- For this tight-knit group of Latina money experts, investing is a way to achieve financial independence, create generational wealth, and heal systemic inequalities in the Latinx community.
- On average, a Latina earns $0.55 for every dollar made by a white man, the largest pay gap among women in all other racial and ethnic groups, according to the National Women's Law Center. This leads to significant losses for Latinas — more than $1 million over a 40-year-career. That pay gap has narrowed by only three cents since 1989.
- Change can start here: Register for our free live panel on March 18 to hear Delyanne Barros, Jannese Torres-Rodriguez, Vanessa Menchaca-Wachtmeister, and Rita-Soledad Fernandez Paulino share their best investing strategies — and the personal decisions that drive their pursuit of financial freedom.
Jannese Torres-Rodriguez has a full-time job and has earned over six figures with her side hustles. And what’s one of the first things she’s going to do with her newfound wealth?
She’s buying a house for her parents — and teaching them all the financial lessons she has learned as an adult. too. For example, she’s talked to her dad about her investing strategies and encouraged him to open a brokerage account and an IRA account. Now they’re trading stock tips and talking about investing for the first time.
“I want women, especially women of color, to know that they can change the trajectory of their families when it comes to money traumas, generational curses, and all those things,” says Torres-Rodriguez. “Get rid of the stigma, the shame, the guilt of not knowing any better.”
As the first person in her family to pursue FIRE — an acronym for “financial independence, retire early” — Torres-Rodriguez had to overcome cultural obstacles to achieve financial success. She grew up in New Jersey after her parents immigrated from Puerto Rico in the 1980s to pursue the American dream, with a few hundred dollars in their pockets and high school educations. Growing up, she witnessed the constant stress of her parents not having enough money.
“That was the first indicator to me that money is really important and having a lot of it is important, but I had no idea how to kind of make that connection,” she says. “We didn’t grow up talking about money.”
Now she wants to help her community make that connection. She’s one of a burgeoning community of Latina money experts and investors sharing advice on how to create multiple income streams, save, invest, and achieve true financial freedom.
How Latina Money Experts Are Carving Their Own Space
Delyanne Barros, Vanessa Menchaca-Wachtmeister, and Rita-Soledad Fernández Paulino also stumbled upon the FIRE movement by reading about it online. But they didn’t relate to most of the popular FIRE blogs out there.
“Many of the people most passionate about FIRE tend to be tech workers and doctors,” says a post on one of the FIRE community’s founding blogs, Mr. Money Mustache. That lack of diversity frustrated them, and these Latinas started their own personal finance blogs and online money-coaching businesses, to create communities that look a lot more like them.
Many of them have built their audiences by chronicling their own progress online while still working their 9-to-5s, managing side hustles, paying down their debt, and doing regular life like everybody else.
“FIRE is for everyone. This isn’t an exclusive club. You don’t have to be a high-income earner,” says Barros, who goes by @DelyanneTheMoneyCoach online. “Try to find people who are like you talking about these subjects. That’s what I did. I needed to find people who are similar to me who are speaking on this subject and see what they have to say.”
The FIRE movement has been around for a long time, but it enjoyed a newfound popularity after the Great Recession of 2007-08. Its adherents reject the notion of working the bulk of adult life, and they save and invest intensely — typically between 50% to 70% of their income — so they can retire early, or at least have the freedom to achieve a greater work-life balance.
But these women aren’t willing to go to the absolute extreme to achieve their money goals. They still go on vacation and enjoy a latte now and then. “Anything that feels like deprivation isn’t sustainable,” says Soledad.
They tend to practice similar habits for achieving FIRE. They have clear money goals and multiple streams of income. They save and they invest. It’s more about cutting back on the bigger expenses, like housing, transportation, and food, rather than the smaller ones—while also increasing income either through a higher-paying job or side hustles, they say.
“The whole idea of creating wealth has to come from this radical idea that you deserve abundance, and I don’t think it aligns with cutting,” says Torres-Rodgriuez.
There Isn’t a Single Way to Achieve FIRE
These women from different backgrounds share a common theme: they embrace entrepreneurship, pay down debt, and build wealth — not just for themselves but for generations to come in the Latinx community.
Torres-Rodriguez, 35, who lives in Tampa, Florida, has been a significant part of that push. After becoming an accidental entrepreneur a few years ago with her first side business, Delish D’lites, a food blog for Puerto Rican and Latin-inspired recipes, she realized she didn’t have to rely on a normal 9-to-5 for financial security. Since then, she’s built 10 streams of income (while still working her main job), paid off roughly $50,000 in debt, and started teaching Latinas and people of color what she has learned.
One of her specialties is teaching her clients how to build a side hustle, because extra income can lead to financial independence faster, she says.
“If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you have two choices. You have the choice to cut back and do extreme things, or you can decide that you don’t want to change your lifestyle and make more money,” she says.
Her goal is to reach a $1 million net worth by 2025 through her side jobs and investments, but she doesn’t plan to stop working just because she can.
“I never see myself technically retiring. FIRE for me represents more this opportunity to live and work in a way that I choose and when I choose, versus having to do 40 hours a week at a job because that’s the only option,” says Torres-Rodriguez.
Torres-Rodriguez isn’t the only woman in the FIRE space who feels that way; Menchaca-Wachtmeister, a 29-year old travel tech professional and creator of travel and personal finance blog Wander Onwards, also does. She considers herself to be part of the FIRE movement, but early retirement in the traditional sense isn’t her ultimate goal.
“Retire early does not mean lie down and give up. It means I can do what I want. A big project of mine is building an international immigration app and technology to support immigrants and people who want to move abroad,” says Menchaca-Wachtmeister, a Mexican-American now living in Germany who has nine streams of income and is on track to retire with over $1 million by age 48.
Menchaca-Wachtmeister grew up in Los Angeles as an “awkward loner kid,” who always had a curiosity for travel and life outside of the U.S. Eventually she left the West Coast to go to college in Boston, with the hope of becoming a lawyer one day.
“I did everything that my parents and society told me to do, and I was about to take on $150,000 worth of extra debt for law school. Already, I had six-figure debt from my undergrad,” she says.
But then she had a wake-up call after the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, and decided to move to China to teach English. “It was a real reality check that life is not forever or promised. So I bailed on law school, dumped my boyfriend, and moved to China with two suitcases and a dream,” she says.
She spent years living in multiple countries and traveling abroad. During that time, the interest on her student debt piled up. “I didn’t know anything about interest, and I was too scared to look for three years. I just stuck my head in a hole and woke up with $100,000 in debt,” she says.
She realized she needed to get her finances in order immediately, so she made her first budget and paid off $10,000 in less than a year. From there, she kept paying off her debt and started wondering what was next.
In the last two years, she discovered the concept of FIRE and noticed there weren’t many people like her talking about it. That’s when she started talking about personal finance on her blog. Through her online platform, she chronicles her own FIRE journey and teaches others how to make money and travel farther, longer, and for less.
“I want the opportunity to live the life that my parents, grandparents, and ancestors have worked so hard to give me. The opportunity to be happy, to explore, to do more than just show up somewhere I’m supposed to be at nine o’clock and stay there until six,” she says. “That’s what motivates me to keep talking on this platform to show other people that you don’t have to work like our parents work and in ways that don’t fulfill you. You have options.”
Similarly, Barros went through a financial transformation of her own long before she began dishing out FIRE tips online as “Delyanne the Money Coach.”
Barros, 38, grew up as an undocumented immigrant in Miami. When she graduated from law school in 2008, she had $150,000 in student debt and no wealth to her name. Now, she carries no debt and has built a net worth of over $500,000 through her investments.
Barros, an employment attorney by day, first began sharing her financial journey on Instagram, which then evolved into a $300,000 business coaching others, particularly Latinas, to build wealth through investing and achieve financial independence.
She’s now in the process of becoming a certified financial planner, and in seven years she plans to retire and live a life of leisure on the Portuguese Riviera. She says she’s no longer investing just for herself, but also for her mom, who lives in Brazil.
“My hope is to bring her with me to Portugal when I move there and buy her home. I’m now thinking beyond myself, and I’m investing with somebody else in mind,” says Barros.
The ability to do that, she adds, is what financial independence is all about.
Soledad, 34, is a former math teacher and the most recent member of this Latina FIRE community. She grew up house poor in Echo Park, Los Angeles, then a low-income neighborhood known for its gang activity, and was raised by her Mexican mother with a scarcity mindset.
“My mother did everything in her power to keep a house, so we had stable housing, but yet that sometimes meant she didn’t have money to do other things. She lived in a lot of debt and she used to always say, ‘money is meant to be spent,’’ says Soledad.
Soledad didn’t want to be stuck in her neighborhood for the rest of her life, so unlike many of her peers — her high school had a 54% dropout rate — she completely dedicated herself to studying. She received full scholarships to multiple universities, and graduated with a bachelor and master’s degree in math education from New York University.
While sick on medical leave in 2019, she started building her financial knowledge by reading books, listening to podcasts, and watching YouTube videos.
She used zero-based budgeting to pay off $23,000 in student loans, and came across the FIRE movement through Torres-Rodriguez, Barros, and Menchaca-Wachtmeister. “They were just saying all these things that I could relate to, and I felt like I could trust them,” says Soledad. “And it wasn’t just them; it was a whole community that I had formed on Instagram.”
That inspired Soledad to begin documenting her own journey online, which then led to the creation of Wealth Para Todos, a personal finance blog and Instagram focused on helping Latinas, people of color, and other marginalized groups build wealth. “Learn something, share something,” she says. “That’s support that I needed because nobody in our families is talking about money.”
After becoming debt-free, Soledad — who is now a stay-at-home mom living Los Angeles and on her way to becoming a certified financial planner — built a six-month emergency fund for her family, maxed out multiple retirement accounts, and plans to retire by 47 with a net worth of $3 million.
These money goals and life achievements are remarkable for anybody, but especially for these Latinas, who all started life from positions of serious disadvantage. Torres-Rodriguez, Barros, Menchaca-Wachtmeister, and Soledad all say that FIRE can empower Latinas to escape inequality and oppression including financially abusive relationships.
“Instead of FIRE, I like FIOO: ‘financial independence, opt out’ because that is honestly what resonates with me the most,” says Torres-Rodriguez. “It’s being able to walk away from a career, a relationship, a geographical location, and just any situation that isn’t allowing you to flourish.”