Getting to know Sara DeSantis, AFC® Candidate
Sara is a professional of many skills and wears many hats! She is a librarian working as a content portfolio specialist on-site at Eli Lilly and Company where she manages all of the subscriptions and journals for the library. She has also been highlighted as a librarian tutor on Tutor Me from CNBC to Forbes.
She discovered her passion for personal finance as a higher ed professional where she developed and teaches courses on personal financial literacy.
Sara is the co-founder of Amalfi Media, which is a family company she created with her family. She manages the finances for the company as well as a financial podcast for young adults and a blog on the keto diet. Her family has many interesting backgrounds and passions that they share with the world through podcasts, blogs and YouTube videos.
AFCPE: What led you to a career in personal finance? And what inspires you to continue doing this work today?
Sara: When I graduated from college in 2017, I had $55k in student loans. I met my boyfriend right before graduating and he was debt free and had started working towards Financial Independence, Retire Early. I was very interested in what he was doing and many of the conversations on our dates ended up being about personal finance. We made a plan to help me get out of debt in less than 2 years by working both a full time job and two part time jobs, all while doing my Masters in Library and Information Science full time!
I knew I was going into the library profession when we met, and it’s no secret that this is not a profession where you get rich. But it is a profession that, if you are smart with your money at a young age, you can live very comfortably. During my time working toward being debt free, I saw that the more I learned about personal finance and financial literacy, the more I could control my future. I am now on track to retire at 32 years old!
I realized that if I didn’t have my boyfriend to guide me through this journey, I’d probably be in debt, have a car that I couldn’t afford, and would have made really bad financial moves. I didn’t know about paying off debt, living off of less than you earn, and starting to focus on retirement! I want to give back to students who are in high school, college, and even recent graduates so they can learn what I wish I knew at their age. As a librarian I am all about sharing information and resources. I have an opportunity to reach students at the university I work at and I reach an even larger audience through my podcast/blog!
AFCPE: Practitioners are always looking for ways to market themselves and provide relevant content to others. Podcasts have become a popular way to reach a large audience. How did you get into podcasting, what do you enjoy most about it, and any advice for those looking to start a podcast?
Sara: My podcast is called No Fear Finance. During my own debt free journey I noticed there wasn’t a lot of good content for true beginners. The information was either too simple (for children) or too complex (for investors). I knew I would’ve wanted something that was practical but would also guide me through lessons. So I took the challenge, and started a podcast that filled that need. On No Fear Finance, I focus on very basic topics and work my way up to more complex topics. All my episodes are geared towards teens and young adults, but can also be relevant for anyone who wants to learn about money. I cover topics from setting financial goals, to choosing the best savings account, to frugal tips on subscription boxes.
I got into podcasting during COVID.I had a lot of free time, so I founded Amalfi Media. Podcasting is an easy thing to start and fairly inexpensive. All you really need is a mic and a computer! I edit all of my shows, but my brother produces them so they sound the best. There are a lot of YouTube videos to help you with this step. You also have to have a platform host, like Libsyn. There is a monthly cost to hosting a podcast, but it is not too expensive. It’s worth paying the hosting fee because I know my podcast is reaching more people and hopefully influencing them in a positive way.
AFCPE: Personal finance looks different for college students. Most students, whether- undergrad, graduate, or doctoral, have a lot of expenses and minimal income, which leads to student loan debt. What advice would you offer professionals working with college students or recent grads?
Sara: College students and recent grads often have a lower income, more expenses, and debt. This combination can feel overwhelming.
The best way to make an impact on this group is to talk about the bigger picture and focus on what they can control. It’s very easy to start spending money when you graduate. Talk to students about living below their means so they can save money. Grab their attention with compound interest (the good and the bad) I show them two people who invest at different ages and for different periods of time. One person only invests for a few years, but they started at 20. Another person doesn’t start until age 30 and continues until they retire. I ask who will have more money when they retire. They all think the person who started later in life will have more. They are so shocked at the difference! This shows them how being smart with your money at a young age can really benefit them long-term. From there, it makes it easier to talk about budgeting, saving, and so on.
AFCPE: You are currently an AFC® candidate. How did you learn about the certification and why did you decide to pursue the AFC?
Sara: Since I am a librarian, I don’t professionally have any finance background. It’s all self taught. I thought that if I was going to teach college students and host a personal finance podcast, then I should get some type of certification. I was doing research when I ran across the AFC®. It was the perfect type of certification for me. I wanted to have the legitimacy to coach people on how to be smart with their money. As a 26 year old, I know that there will be critics who think I don’t know anything about finances at such a young age! I want to have something behind my name to say “I am a 26 year old female who is an Accredited Financial Counselor®! I know about money and I can help you!”
AFCPE: What have you enjoyed most about the program so far and what would you say to someone who is thinking about pursuing the AFC®?
Sara: I love learning from others and that is something that I’ve found through the AFC. I’ve attended webinars and the Symposium to hear about how others are using their AFC. These resources have been invaluable to me!
If you want to pursue an AFC don’t be afraid of the hours or the test! There is a great support system on Facebook to help prepare for the exam, and give you ideas on how to get your experience hours. If you are passionate about finances, and want to counsel people in their finances, then start today!
AFCPE: Is there a current project or initiative that has you excited?
Sara: My podcast, No Fear Finance! Part of my growth in the podcast is to start a social media presence to reach a larger audience. I’ve started a TikTok and Instagram account and am starting to make bite-sized videos for young adults on financial topics!
I’m also expanding my personal financial literacy courses! I’ve taught part 1 for a few semesters, and this fall semester I am starting part 2 and part 3. I am eager to hear the student feedback on these two new classes. I’ve taken feedback from the 1st course and that’s how I developed the topics for part 2 and part 3.
Sara Answers the Friday 5:
- My Why: To empower students and recent grads and give them hope that they can tackle their student loans and become financially independent!
- My Favorite Quote:
- Watch your thoughts; they become words.
- Watch your words; they become actions.
- Watch your actions; they become habit.
- Watch your habits; they become character.
- What your character; it becomes your destiny.
- My Hero: My mom – she fled communist Romania around my age and came to America to start a new life. She’s taught me what it means to work hard as well as showed me how to spread love in the world.
- My Favorite Resource: CNBC Make It YouTube! I love their content and they provide so much great information. Our Rich Journey – YouTube – Their videos are specifically for FIRE, but they give great background on saving and investing money. They are a couple that works together and I love them!
- My Best Advice:
- For someone starting the journey to financial well-being: Be patient with the process and learn as much as you can. To have financial well-being means to be financially literate so read, watch, and take in all of the content that you can. Remember that finances are very personal so find what works for you.
- For a new professional: Use your experiences to find your area of passion. Passion will take you so far and keep you interested in this for the long haul! Show empathy because money is a tough topic to talk about.
Want to connect with Sara?
To find my podcast: https://amalfimedia.com/shows/podcasts/nff/