know everybody has two loans.  So it was this thing that I knew was going to be lingering. But once I figured out that, hey,  maybe this 1900 dollars a month you're paying in the student loan payment is an issue.  so  I said, I started following Dave Ramsey, started doing zero-based budgeting, meaning that I was telling every one of my dollars where to go in advance, I use the Debt Snowball method where I listed all my debts from smallest to largest, paying the smallest balance first, and attacking it with a vengeance while paying the minimum payments on everything else.  

Then before I knew it, I  had this momentum, and I was on the grind. Believe me, when I was in the middle of it, I couldn't have imagined that I would do it any sooner than five years. But I'll head down and focused. I looked up and I had about $20,000 of my student loans left, I had kind of gone through a divorce through that time. So I had some that had some IRS debt. So I had $30,000 left, and then I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area. So it's super expensive. This house isn't serving me. I need to be closer to my family.


Courtney Elmer  14:20  

The word that kept coming to me as you were sharing was intentional and how to become financially independent. You created a plan, you executed the plan that you had this intentional drive and desire to pay it down and to pay it off.  


Naseema McElroy  15:16  

So I really understood at that time that money was a tool, right.  if it's not serving, where you want to be in life, or whatever you're spending money on, if it's not serving, wherever you want to be in life, then you shouldn't be focusing on it.  so I have this house.  this is beautiful. It was a beautiful house. But it was a huge house for me and my daughter and has five bedrooms, five and a half baths. 


Courtney Elmer  16:47  

For those listening that have had money struggles, which I would imagine it's a majority of people listening because, at one point or another, we have all experienced some sort of tension or stress or issues or problems that come up with the money.  a couple of things that you said that I want to point out for people to take away that number one, money is a tool.

That's huge.  so when you begin to shift your mindset and shift your story around money and start to see it more as a tool as an opportunity, then you can make those decisions that serve the lifestyle you want to live.   


Naseema McElroy  18:37  

What we really have to understand is that you are worthy, and we deserve to be wealthy.  A lot of times we don't get that and oftentimes we self-sabotage because we look at people with money or people that have more than us with some kind of resentment and or being that's not for me they do see that we can be there too.  so nothing that you do, no matter what you do, no matter how much money you make, you'll never achieve real wealth for yourself because you're subconsciously blocking yourself. So I give people this one tool to understand that they are deserving of wealth.  anytime they see somebody that might have more than them and they're the kind of feeling that is negative comes up. 


Courtney Elmer  20:58  

 That's why one of the reasons I wanted to have you speak and share with our listeners today was because you do the mindset work, and also the strategy.  You need both because without the other, you can't get very far. You could sit around, do mindset work all day? Sure. But then the strategy actually helps you implement that, and vice versa, if you're doing strategy, it's kind of throwing spaghetti at the wall. Let me try this. Let me try this. Let me try this. If you're not focusing on the inner work, that's also necessary. So I love that you teach both. I'm really curious to hear what was maybe the biggest belief that shifted for you and your money story along the way. 


Naseema McElroy  21:53  

Really, it was that I could out-earn, what is the internal work that I needed to do. When you're a really high achiever, it's all about getting that title, that next goal, that raise, and then things will be better, things will get better. But understanding that you have to start where you're, and get to a place where you're managing with what you have right now.  you're completely whole and happy in a budget and knowing that abundance is available to you hasn't been able to get into that space. 


Courtney Elmer  23:06  

I love how even what you shared earlier,  that simple shift. If you notice any feeling of resentment coming up, someone's talking about funny or they're bragging about a raise or a promotion or something that maybe happened tied to money.  you feel that negativity to pick that around and be. Hey, I wish them well, I wish them abundance and I'm okay with where I'm. I know that by embracing that, I'll get to where I want to be.  I think that that is such a simple first step  I think as high achievers, we tend to overthink it too,  oh, no, it's got to be hard. It's got to be more involved.

So good. So what's on the horizon for you next? What are you working on right now? What can you share about how to become financially independent?


Naseema McElroy  23:57  

Well, my goal is to be the face of personal finance, the voice of personal finance for nurses globally understanding that as female dominant workforce nurses have the capacity to change the world. If able to show up at work differently, if able to show up at work, knowing that finances aren't a concern, we can really 100% be in the role of a patient advocate, we can 100% own the fact that we have the power to change people's lives. 


Courtney Elmer  25:52  

I love the freedom implied in that because when you aren't tied to your job, then we do have more freedom to show up as who because not so focused, and maybe even negatively focused on the things we don't have.   not tied down to all of that, so that we can step forward and speak up and be that voice and to be that advocate, especially in your role as a nurse, I mean, wow,  how powerful that truly is.  it's such a beautiful mission. So one question that I ask every guest that comes on the show, and we can end on this note, I would love to hear what's your personal definition of success. 


Naseema McElroy  26:39  

Success is knowing that you're 100% aligned with what you're passionate about, whatever your life mission is, you're 100% aligned with that, and that changes, but that's, that's what it's all about being 100% aligned,  everything that you do is 100% in line with that. 


Courtney Elmer  27:07  

Any final thoughts that you want to leave with our listeners today on how to become financially independent.?


Naseema McElroy  27:10  

You're worthy, you're worthy of being successful. You're worthy of having real wealth, and shifting that and yourself, not only impacts you but it impacts the people around you.  You’re worthy of learning how to become financially independent.


Courtney Elmer  27:29  

We’ll end on that note. Naseema, Where can people connect with you? I know people are gonna want to look you up and connect with you on social media. Where can they find you?


Naseema McElroy  27:35  

So I'm everywhere @financiallyintentional, and my podcast Nurses on Fire, which isn’t for nurses but also for people who are aspiring to financial independence and how to become financially independent. I'm showcasing people who have taken some really interesting paths to achieving financial success. So check me out there.


Courtney Elmer  28:19  

Yeah, we'll link all that up in the show notes too. So that way you can go and click and connect with Naseema. Thank you so much for being on the show. This was awesome. You gave so much value and I hope that those listening really take that to heart and walk away from this episode feeling empowered, that you're worthy and that you do deserve wealth and that you can achieve it with that intentionality behind it and that you can learn how to become financially independent.


Courtney Elmer  28:49  

Thank you guys so much for tuning in. Remember to subscribe so that you're the first to know as soon as a new episode drops.  Please take a second to leave us a review on this episode, because your reviews really do help people find us people who need to hear this message on how to become financially independent. We might even feature your review on an upcoming episode and give you a shout-out right here on the show. All right, we'll see you back here next time on the Systems Made Simple™ podcast. Until then go live your EffortLESS Life®.