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January 24, 2023

Barbara Sloan: Bringing the FIRE Movement to Tipped Workers

Barbara Sloan

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Financial independence can feel difficult if you're a tipped worker in the service industry. Barbara Sloan is showing us how the FIRE journey can be possible for waitresses, strippers, bartenders, and any other service position.

Barbara Sloan is a service industry expert and the author of the new personal finance book “Tipped”. Check out her story and see how she's bringing the FIRE Movement to tipped workers!

Meet Barbara Sloan

Barbara Sloan aims to help other service workers feel empowered financially. She is a financial expert who advocates for more than 3 million service workers in America. Barbara has written an authoritative book on the topic called Tipped: The Life Changing Guide to Financial Freedom for Waitresses, Bartenders, Strippers, and All Other Service Industry Professionals.

She says that it is essential for service workers to track their real income and have a purpose for saving. Her own roots as a tipped worker run deep, starting when she was a paper girl and a roller-skating carhop waitress in high school. Ultimately, Barbara wants people to do something that makes them feel joyful and connect to other people, while also safeguarding their financial future.

The death of her father and primary caregiver when she was 19 compelled her to buy and restore the family home — and go deeply into debt. A year later, she had worked through her grief and knew it was time for a change. Barbara moved to California and started a dual career path in construction and the service industry. She jokingly refers to her dual lifestyle as “dirt in the day and dirty at night”.

From Las Vegas showgirl and bartender to a stint at Coyote Ugly in New York, Barbara’s service career ranges widely. She would like other service workers to learn to track and manage their income more carefully.

Create a Reason to Save and Invest

When saving and investing feel boring, it's time to make them more interesting! Instead of saving just to save or investing just to invest, put some purpose around it.

Does saving money and investing seem boring or out of reach? Try approaching it as a couple. It's essential to be on the same page with your partner if you want to move toward financial freedom.

Barbara and her wife, a finance professional, learned that they were more powerful as a team than with their finances separated. They also realized that they had to put their own needs first and not always volunteer to pay for others with less cash flow.

Set Goals As a Team

Craft reasons to save and invest together and you may find the same success Barbara and her wife did. Instead of splurging on one another for expensive meals, clothes, and gifts, they saved for things that meant a lot to them, such as well-deserved vacations and future goals.

Make saving money more interesting! What are your priorities? Perhaps you need to save money to leave a relationship that doesn't work for you anymore. If you're in a job that doesn't fit in with your personal or professional goals, save money so that you can leave it, go back to school, or start your own business.

Making sure that you are clear on the purpose that money will serve in your life can make saving and budgeting much more motivating!

Build an Emergency Fund

It's also important to create an emergency fund so that you won't rely on credit cards to get you out of a financial jam.

How much you'll need depends on a number of factors. If you have a car, you want to save enough money to pay for unexpected repairs. If you have a house and mortgage, an emergency fund might include enough money to pay three to six months of expenses for you and your family in case you lose your job.

Live on Less

Here's another achievable goal. If you invest wisely, you can live comfortably off of your investments when you need a break or want to cut back on work.

With a little creativity, you and your partner can come up with a list of things that will help you move forward together. If you want financial independence free of your current relationship, or if you're single, this practice becomes even more essential.

With a strong purpose to drive you, you’ll find investing and saving become much easier.

Claim Your Real Income

As a tipped worker, you may choose not to claim your real income to save money on taxes. However, this can prevent you from growing your wealth through investments in real estate and retirement accounts.

Barbara eloquently points out the many benefits of claiming your real income. For W2 workers directly employed by companies, it’s essential to claim at least $6,000 if you want to invest $6,000 in a Roth IRA. Once you've maxed that out, it's time to go to a brokerage account to invest.

For 1099 workers, who are independent contractors, solo 401(k)s are a great way to put away a lot more money for retirement. As with W2 wage earners, independent contractors can also invest in brokerage accounts to increase their wealth.

Invest for Retirement + Buy a Home

Barbara Sloan’s advice and story incorporate three major investment paths to building wealth. Barbara and her wife started their journey toward financial independence in 2014 by reading books and articles about financial independence and combining their finances for greater accountability and progress.

Here are three ways to build your family’s wealth.

Invest in Stocks 

Investing in the stock market lets you grow your wealth faster than a low-interest savings account. Compound earnings magnify your original investment and keep it working for you over time. Choosing the right investments to match your risk preference is a great way to comfortably plant the seeds for financial independence.

Start with a Roth IRA as Barbara said. Start investing with what you can and grow from there.

While starting a business can be difficult, time-consuming and risky, investing for your retirement is simple, proven, and pays off in a big way. 

Consider Adding Real Estate

Real estate provides tax breaks and a hedge against inflation. It can be a great way to build wealth and buying power through equity. Real estate is also less volatile than the stock market if you want to diversify your portfolio.

It's true that buying a home can feel impossible too when you’re just starting out. But by putting away more and more money month by month, homeownership can become a reality. 

Even if home ownership isn't right for you, explore other options with real estate, like Arrived Homes or other rental property options!

Explore Business Ownership

Business ownership isn’t without risks. As Barbara demonstrates, you should only invest in a business you’re passionate about. She ended up buying the construction company she helped build from the ground up.

What are you passionate about and how could that become a significant revenue stream? It's a risk to grow a business but well worth the potential payoff.

Barbara mentions that service workers are typically barred from two of the main ways of building wealth, homeownership and a 401(k). Many service employers don't offer the same opportunities to save for retirement available in other industries. However, Barbara started out by opening her own Roth IRA, and so can other tipped workers.

If you work for tips rather than traditional wages, homeownership may seem out of reach. However, that's where claiming your real wages becomes essential. Combine that with putting away more of your income each month and real estate investment and home ownership become more than a possibility.

Investing in stocks and buying real estate–that’s the millionaire's secret sauce. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. 

Final Thoughts on Achieving Financial Freedom as a Tipped Worker with Barbara Sloan

Barbara advises tip workers to start with an emergency F-up fund. She uses an example where she dropped an expensive bottle of wine and was able to pay for it out of pocket, admit her mistake, and move on with her career.

She emphasizes the importance of progressing from there to establishing a savings account, maximizing retirement savings, and working towards home ownership and other financial goals.

Rather than getting frustrated with your job as a service industry worker, think strategically about the future. She also advises service workers to seek new employers if it makes sense. Most importantly, building wealth will give you the confidence and independence to take the right steps for you and your family.


Guest Bio – Barbara Sloan

Barbara Sloan

Barbara Sloan is the author of the book Tipped: The life-changing guide to financial freedom for waitresses, bartenders, strippers, and all other service industry professionals.

A homeless teen, who danced for dollars, and definitely did not graduate from college. She is now a personal finance expert and money coach that spent two decades working in every imaginable position in the Service Industry all over the country.

In addition to owning and running a women-owned Construction company in the heart of Manhattan, she helps Tipped workers achieve Financial Freedom like she did.

She is passionate about all of the amazing aspects of Tipped work and passionate about all of the terrible aspects of Tipped work.

She lives in New York City with her wife of 10 years, an esteemed corporate finance exec, and together they are a couple of adorable money nerds who point out every dog they see.

Guest Resources – Barbara Sloan

WebsiteTipped Finance

BookTipped: The life-changing guide to financial freedom for waitresses, bartenders, strippers, and all other service industry professionals

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Carpe Diem Quote:

Being optimistic is like a muscle that gets stronger with use. Makes it easier when the tough times arrive. You have to change the way you think in order to change the way you feel. – Robin Roberts

What do you think of the advice from Barbara Sloan? Is it possible for service industry professionals to achieve financial independence?

Please let us know in the comments below.

Andy Hill

Andy Hill, AFC® is the award-winning family finance coach behind Marriage Kids and Money - a platform dedicated to helping families build wealth and happiness. With millions of podcast downloads and video views, Andy’s message of family financial empowerment has resonated with listeners, readers and viewers across the world. When he's not "talking money", Andy enjoys being a Soccer Dad, singing karaoke with his wife and relaxing on his hammock.

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