How Whitney Hansen overcame her 'worst-case scenario' mindset & mastered her money

We spoke with "The Money Nerds" podcast host Whitney Hansen about her journey to financial independence and top tips for side hustlers.

Myelle Lansat


Myelle Lansat

Myelle Lansat

News Editor

Myelle Lansat is a news editor at Policygenius, where she writes the Easy Money newsletter and covers insurance and personal finance. Previously, she was a personal finance writer at CNBC and Acorns, and a reporter for Business Insider.

Published September 29, 2021 | 3 min read

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Whitney Hansen has to learn about financial independence at a young age. "The Money Nerds” podcast host and financial coach was one of six children and says her household had “a lot of dysfunction and drug addiction.”

“It was not pretty,” Hansen says.

When her parents divorced, Hansen asked her mom why “the heck” she stayed in the relationship so long. “I’ll never forget what she said. ‘Whitney, I didn’t have the money to leave the situation.’” The conversation showed her firsthand that sometimes, people stay in terrible situations because there’s not enough money to leave it, she says. 

She learned that being responsible with money means more than buying a house or paying off debt. After that conversation with her mother, Hansen made a promise to herself to be financially independent. 

We spoke with Hansen about her journey to financial independence and her top tips for side hustlers.

How can people with similar childhoods change their relationship with money?

A lot of people who grow up with dysfunction in their childhood find themselves having a scarcity mindset. They either feel like money is hard to come by, or have a hard time spending money because they are always thinking about worst case scenarios. 

I found that improving my money mindset allowed me to realize that my childhood was influencing how I felt about my money. For example,  I never had enough of an emergency fund and was constantly living in "worst case scenario mode." I read a ton of books that help me reprogram my mindset! One great book to start with is “Mindset” by Dr. Carol Dweck. 

I also highly recommend therapy if someone is struggling to work through childhood trauma and it’s affecting their life. 

What’s the biggest money mistake you see other people make? How can people avoid it?

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is not honoring their money. We trade our time for dollars. So at the end of the day, everything we purchase is paid for in time. If you make $20/hour and you go out to eat and it costs $40, you have to work two hours of your life to pay for that. When we truly understand this, we naturally start to make decisions differently. 

You worked two jobs & sacrificed your time to work off your student loan debt in 10 months. What’s the biggest lesson you learned from doing that?

Paying off my student loans was the best financial decision I ever made. Paying off debt was a lot of sacrifice (not allowing myself to eat out, buy coffee, or take vacations), but it showed me that I was the type of person who can commit to a big goal and do tough stuff. It really impacted my self-confidence — and wallet.

What advice would you give to someone facing student loan debt?

Create a plan to pay that debt off as quickly as you can. I really like to “chunk debt” into smaller bite size goals to help you stay motivated. For example, if you owe $50,000 towards student loans, break that down into $5,000 chunks and only focus on your progress towards your first chunk. Then repeat until your debt is gone. This helps you stay motivated on your goal of paying off the $50,000. 

How did that lead you to starting your own business & podcast?

Paying off debt changed my life! I started sharing my debt-free story and friends and coworkers would ask for help creating a budget and plan to pay down their debt. I started helping people through webinars, online courses, and speaking engagements and realized that I could do this for a living through paid coaching services and free podcast stories to help people stay motivated on their financial journey. 

While running a business you still have a side hustle. What’s your advice to someone who wants to join the gig economy?

Honestly, I’ll probably always be side hustling — it’s so much fun! Remind yourself that clarity comes from action, not thought. The best way to find a side hustle that is enjoyable and worth the time is to try different side hustles out. 

Start with your interests and see if there is a side hustle that aligns with your personal and financial goals. I personally love furniture flipping! It aligns with my interest in do-it-yourself projects, allows me to use my creativity and sales skills, and brings in $1,000 to $2,000 per month in extra income. But, I never would have known that I loved it if I didn’t dive in and give it a try. You can use side hustles to boost your resume too! 

Illustration: Gabriella Trujillo