Jacent Wamala on Self-Care, Paying Off $90,000 Debt and Traveling Back to her Ancestral Homeland

For once, the YouTube algorithm did right by me! Yes, it was through a random scroll down my YouTube homepage that I was introduced to the lovely Jacent Wamala. The title of the video, "How This 29-Year-Old TRIPLED Her INCOME!!! (Paid Off $90,000 Debt)". Tripled income? Paying off $90k in debt? I clicked and listened as Jacent talked to the host, Anthony O'Neal, on the steps she took to regain control of her finances ultimately paying off her debt at 29. When I say Jacent gave off Black Girl Magic (a phrase coined by CaShawn Thompson to illustrate the universal awesomeness of Black women), I'm not exaggerating. In our quest to create a space of holistic healing, it is imperative to discuss finances because our financial health is linked to our physical, mental, and spiritual health. Jacent's dedication to helping women of color tap into holistic healing and unlock their full potential is contagious. So it is with great pleasure that I introduce Ms. Jacent Wamala to the Flowers & Moondust community! 

Introduce yourself. Who are you? What do you do? And why?

Hi! I am Jacent Wamala. I'm a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Las Vegas. I happen to wear a few hats and enjoy every single one. I have a private practice that focuses on working with women of color on anxiety, depression, and trauma recovery. I serve as the onsite mental health professional for a local charter school. I also teach courses at the University of Nevada Las Vegas in areas such as personal growth and development, multicultural issues in families, and contemporary couples and families. I recently launched another arm to my wellness practice addressing Mental Health and Money. In three years, I paid off over $90,000 in credit card and student loan debt and saw the link between financial stress and mental health issues for my clients. My goal is to help individuals and families become aware of the limiting beliefs and fears getting in the way of their financial freedom and empower them to create a plan to reach their goals. In my spare time, I love to travel and spend time with family and friends. 

How do you start each day? Do you have a morning ritual?

I find it necessary to protect the first 30-60 minutes a day. There is a lot of research to suggest how we begin the day helps us win the day. I have some key practices I rotate through and on a great day, do all of them. When I wake up, I listen to meditation music or a curated playlist depending on what I want to feel. Priming myself helps me have some influence over my state. Journaling has become a staple because writing is such a great way to set intentions and find clarity. As I write I practice visualization. I will look at my schedule for the day and think about how I'd like things to go. Some of this I do while getting ready and others I give my undivided attention to. 

In our capitalist society, financial stress is a real burden that can affect our overall well-being. Financial freedom, being debt-free, and having enough money to live comfortably and take care of loved ones, can be liberating. You recently paid off a $90,000 debt (student loans + credit card interest). Congratulations on that accomplishment! What steps did you take to pay off your debt and gain better control of your finances?

Thank you! The plan was easy but the execution was no joke. Like most people, I never intended to get into debt in the first place. I did Dave Ramseys 7 baby steps. He says you can wander into debt but you can't wander out. I saved a $1,000 emergency fund, which was the first time I had that much money. Next, I listed all my debts from smallest to largest. I had 10 accounts open! I paid the minimums on all my debts and any extra money went to paying down the smallest debt. Before I could even start the plan, I had to identify there was a problem and accept that I had made some poor choices. 

There are multiple options for paying off debt and getting in control of your life. Finding the right plan for me was key. I saw debt getting in the way of my destiny. My why was what kept me motivated to continue because for a time I worked 3 jobs 7 days a week. I am first-generation so I seek to honor those who sacrificed for me and leave a legacy for my nieces, nephews, and future children. So when I looked up and had a master's degree and was broke, it was a hard pill to swallow, to say the least. I made less than $20,000 in 2016 and had to increase my income in order to be able to pay down my debts. Thankfully after 8-9 months of applying for additional jobs, I landed a position that tripled my income overall. It took humility, discipline, commitment not to give up because I wanted to quit many times. To get in the driver's seat of my life, I had to address things that had nothing to do with money. This is why I am so passionate about helping anyone interested in learning more about what's getting in their way.

The coronavirus took us by surprise rapidly morphing into a global pandemic. As businesses took challenging pivots, many people now find themselves under unmatched levels of financial stress. Are there any tangible steps individuals and families can take to care for themselves during this time?

I feel like if we have learned nothing else in this pandemic we have remembered the things that matter most in life are our health and relationships. Taking it back to the basics is key. Focusing on whether we are getting enough sleep, nutrition, sunlight, and water. That's why I love Flowers & Moondust because it helps us to return to our roots. Healing and wellness can start from within if we take the time to evaluate our perspectives and practices. Take this time to do an inventory of what you are putting in your mind and in/on your body. 

You are a first-generation Ugandan-American who grew up in the United States and can likely relate to the third-culture identity many first-generation children experience. Can we peek into your past to the first time you made the conscious decision to travel back to Uganda? How old were you? What were your motivations? What was your experience?

I have loved traveling since I was a kid. I started traveling alone when I was probably about 6 or 7 years old. I always wanted to go back to Uganda but I had to deal with the immigration status stuff. If you're an immigrant you know that's a whole process. I became a permanent resident when I was 19 but still didn't go back until I was 24, unfortunately after my father passed away. I think having been in school as well as money is what got in the way of going sooner which I regret now. I went back in December 2014 and it was so restorative for my soul. I had been gone since I was an infant but to my family, it was as if I never left. I was met with so much love. I actually went back for a cousin's wedding and my family of about 10 traveled together. I had the pleasure to travel to South Africa and Uganda and the experience exceeded my expectations. So much so that my cousin and I created a nonprofit E'kubo to inspire first-generation youth to travel back to their country of origin by creating memorable global experiences.

I think living in America keeps us pretty busy. At some point, I had to rip the band-aid off and take my butt home haha. Now I hope to go back at least annually and build a home and business there. 

What is/are your go-to wellness routine(s) that keep you grounded?

I grew up in the performing arts. I wholeheartedly feel rejuvenated when I sing, dance, drum, act, move. I am apart of an African Dance and Drum troupe and that community keeps me rooted in my culture and purpose. There is something healing and spiritual about ancestral movement and sounds that can not be duplicated. Even if I don't feel like going to dance class or rehearsal I always leave with a smile, refreshed, and grateful for the experience. Now we have drums in the house and often play and dance together whenever the mood strikes.

Where can people go to learn more and connect with you?

I am most active on Instagram I share stories and insight almost daily. I have a podcast Jacent's Gems  a community of creatives exploring the obstacles in the way of uncovering their hidden gems. I release 3 episodes a week. Monday is an interview with a gem in the community. Wednesdays we talk about dating and relationships. Finance Friday is when we address all things money, mindset, and moving forward toward our financial goals. 

Instagram: Jacent Wamala

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