Transcript: Overcoming Breast Cancer & Making A Mid-Life Career Change with Mia Taylor

Keisha Blair: Welcome to the holistic wealth podcast. I’m your host Kesha Blair, wife, mother of three, author of Holistic Wealth, and founder of the Institute on Holistic Wealth. The show will showcase various experts in the key pillars of holistic wealth. Each week, we deliver the best information on how to become holistically wealthy and live your best life.

Today we have a very special guest with us. We have Mia Taylor and Mia is an award-winning journalist whose two decade long career has included receiving nine awards from the north America and travel journalists association for coverage of wildlife conservation, sustainable travel and climate change. Her career highlights include working as a staff writer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the San Diego Union Tribune, and for one of the largest Magazine publishers in the country, Meredith cooperation, where she writes about personal finance for four of their leading titles, including Better Homes and Gardens, Real Simple Magazine, Parents magazine and Health magazine. Mia specializes in writing about women and personal finance and specifically, the challenges that single parents face.

Welcome to the show Mia. It’s so great to have you here.

Mia Taylor: Thanks Kesha. I’m so excited to be here.

Keisha Blair: So I know you’ve had to weather various setbacks in your life, whether career setbacks or health crises. Could you tell us a bit more about your journey so far and what that has been like for you?

Mia Taylor: Sure. So my journey began in the traditional print journalism space as a print journalist, working at newspapers in the greater Boston area, and eventually I, as you mentioned, went to the Atlanta Journal Constitution and then out to California to work for the San Diego Union Tribune. But then shortly after graduate school, I became pregnant and I stepped away from the workforce to have my son.

And shortly after having him, I was diagnosed with stage two cancer that had spread to my lymph nodes. So at that point, my journey was thrown for a loop. And I underwent 13 surgeries and rounds and rounds of radiation and chemotherapy and ended up in the ICU with sepsis and a staph infection. And it wasn’t clear whether I would survive at that point.

It was sort of touch and go. So, my journey was not straightforward by any means. And yet after I recovered from all of that, I picked myself up, dusted myself back off and got back out into the workforce and set my sights on my professional goals and personal goals. And just started again until I made it to my current job at Meredith corporation.

Keisha Blair: Mia, you just mentioned that you went through 13 surgeries. And you’re a single mom with a young child. What was that like for you? That period. And what was it that got you through that difficult time?

Mia Taylor: Well, what got me through that period was a really tight network of friends who loved me and family who supported me, but also my ability to think outside the box, it really changed the way I thought about healthcare and healing, and I began seeking out a naturopath here in Encinitas, California, who does things very differently than the traditional medical field. And by started complimenting my traditional treatment with treatments that included IV therapy and eating healthier and exercise and getting more sleep and building a more, well-rounded lifestyle that was more holistically, full, and healthy and thoughtful. And so I truly believe to this day that you need to live a balanced lifestyle and eat healthy and think about your life in a bigger picture in order to survive trauma, like I did.

Keisha Blair: Absolutely Mia. And it sounds like you were able to build back a life that was in line with your values, your beliefs. And it was more intentional because of what you had been through. Can you tell us a bit more about how you were able to do that?

Mia Taylor: Yeah. And that’s a really, really good question because you’re right. I did build my life and my career back differently. So before, or I was sick and before I was a mom, a single mom, you know, I would work all day. We’re up all night, everything was about work. And if it wasn’t about work, it was it’s about going to a party and just indulging, and sort of excess, right. And then after I had my son and after I sort of finished my treatment, my life was very, very different. It was, you know, prioritized differently.

It was about eating healthy, getting enough sleep, spending, quality time each day with the people I love and quality time in nature or. Doing things outside, all things that sort of really nourish your soul and your health. And so work of course was part of my life, but it was not the dominant force in my life anymore.

And part of that included maintaining a remote work-life, which has become a huge thing. I mean, COVID is so very relevant. But I was doing remote work nine years ago. And I chose to maintain that path because specifically it allowed me to live a more well-rounded life. It allowed me to go for a walk when I wanted to, or spend an hour with my son, if I wanted to in the middle of the day, or just do what sort of made me healthier and happier each day in a pattern that made sense for me, not for an employer. So remote work life and the balance that that is allowed me to achieve in life is something I have personally been doing for years.

Keisha Blair: So that’s amazing Mia. And in my book, Holistic Wealth, I talked about the triple helix for women, with women having to juggle their careers and their domestic lives as well as children. And so it’s amazing that you were able to design your career around your lifestyle. And we’ve seen through COVID-19 how so many women have left the workforce? I think it’s an estimated 4 million women in the United States alone have left the workforce because of those pressures. And so can you tell us how you were able to build back a career around freelancing and making it all?

Mia Taylor: Yeah. You know, that part had a lot to do with my network and building back by relying on those contacts that I had established before I became sick. And before I had a son, I looked back toward friends I had made at Emerson college, who were in the same industry as me, and sort of reached out to them and let them know that I was, you know, here and wanting to get back into the workforce. And luckily I had some friends who responded and who gave me a foot in the door.

You need to find that initial foot in the door and reach out to people and let them know what’s going on in your life because people are willing to help you, you know? And so you can’t be shy about I’m at a place where I’d like to try to get back into the workforce. I see a lot of people on LinkedIn talking about this more and more now, and it’s very inspiring where they’ll post, you know, “Hey, I just lost my job and here’s what I’m looking for”. And here’s what I’m good at. And I think in the past, we would have been embarrassed with regards to talking about losing a job or needing help or here’s where I’m at in life even.

I think you should own your story, which I talk about in a lot of different ways, but for me it was reaching out to people. I knew getting that initial foot in the door and and just building on that and taking step after step each day. And making more connections with more editors and building my portfolio of clients and my portfolio of stories I had written and continually believing that each step I was taking would build to the next step and the next step.

And it did, but you know, I have to say with me, it took years seven or so years to get back to where I am now. So I always believed that I could do it, but I just had to keep going day after day, even in the face of setbacks and rejections, and believe me, I got a lot of rejections along the way. And there are days when you can feel like thought I’m no, bud, I’m never going to get there. You know, this is it for me. And then I would pick myself back up the next day and just keep going.

Keisha Blair: And so Mia, there’ve been so many people who’ve lost jobs during COVID-19, or who have had to step away from the workforce for various reasons. And so they may have career gaps and are wondering how to deal with that. Whether in an interview or on their resume. I know for myself after my husband died, as I said in my book, Holistic Wealth, I took a one-year sabbatical that was much needed for me to overcome that tragedy. And so whether it’s for health reasons or for overcoming any life altering setbacks, sometimes it’s necessary to take that break.

And I know you have experience in this area as well. So, could you give us some tips and strategies, Mia, for those people listening in who have career gaps and are thinking about how to deal with that in the context of an interview or their resume?

How To “Own Your Career Gaps” in A Job Interview and Your Resume

Mia Taylor: I had written a story about resume gaps and the couple of major takeaways that I try to pass along to people from that story. That, you know, you don’t have to be embarrassed about those career gaps. We all have those career gaps or most of us have those gaps. And so instead, what I try to tell people is you really have to own those career gaps. And I mean that, it’s a very important bit of advice. Like, you know, life happens and it doesn’t always happen in a way that fits perfectly on a resume or, you know, in ways that, you know, recruiter might want to see on a resume, but those gaps make us human. And I personally believe they make you wiser, stronger, more resilient and a more effective employee because you’ve had to face challenges and you’ve recovered from them.

Or you’ve chosen to step away just to refresh yourself. There’s nothing wrong with that. And for that story, I wrote, I interviewed executives at LinkedIn and that Indeed and ZipRecruiter, and they all echoed what I’m saying right now, which is that we have come to a time in history where the career gaps are becoming more acceptable and hiring managers are not frowning upon gaps.

So, you know, how do you weave them into your resume? You put them on your resume. There was one, I think it was a ZipRecruiter executive who said, if you stepped away to be a mom put on there 2012 to 2015, put “mom juggling multiple schedules, managing the family budget”. And he wasn’t saying that tongue in cheek, he was saying, find the skills that you may have acquired during that career gap and put them on your resume in a meaningful way.

So that’s another way to handle it. But in general, I would say to people, you know, don’t feel bad about your gaps anymore. Find a way to make them shine and make them meaningful.

Keisha Blair: Absolutely. And that’s amazing. Mia, I love how you spoke about owning your career gaps because that’s so important. Like we need to bring that out of the closet and be proud of it because that gap is part of the way we reinforce our resilience muscles. It’s a part of self care. I mean, we’re also as mothers taking care of the next generation of workers, which is also a very important task. And I also talked about that in my book, Holistic Wealth, because it’s so important. And as we’ve seen with “The Great Resignation Wave”, with workers leaving their jobs to find more balance and to try to lead more holistically wealthy lifestyles.

This has become a dominant theme during COVID-19 Mia. And so I remember when I returned to work after my husband died, I had returned to work with a different identity. I wasn’t the same person who went on maternity leave because of that tragedy I faced. So when I went back into the office, I was now a single mom. I was now a widow at 31, and a single mom of two kids. So my whole identity had changed the things that I valued and  placed priority on had changed significantly. My life had changed, but the workplace had remained the same. And so I know you have a similar experience Mia of overcoming your health crisis and going back to work with a different identity and in a different space.

Can you tell us about that?

Mia Taylor: Oh for sure. I mean, I came back to work, as a single mom and as a cancer survivor and those two things profoundly impacted how I shaped my life from that point forward and forever will. I mean, you know, my days, my priorities every day are about maintaining my health and spending quality time with my child.

And of course pursuing my career as well. And you also mentioned this in the article, you and I did about Holistic Wealth. Well, which is, you know, developing a mission-driven life. And so that really resonated with me. And I have been reflecting a lot on that because when I look at my journey back, it is very mission-driven.

You know, it’s driven by the mission to be the best parent I can be for whatever amount of time I have on this earth. It is driven by the mission to maintain my health and put my health above all else every single day. And it is driven by the mission to help others and to help the planet. And so everything I do aligns with those things, you know, my job choices align with my mission to help others and my mission to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

My job is not the be all and end all. It is part of who I am and before my job was everything, you know, it was how I defined myself. And so that’s just no longer the case. You know, I’m a much fuller well-rounded person at this point, and some days you lose sight of that, all of that. And you’re like, oh my God, I do have a deadline.

And I have to, you know, skip the run or the walk or the yoga session. But in general, I would say that I am a very different person now. And that person is someone who has prioritized wellbeing.

Keisha Blair: Yes, absolutely. And may I just, in terms of the personal finance angle, just because, you know, we mentioned the Great Resignation wave before and people are so committed to this, that they’re willing to take a salary cut, like there are recent surveys, showing that people are willing to take a salary cut for more flexibility, to have more balance in life. And so they’re really thinking about doing this. And so I’m wondering in terms of your life and your experience, when you recovered from your illness and you had to reprioritize in terms of your personal finances to how you did that?

When you have a life altering setback, and then you refocus your values, as we were discussing, you also need to think about refocusing your personal finances and spending on what you value. And as I said, you know, you may take cuts here and there. You may end up spending more on other things, but how do you do that with our refocus life?

Any tips and advice on that?

How To Refocus And Reprioritize Your Spending After A Setback

Mia Taylor: So, the way I spend money now is much different, and the way I prioritize what I do with my money is different. And so my money now is spent on meaningful experiences. And for me personally, that translates into spending time traveling with my son and taking him to places that I want to show him during the time I have on this earth, you know, and having experiences that he will hopefully treasure and long after I’m gone.

That’s how I translate my mission into my money. So it’s about meaningful experiences with my money. And, you know, then after that, it’s really just about being wise with my money and not being foolish with my money. So I, you know, budget my money very carefully and make sure I’m allotting my money for the things that truly matter.

And not for consumerism. Or, you know, fancy cars or expensive purses and shoes. I mean, none of that with regards to money matters to me anymore. My money is really focused on the meaningful things in life.

Keisha Blair: Mia, and you made some great points in terms of the buckets of consumer spending versus quality of life spending, because I found myself in that position as well, where I reprioritized. And, you know, at that point I was a single mom and I thought, how can I maximize my time with my kids? How can I have more meaningful experiences with them? I mean, right now, The buck stopped with me and I wanted to spend more quality time with them. I wanted them to remember this special time that we had.

So absolutely when you’re in this position, it’s thinking about reprioritizing, our personal finances and thinking about maybe more. Meaningful experiences rather than consumerism and spending on things like designer handbags or shoes or things of that nature. And

Mia Taylor: As a single mom, that can be hard too, because we have less money generally, sometimes not all of us, of course, but we have to really pick and choose those experiences carefully and say no to some things.

And a lot of the single moms I’ve interviewed, so when I asked them how they do that, how did they, you know, you have to tell your children, well, that family may go on two vacations, but we’re going to go on one. You know, it’ll be one really nice one, but we’re just going to go on one. So it’s a juggling act as a single mom with money and choosing meaningful experiences.

Keisha Blair: So, Mia, I know you took the quiz, the personal financial identity quiz that I developed because as I stated in Holistic Wealth, it’s so important that all of us know what our personal financial identity is. And so if you have any insights on that, on your personal financial identity and your insights as a personal finance writer, I think that would be amazing for our audience.

So could you share your results with us and any insights you have?

Mia Taylor: Yeah. So my results showed that I was a Risk-Taker, which I was initially shocked about, but then I reflected on that and I really do think that’s actually true. How I’ve lived my life. And it’s interesting, you know, I always say to friends jokingly, I learned all my financial lessons and mistakes, the hard way, but that’s because I take risks.

I’m willing to take risks with my money to learn and grow. So, you know, I am a Risk-Taker with money, but I’ve also learned from my very privileged position as a journalist, who’s interviewed some of the leading minds in the personal financial space, how to manage my money, how to create a line-item budget.

How to account for every penny that comes in and every penny that goes out and apply that to my life. So, yes, I’m a Risk-Taker, but I also have taken a lot of time to learn about money and get up to speed on how to invest and you know, why investing is important and sort of how that helps you build wealth.

And all of the things I’ve taken the time as a woman to learn a lot about money and how to maximize my wealth. So I think that’s an important message for other women to hear and single moms, especially because it’s just us. It’s this we’re single income households in many cases, and we need to figure out how to make it all work, how to build wealth for ourselves and how to take care of our children,

Keisha Blair: You know, Mia, personal debt is one of the biggest issues for people right now during COVID 19. And you know, whether it’s student loan debt or medical debt from an illness, many people are grappling with how do I pay off this debt? How do I reduce my debt? I mean, even in a period of a global pandemic of economic crisis, people are struggling with that. And so from your experience and as a personal finance writer, could you just share with me how you went about that? And any tips you have for the audience would be much appreciated.

How to Pay Off Debt

Mia Taylor: That was a big deal for me because when I finished, going through my treatment for cancer, I had student loan debts from school, a ton of that from graduate school. And, medical debt and all of that. So for me, the approach that I chose was to always have multiple streams of income. So I had my day job that paid for my rent and food and utilities, but I also had two or three, you know, freelance clients at any given time, always throughout the course of my recovery and building back my career and those extras streams of income, I would set aside for paying off debt.

Or putting money in an emergency savings account, you know, because that’s what I felt was the best way for me to accomplish addressing the debt was to just tackle it head on and paid off by earning extra money that was specifically for the debt. And of course, you know, as a finance writer, I am well aware of the many other ways you can handle debt.

And there are a lot of them. I mean, you can work with a nonprofit debt counsellor, you can get a debt consolidation loan, which generally has a lower interest rate than credit cards. If you’ve used credit cards or, you know, and you can tackle your debt a lot of different ways, but I would just say, figure out what works for you and makes the most sense financially.

And you can do that by working with a free financial counsellor, with a nonprofit, financial counsellor to figure out what makes the most sense for you to get out of that. But I highly advocate, especially in this flourishing gig economy, establishing multiple streams of income and using those additional streams of income to tackle that debt.

Keisha Blair: Absolutely Mia. And those are such a great points, especially regarding personal financial identity. And during this crisis that we’re going through with COVID-19 and this global pandemic, it’s so important. I know for myself, you know, as a Risk Taker, like you. I always thought about different streams of income and being financially resilient. So those are such important points. I know you’re working on a book and I’m just eager to hear about that before we go. So could you just tell us more about the book that you’re working on?

Mia Taylor: Yeah. The book is also something that came from my personal journey, which is, you know, as I was recovering, I was interviewing a lot of leading voices in various industries.

And oftentimes they would be single moms too. And they provided brilliant advice to me as a journalist for whatever story I was working on. Also as a single mom, they provided advice about how to survive as a single mom, how to start your own business as a single mom, how to manage your finances as a single mom, how to be engaged in your community, in an issues that matter to you, how to juggle it all.

Because often single moms have so much on their plate, you know, and our time is so limited and fractured. So I had all this brilliant advice at my fingertips because of my privilege position as a journalist. And I wanted to share. With other single moms or just women in general, you know how to succeed and manage it all and juggle it all.

So that’s the concept of the book. It’s about rockstar single moms and how they’re managing, building their own businesses, how they’re managing become, you know, managing their wealth. And how they’re managing, being engaged civically and in causes that matter

Keisha Blair:  Absolutely great points, Mia. And that’s such important work that you’re doing, especially for single moms and highlighting those stories because that’s something that’s critical for single moms as well to get back through.

Altering setback. And so Mia, we mentioned budgeting before and how important it is to personal finance. So could you tell us how you budget, the strategies that you use as well as, you know, any apps that you might recommend as a personal finance writer? And of course, any other advice that you have for the audience would be much appreciated.

Mia Taylor: You bet. And there are a lot of good budgeting apps out there. I’m somewhat old-fashioned. And I write down my budget on a piece of paper and a notebook that I use. That’s my budget notebook. And I really bring it with me everywhere. It’s on my desk. And every month I write down all the income I’ll have coming in that month. And I write down all the expenses for that month. And I adjust that budget day to day. I erase what, you know, I may have thought I was going to have an update. What I really do have, or expenses that have come up. So I’m constantly adjusting my budget on a piece of paper throughout the month. And the other thing I do that I really think is a great piece of advice.

And I got this piece of advice from a financial advisor I interviewed somewhere along the way. She recommended designating accounts in your banking App. If you use a banking app for the specific purpose of that, you’re using that money for. So in my case, I have a paycheck and bills account. I’ve edited the name in the App to say “paychecks and bills”.

I have another account that I’ve edited. That’s my “curveball’s account” or my “emergency savings” account. And I have a third account that’s my “travel and entertainment” account. And when my paychecks come in, I transfer money to each of those accounts immediately. And those are my buckets and I really advocate creating money buckets and, you know, sticking to those money buckets and using your money for those categories. And when the money runs out in the travel or entertainment account, that’s it, you know, that’s all you have. So really grieving that line item budget. You can do that with apps. There’s plenty of apps out there, or you can do it on your own or on a spreadsheet and Excel spreadsheets.

But, and then also making sure your accounts are earmarked for each of their purposes.

Keisha Blair: Thank You so much, Mia. Those were great tips. And so can you tell our audience where to find you your social media accounts and your website? Sure.

Mia Taylor: I’m really out there on social media and, and online in general, I’m on Twitter at Mia Taylor, right? I’m on Instagram @MiaTaylorwriter, and also just Google Mia Taylor Real Simple, and my author page will come up and that’s where you’ll find all the latest stories I’ve written on Real Simple or the same for Better Homes and Gardens or Parents or Health magazine.

Keisha Blair: So once again, thank you so much, Mia, for joining us. There are some tremendous insights. In this episode and wisdom for people who are facing a life-altering setback. So thank you so much for joining us today. It was amazing having you here.

Mia Taylor: Thank you. Been a pleasure.

Keisha Blair: Thank you for joining us this week on holistic wealth with Kesha Blair.

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Keisha Blair: Thank you for joining us this week on Holistic Wealth with Keisha Blair. Make sure to visit our website where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify or via Rs so you will never miss a show. While you’re at it, if you found value in this show, we’d appreciate a rating on iTunes or if you simply tell a friend about the show that would help us out too. Are you a member of the Institute on Holistic Wealth? If not, what are you waiting for? Go to Institute on Holistic Wealth/memberships to choose your membership plan and join as a member. You get so many perks, free worksheets, advice coaching, and a memberā€™s workshop to design an intentionally designed life. Do you need to figure out your life purpose? Take the Build Your Life Purpose Portfolio online self-paced course. Are you struggling with all your money decisions? Take the free financial identities quiz and then take the personal financial identities course. Did you recently suffer a breakup job loss or experience the death of a loved one? Take the Holistic Healing online course. Do you need an overall plan to achieve holistic wealth? We will help you figure out your Holistic Wealth Blueprint and of course if you want to start making money by helping others achieve Holistic Wealth, become a Certified Holistic Wealth Consultant. Regardless of what career you’ve got, the Institute will show you how to increase your income and walk in your purpose. The sooner you join the sooner you start to achieve a more holistically wealthy lifestyle and you’re going to want to stay for a very long time so go to Institute on Holistic Wealth/memberships to join. If you haven’t read the book yet pick up a copy of the award-winning best-selling book Holistic Wealth: 32 life lessons to help you find purpose prosperity and happiness