Take Control Of Your Finances: Ask These Money Questions with Matt Schulz

It’s time to take control of your finances and this episode will teach you how. Whether you’re a financial novice or a seasoned pro, today’s episode is one you won’t want to miss. Join us as we welcome Matt Schulz, a personal finance expert, chief credit analyst at LendingTree, and the author of “Ask Questions, Save Money, Make More.”

This episode explores how a simple question can unlock secrets to a wealthier life and transform your relationship with money. Say goodbye to complexity and hello to financial mastery as we break down the seven critical areas where curiosity can lead to substantial savings and help you take control of your finances.

Ask Questions, Save Money, Make More book

Matt’s website

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**Take Control of Your Finances Chapter Summaries:**

– (0:00:11) Asking Questions (13 Minutes): Learn the art of negotiation across various expenses and understand the importance of self-advocacy.

– (0:13:11) Negotiating Finances and Relationships (18 Minutes): Discover strategies for negotiating rent or mortgage rates and the emotional aspects of financial discussions.

– (0:31:22) Empower Your Finances With Questions (9 Minutes): Find out how asking the right questions can alleviate financial stress and empower your money decisions.

**Key Takeaways:**

– How to negotiate credit card rates, housing costs, and daily expenses

– Approaching money management from a position of strength

– Overcoming emotional barriers to financial conversations

– Tips for effective self-advocacy and recognizing customer value

– Empathetic strategies to empower financial well-being

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Take Control of Your Finances Transcript

00:10 – Matt (Guest)
They’re never going to say no. How dare you ask? We’re slashing your credit limit and you’re off the Christmas card list. Oh, no. That stuff just doesn’t happen.

00:29 – Shannah (Host)
Hey, welcome back to Everyone’s Talkin’ Money. I am your host, Shannah. It is so good to have you with us. If you’re new here, this is the show where we talk about personal finance tips mixed with the very sticky emotions around money, so you can start stressing less and thriving more financially. If you’re a regular listener, welcome back.

This is going to be an episode you will want to bookmark. Did you know you can ask your credit card company to waive that pesky annual fee? You can also ask to lower your interest rate. The same goes for hospital fees and loads of other costs. You can ask for a lower payment on your vacation rental and when renting a car. The fact is there are hundreds of everyday expenses that you can save money on, but they all start at one place asking questions. Our guest, matt Scholls, personal finance expert, chief credit analyst at Lending Tree and author of the new book Ask Questions, save Money, make More Want you to know the questions asked and what to say in seven key areas of life credit and debt, healthcare, housing, shopping, travel, work and relationships. The goal is to take control of your financial life and save a lot of money, as the book suggests. This episode, and really Matt’s book is a must-have money manual for success. We’re going to talk about how to get lower rates on everything from your credit card annual fee to your mortgage, to shopping at the grocery store and so much more. Your wallet will definitely thank you.

Before we get into the episode, just a quick announcement. My course Un-F. Your Money is now open and available until April 3rd. You can find all the links in the show notes. Head to etmpodlink, slash un-f money course and use code ETM to get $100 at checkout. All right, let’s start talking. I think a good way to start our conversation is to start with the quote that you used at the beginning of your book. I really loved. It’s a quote by Alice Walker that says the most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. I was thinking about this as I was reading your book and I was prepping for our conversation. Thinking about our financial lives. What are the ways that you see all of us out there kind of giving up our power when it comes to money?

02:46 – Matt (Guest)
Yeah, it was really the perfect quote, I feel, for the book, because the book really is all about helping people advocate for themselves and to understand the power that they have.

Really, what it all comes down to is the fact that people think that they are not needed or that they are not valued.

The truth is that if you’re a good customer, you are incredibly valuable to any company that you work with. That’s because so many companies look at people in terms of lifetime value, meaning how much money they can make off of you during the time that you’re a customer. It’s such an important concept and such an underpinning of this book because once you understand that and you negotiate and you ask for things, you understand that you’re coming at it from somewhat of a position of power rather than coming in on bended knee. Of course, it’s a little like Vegas casinos right, the house is usually going to win, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t get a little something back here and there. Once you understand that, that fee that you’re asking to waive or that t-shirt that they’re willing to give, all that sort of stuff, is basically like a rounding error or a grain of sand on the beach to them, but it’s valuable to you. It helps you feel a little more confident and a little more powerful in making these asks.

04:45 – Shannah (Host)
I mean, I think I love this concept because the book is all about this idea that everything stems from asking questions and that when we can ask these questions, we can save money, we can have things happen, we can have things waived. I mean all sorts of different scenarios and we’re going to talk about some of those scenarios. I want to go through some of them. But this idea of asking questions, it terrifies a lot of people, which is probably one of the reasons why you decided to write a book about asking questions. Why do we have these reactions like these really strong reactions around this idea of asking questions, like particularly around money?

05:27 – Matt (Guest)
Well, it’s funny. It terrifies me too. I mean, I’m a journalist by trade and I do interviews for a living and I’m still somebody who gets really, really nervous and oftentimes won’t raise my hand in a room full of people. It’s just a scary thing because nobody likes being rejected. Everybody thinks that because they. Everybody thinks that the other person probably knows better or has more knowledge than they do, and some of it is also just pride People, even when people really really really need help, a lot of people don’t want to ask because they don’t want to be a burden on other people or they don’t want to see themselves as the person that needs this sort of help.

And that’s all completely understandable and that’s why in the book I really try to take an empathetic approach instead of talking down to people, shaming them that sort of thing, because it’s hard and really kind of what it gets down to is that it’s something that you just need to do over and over again, where I tend to talk in sports analogies. So it’s really kind of about getting your reps in right and kind of failing and understanding that if you do fail, if you are told no, you’re going to come out the other side fine and live on to ask the next question. So it’s a difficult thing and I think that the idea is important and I hope that this book will open people’s eyes to the things that they can do if they’re willing to ask questions.

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07:27 – Shannah (Host)
So I’m really curious when you have one of those moments, yourself being even the expert that you are, and you get really nervous, how do you lower the temperature or calm yourself down? Because I think everybody listening is really curious about how do I deal with the emotions of asking questions.

07:53 – Matt (Guest)
For me, I focus on my breath and just kind of calming myself down, and it’s something that I’ve talked with my son about and that I do myself as well. When things get really intense, you just kind of close your eyes and take a couple of deep breaths and kind of center yourself a little bit that way. But it’s also kind of about understanding that these feelings are okay and that you can get through them, and that your breathing is kind of your way of telling your body okay, it’s going to be. Okay, this is a new thing, but we’re going to be okay and we just need to kind of settle a little bit. And again, it’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s something that I’ve found helpful.

08:55 – Shannah (Host)
It’s amazing how sometimes we forget the really our only job in life is to breathe, is to breathe and breathe oxygen, and by doing that simple thing it really can calm the body, calm the nerves and get you to refocus. So I love that. That is your way of dealing with these kind of intense situations.

All right, I want to jump into some of these questions that you laid out in the book and there are tons of them, so there are no spoilers here. I definitely want everyone to pick up a copy of the book, because this is, I think, something that you put on your bookshelf forever, and whenever you have a situation or scenario, you kind of come to this book and say, okay, how do I deal with this? I want you to kind of guide us through some of these. I know the first one that I want to talk about. You are a credit expert. You’ve spent a lot of your career talking about credit cards and banks and all of that good stuff. You have a lot of information on this. So I have a really a question that’s been asked of me many times and something I feel is kind of hotly debated Can you actually ask to have your credit card annual fee waived?

10:17 – Matt (Guest)
You absolutely positively can. It’s funny I was at a work party with my wife standing in line at a food truck talking with somebody about my book and this man, who I’d never met before standing in the line with him, told me about how he had negotiated down. On a regular basis. He had his $400 annual fee on his credit card and they didn’t always waive it for him, but sometimes they would say, well, we’re not going to waive it, but here’s 20,000 points or here are other things that we can do for you.

So it does happen. I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say that your $400 or $600 annual fee card is going to be, that that annual fee is going to be easy to waive. It’s a whole lot easier if it’s $89 or $95, but you absolutely positively can do that. It’s something that banks expect to a degree and that they know how to handle. So there’s really no risk in asking at all.

11:37 – Shannah (Host)
And what sort of like. How do we phrase that question if we’re calling in?

11:42 – Matt (Guest)
Yeah, honestly, sometimes it’s just about asking where you say you know, I’ve been a good customer for many years, but I wanted to see if you would be able to waive this annual fee. And you can kind of leave it a little bit ambiguous there, and oftentimes it’s really not much more difficult than that. Some questions in the book are a little more nuanced and a little layered, but with a couple of these credit card asks it really is fairly simple and you have to understand that they probably aren’t going to waive it permanently For one. They may not waive it entirely, so you may end up going from $400 or $150 to $50 or $75 or something like that. Still good, right, it’s still good absolutely. Or they could counter offer, like I was saying, with extra points or something along those lines, and really what it comes down to is that they’re never going to say no, how dare you ask, we’re slashing your credit limit and you’re off the Christmas card lists.

That stuff just doesn’t happen. So there’s really no risk in asking.

13:10 – Shannah (Host)
Okay, here’s one that I think we all want to know about. You talk about asking to get a lower rate on your rent or your mortgage, and I think this is something that we don’t normally think is negotiable, or there’s any room to negotiate. What do we need to know there?

13:28 – Matt (Guest)
Yeah, that one is certainly one of them.

That can be a little more complicated and sometimes your chances of success aren’t always as high.

I mean, you know, in a huge city like a New York or LA or places like that with a really hot rental market, sometimes there’s just nothing you can do and you ask the question, but you fully understand there’s really no incentive for them to work with you.

There certainly are other times when it can, and really the important thing there is to understand the marketplace, understand kind of what else is available, but also being able to pitch yourself as a, as the good renter that you are and that can be really good, especially if you’re somebody who is facing a rent increase, for example, and you understand that it’s oftentimes it is far more. It’s far less expensive for a landlord to hold on to that renter instead of going and finding a new one. So again, you kind of have that position of power to a degree when it comes to rent. But it is also definitely one of those situations where it can be very seasonal. It can depend on where you live, even, as we all know a specific area of a specific town. So that’s one of the more challenging ones for sure, but it’s still worth checking out.

15:17 – Shannah (Host)
I really love this, this message of taking your power back, because so many of us feel not powerful at all when we’re dealing with money and we’re asking questions, and we feel very nervous or shaky in that process, and I think it’s a maybe an obvious thing. Well, of course, you would. You know why wouldn’t you want power around money? But I think how we operate in our daily lives around money even those of us who are experts is not from a place of power. It really is from a place of fear, and so I think you know, whether it’s giving somebody a script, or even just giving them permission to ask a question and be okay, that the answer might be no and that that’s not the end of the world, is such a I mean, it’s such a gift. I think that you’re giving people with it, so I think it’s worth giving people with this.

16:16 – Matt (Guest)
Thanks, I appreciate that and one of the things that I wanted to kind of get across a few things. One is that people have more negotiation experience than they realize.

16:31 – Shannah (Host)
Oh yeah, Tell me about that. They may not be as high stakes.

16:34 – Matt (Guest)
Yeah, it may not be as high stakes as kind of what some of the things in the book, but we all negotiate, whether it’s talking with our partner about what temperature to set the thermostat in the house or who’s going to drive on what day in the carpool to make sure that the kids get to soccer practice. Things like that are negotiations, and parents do it with kids all the time, even though we probably shouldn’t, and that’s an important thing to remember. Just because you’re dealing with a bank or a gym or a mechanic or a car dealership, it doesn’t really change a lot of the basics of negotiation, in which which is important for people to to understand where it’s really people just trying to develop a win-win situation where both sides are happy, neither side feels ripped off and both feel really good about the situation, and that’s that’s one of the really important things that that I want people to get out of the book.

17:55 – Shannah (Host)
All right, matt, it’s time to play. Your relationship with money is game. So question number one if you had to describe your relationship to money as a cartoon character, who would it be?

18:07 – Matt (Guest)
It’s. It’s such a good question. I think that the first thing that really came to mind was maybe like a, maybe like a Lisa Simpson and somebody who, who always kind of tries to do the right thing and maybe doesn’t always quite get it right and has had their had their stumbles in the past. I feel like that might be a good choice, because I’m somebody who had $10,000 in credit card debt when I was in my 20s and basically wrecked my life for several years, and I also had a car payment on a brand new car at that time because of a bad decision, and you just, you just hope that you can learn through. You can learn through those mistakes and mistakes of others and come out the other side.

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19:16 – Shannah (Host)
That is our first Lisa Simpson, so I love that answer. Question number two tell me, how do you feel about money.

19:27 – Matt (Guest)
Oh man, I have had a complicated relationship with money and I mean my, my, my general feeling about money is that it really is about freedom and having more money and being able to put some money aside and to save some money is is really it’s. It really kind of brings again that that freedom where, if you make enough money, where you don’t have to worry about making paying all the bills at the end of the month, that’s a hugely freeing thing. If you have enough money in savings, where you have a horrible job, you’re being treated poorly by your boss and you can tell them to shove it and leave and you have enough to be confident, that is, that is freedom, and there’s so many other examples like that. So I guess I would kind of look at it that way and I try to. I try to also pay that forward to, whether it’s donating or stuff like that, but also just kind of paying the knowledge forward, and that’s that’s certainly a theme of the book too.

20:55 – Shannah (Host)
All right. Last question If you could get a do over for one money mistake, what would it be?

21:02 – Matt (Guest)
That’s that’s interesting. I honestly I probably would have been smarter about how I handled things in my 20s and and not necessarily run up the the debt that I had or certainly not bought that bought that car, that that I bought, that would. That would certainly be one. You know, honestly, living in living in a town like Austin that has exploded over the past 2025 years might have bought a couple of pieces of property back then to even taking on a little bit of debt to do so, because I would have come out just fine. But yeah, I think I would probably go back to that, those that credit card spending in my 20s that really put me behind the eight ball for a while.

22:05 – Shannah (Host)
Talking about being in a relationship. You have a chapter all on relationships and navigating finances, which I thought was really insightful, and whether it’s your partner or your family or your friends, you have all sorts of different tips, and I know that it can be really hard to talk to your parents about money. Most of us don’t have a clue about our parents financial situation and as we’re getting older, our parents are getting older and it’s probably important to have some of these, these conversations, but you know there are a lot of things we don’t even know what to ask. So how do we navigate in situations like that? Asking these questions and, you know, figuring out what we need to know about our parents money situation.

22:56 – Matt (Guest)
Yeah, really that’s it’s. It’s one of the most impactful questions in the whole book. But one thing that’s really important in people who I spoke with for the book is that most parents are gonna be okay with having that conversation, and that’s that’s an important thing to remember, an important place to start. It’s not always gonna be the case. Relationships vary from family to family and even within families, we all know so. It’s so that dynamic can be really, really difficult, especially when you’re talking again about power, about potentially shifting the dynamic of power from the parent having control or having the biggest say to a to a Daughter or son coming in and trying to take a little bit more control. That can be a really, a Really kind of perilous thing, but it’s. It’s such an important conversation to have.

24:04 – Shannah (Host)
Are there any? Are there any sections or any questions in the book that I’m just really impactful to you that really stand out as like do nothing else?

24:16 – Matt (Guest)
ask these questions well, the the in the in this section about careers and jobs and and college.

I Thought that it was interesting that that people don’t understand when kids are going through and parents as well are going through the college application process.

That there is room for negotiation there to potentially and in college is One of those things that we don’t really necessarily think that we can negotiate on and in some colleges you can’t.

I mean, there are Obviously 10, 15 percent of schools in this country that are so Overwhelmed with people who want to go there that they have no incentive to work with you On merit aid and that sort of thing.

But the truth is that most colleges in this country Do have incentive to work with you and if you go in With a kind of a position of humility you’re not kind of stomping in demanding, you know, to get more merit aid or anything like that if you treat it respectfully, if you go in To that negotiation With some good data points but also with a position of kind of kindness and, again, humility, you oftentimes can Get colleges to be able to bring down that sticker price and, as we all know, there have been a million headlines written about just how devastating student loan Debt has been, so anything that can be done to bring down the amount of debt and the overall crazy high cost of college is Such an important thing, and it was one to me, one of the most interesting discoveries as I was writing this book, and that that I found really pretty meaningful.

26:28 – Shannah (Host)
It’s interesting because, specifically around college, that’s another one of I put it in the same category as Like rent or mortgage that you you sort of feel like Absolutely that’s off the table. There’s no way I can I can negotiate anything in in those particular sectors, but I think that the power of asking these questions and maybe the answer might be yes, or or like the credit card annual fee, maybe it might be. Well, I can’t, I can’t lower the 400 to 0, but I could lower it to $200, and then thinking about the extra money that you save and how that can compound and multiply and be added to your other money goals, is really exciting. And I think what I love about your book is not just that it lays out these questions, but it also lays out scripts so that we don’t have to try to fumble through our own words To figure out what to say.

And I I was just talking to my husband, jeff, yesterday. He’d gone to the grocery store and for some reason here Maynay’s has just gotten super expensive where I live and there was a brand of Maynay’s that he loves and it it was on sale for a ridiculously low price. And he, when he went to the cash register to check out. He thought, okay, that’s, that’s a lot of money that I’m spending on Maynay’s. I thought this was a sales price. And when he asked these questions and was proactive, the Grocery bill ended up being dropped about 18 bucks because he noticed there was a difference. And so one of the sections in your book talks about all the questions that you can ask and the scripts that you can ask it Grocery stores and I just I would have never thought of that. I mean again, I just go in and pick stuff up, put it in my cart and buy things. And so I am curious how did you go about the process of Not only uncovering these questions but also uncovering these different scripts to ask places?

28:29 – Matt (Guest)
Yeah, that’s for one. That’s that story is really interesting because because grocery stores are one of the more challenging places, because generally you’re not going to be able to go up to the To check out counter at a Kroger and a Haggle over the price of a loaf of bread in a box of Cheerios. But there are things that you can do To make sure that that you’re getting the best price, and one of them is to make sure that you’re getting charged for the right thing and Not, you know, not double-billed or anything like that. So checking that receipt, especially if you’re buying 25 things, that’s that’s an important thing, because those little mistakes can add up. But To answer your question, what I did is I spoke with a hundred and ten hundred and fifteen people over the course of many, many months and just asked them to Tell me their stories about their own personal situations in their own views around a bunch of these asks.

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Because my, my focus is credit and debt.

But I am not a relationship expert, I’m not a shopping expert, I am not a mortgage expert by trade. So I went looking to talk to the People who I know, who know these spaces best, but also just regular folks, to kind of see what they knew, what they had done and and the the different things that had worked for them, and Then just kind of took it all and and tried to come up with these scripts, sometimes like scripts that I had used or conversations that I had had before, but also sometimes stuff that that people had had told me and and, honestly, part of what it was was sketching out on a Notepad with pen and paper, kind of a decision tree of you know what happens if this person says this or this person says this, and it all cut in and trying to think through all of the various scenarios and various responses that you could get and to Not have these scripts be you know a hundred, a hundred page screenplay and have them be useful, but have them also cover enough scenarios where it it’s, it’s useful.

31:10 – Shannah (Host)
I Wow, I can imagine those decision trees. That is a lot of work to walk out all of these examples. I know I actually am quoted a couple times in your book and over one of my favorite tricks of calling your cell phone and internet company to ask them if you have the best rate. I’ve been sharing that for years on this show and so many people will email into me and say, oh my gosh, I tried it, I asked the question and I saved $20 a month or $30 a month or whatever it might be. So it’s fun, I think, hearing from just everyday people too that they use these scripts, they ask these questions, and it’s like you won the lottery, right, even if you save a couple dollars.

32:02 – Matt (Guest)
Yeah, and it’s an important thing and the book is meant to be. It’s meant to be written up and it’s meant to be scratched on and all that. And we also include a scorecard at the end of it where you can keep track. And on the page that the scorecard is, there’s an email address and it’s successatmatcheltscom where I want people to email me and tell me the things that they’ve been able to do and tell me their success stories, because any first draft is a first draft, right. So anything that I can learn from people who have done these things, who read the book, who can give me ways that I can make this better and make it more impactful and kind of keep spreading the message, all the better. So I tried to make it as interactive as I possibly could.

33:08 – Shannah (Host)
Where did the idea for this book come about? Were you just sitting one day and thinking, okay, this would be really great if everybody got out there and asked these questions?

33:21 – Matt (Guest)
Well, it’s a couple of places. One, the book’s dedicated to my dad, who passed away a couple years ago, and the thing that he would always say is it never hurts to ask. And it’s one of those things that I always kind of admired him in terms of his ability to walk into a room and know the life story of everybody in the place within five minutes. So the book.

33:51 – Shannah (Host)
I have that kind of dad too. Yes, 100%.

33:55 – Matt (Guest)
And I did not get that gene we either. I got it from my dad, but he was kind of the inspiration for the overall concept. But I really knew that I had something when, over the course of time in my job at LendingTree, I’ve quoted this data point of the fact that about 75% of people who ask for a lower interest rate on their credit card get one, and the average reduction is about 6 percentage points. But far too few people ever ask. I’ve given that bit of data. I can’t tell you how many times in interviews.

And all the time I have reporters say oh my god, I had no idea, why don’t we talk about that? More People should know those sorts of things. And when I kept getting that response I was like, okay, this is something that needs to be shouted out through a bigger microphone, bigger megaphone, and there are a million other things like that in the personal finance space and just in life in general. And as I kind of sketched it all out, it really kind of evolved into the book that it is now and I’m really proud of it and it means a lot to me and I think it can help a lot of people.

35:29 – Shannah (Host)
Yeah, that asking for a lower interest rate. Everybody needs to pick up the book and learn how to do that, Because that is, I think, for a lot of people probably one of the most fear inducing conversations to have. But the stats and your research behind it are just so incredibly compelling. And if you owe money on that credit card and you can get that interest rate reduced, I mean, wow, you could pay that off so much quicker and just save so much money. I think it’s. It’s such a great.

36:04 – Matt (Guest)
All of these are just such great tips and I think yeah, and it’s important to understand that that success rate with the credit card APR ask isn’t just a 2023, 2024 thing. These numbers have been this way during the pandemic, before the pandemic, in good times, bad times. These numbers kind of stay about where they are and again, it’s because banks have a vested interest in keeping you happy and if they can give you a few extra points of reduction to keep you a good customer happy, they’re oftentimes much more willing to do it than you expect. So it’s really important to make that ask.

37:01 – Shannah (Host)
So I want to return to the start of this conversation, this idea that you have more power over your money than you think. How can we embrace this idea going forward so that we can use your book as a springboard to really start embracing the power that we do have with our money going forward?

37:22 – Matt (Guest)
Well, I think it’s about setting some goals and figuring out what you want to accomplish with your money and, kind of, maybe, where your pain points are, because this book tackles 45 different situations, but they’re not things that you face every day. People don’t go to funerals every day, people don’t go to weddings every day, people don’t get mortgages every day, but there are a lot of different situations in which we will face next month, next week, couple times this year. So if there is a situation where you are really struggling, maybe you have a lot of debt and you need to find a way to get that under control.

Asking the right questions and being willing and able to advocate for yourself is such a powerful thing, because there’s so much data out there about how many people are losing sleep over debt and their finances and that sort of thing, and people tend to lose sleep when they feel powerless and things are out of control and there are little things that you can do. Even little first steps to take a little bit more control over your finances can really make a difference, and we talk about a lot of them in this book. We’ve spoken about them today here and if you can kind of find one that you can get started with and maybe have a little bit of success and then kind of get that ball rolling. It can be really meaningful and even if that first one, even if you’re not successful, the fact that you did it and you survived the nervousness and the freak out that may come along with asking that’s useful too. It’s all about taking little steps to take control of your financial situation, because nobody is going to do it for you.

39:34 – Shannah (Host)
If you haven’t done so already, you should hop online and order Matt’s book Ask Questions, save Money, make More. It is a keeper for life. Just as we shared in this conversation, I even share a few of my favorite tips and questions asked in the book. It’s really hard for me to pick out just one of my favorite topics, but I will say I really enjoyed the section on saving money shopping. I just would have never thought to ask questions to get a better discount or save money at the grocery store without being some crazy mad couponer. You can find out more about Matt on his website and mattscholescom. You can also order a copy of his book Everywhere Books Are Sold. Thanks so much for listening to this episode. As always, you can head to the show notes for all the links to our episode guest, as well as the sponsors who make this very show possible. Please head over and give them some love. I will see you back here in a few days for a brand new episode.

Shannah Game

Shannah Game

Shannah Game is the host of Everyone's Talkin' Money podcast, a Certified Financial Planner, a money wellness expert, an entrepreneur, and the author of the Money Mindset Journal. She has over 18 years of experience as a money expert who has helped millions of people get in a better relationship with their money and take back control of their money and life.