An Atlanta Native, Shannan Dawda is the CEO, Financial Coach and Founder of True Financial, a company dedicated to helping educate and train individuals how to build productive and positive financial habits.
MH: Can you tell us a little about your background and what got you into financial coaching?
SD: I was born in Atlanta, GA and grew up in Lithonia, GA, which is a city about 25 minutes East of Atlanta. My parents are originally from Accra, Ghana. Their story is phenomenal how they came to America with one suit case each and have made it this far, Masha’Allah. As a kid math was my favorite subject. I also liked the idea of business and all the aspects associated with it especially after seeing my Father be a successful business man. When I was child I witnessed a bankruptcy or two and promised to never put me or my family through that. I guess it stuck with me because when I attended Georgia Southern University I obtained a Finance Degree then decided to stay and complete an Accounting Degree as well to obtain a solid foundation of financial world. After graduating college in 2009 I went into the workforce as any individual would but it wasn’t until I went through my own financial empowerment process myself of cleaning up my finances did I realize that there was something here that I could share with people as I looked around at all the financial turmoil going on in our country. Alhumdulilah in 2013 I passed the CPA exam and the dream became a reality in matter of no time. It was as if it was my destiny for me to help people gain control of their finances because things just started falling into place quicker than I expected. Alhumdulilah today we have True Financial.
MH: Why is personal finance so important?
Personal Finance is so important because it is the one area people spend the least amount of time on but everything we do revolves around it. Well managed personal finance is the one thing that can give you true freedom allowing you to do things you never done before and capitalize on opportunities that you would have never been ready for. It makes life much easier and a lot less stressful. Studies have shown the individuals and couples who are in control of their finances tend to have much better relationships with people and better marriages. So it is very important that we understand how to win financially by equipping ourselves with financial information and philosophy that is guaranteed to win.
MH: Many people don’t know the basics of personal finance and get caught up in credit card debt, loans, and other financial burdens that end up in accruing enormous amounts of debt. What advice would you give for individuals seeking to educate themselves about the basics of personal finance?
I would recommend that they begin to seek help but not just any help but the kind of help where someone will educate them while guiding them down the right path to attain their goals. The area of personal finance can appear very complex due to all the products and messages being portrayed to the people. At True Financial that we not only coach our clients but educate them to make well informed decisions.
MH: Many Muslims struggle with the issue of interest and loans when purchasing homes, cars, and other products. What advice would you give Muslim college students to learn more about interest, interest rates, and loans?
Honestly I do not believe in debt so I would advise that they stay away from it and pay cash for all purchases. Debt cripples individuals and families by taking portions of their most powerful wealth building tool, their income, which could have been invested to build great wealth. If one has no debt than interest is not even an issue. However, I know home buying is very expensive in America so it’s the only instance that I consider debt to be okay. Even then I recommend a 15 year mortgage and paying of the house as soon as possible, ideally in less than 8-10 years. I would recommend that they do a lot research on the Sharia’h compliant options that exist for Muslims. There are quite a few halal options these days when seeking to purchase a home than in the past.
MH: With the rising rates of college tuition many students are unsure how to fund their undergraduate education and graduate school education. What advice would you give to Muslim college students on ways to fund their undergraduate and graduate education?
Ideally in this instance we encourage parents to start saving for their child’s college educations as soon as the child was born by putting away an calculated amount every month to reach desired college fund amount. Unfortunately this is not the case for most so I recommend three things. 1) Apply for in-state schools possibly even attending a community college for the first two years. It’s a lot cheaper and saves you thousands. 2) Apply to a lot of scholarships, I’m talking hundreds. There was a woman who applied to 1000 scholarships and only received 10 but she went to college fully paid for by those 10 scholarships. 3) Work while they are in college. Studies show that students who work while in college are more likely to graduate on time and perform better in the workforce than those who do not because they learn time management. Plus it puts extra money in their pockets
MH: What tips would you give to Muslim college students on how to save money during their undergraduate education?
I would recommend that they eat self-cooked meals (cheaper and better for you), compare on campus to off-campus living cost, If they live off campus share a parking pass with someone who has classes on alternate days, work while in college, and buy used books online.
MH: What tips would you give Muslim college students who have college loans and debt to pay off to ensure they pay off their loans and debts in an efficient and timely manner?
I would recommend when they graduate and secure a job to stay accustom to the broke college student life and get on a detailed budget. Live on the bare minimums and attack that student loan debt with any income they have remaining after necessary living expenses. As hard as it is for many to move back home I highly recommend living at home with the parents though this process. It’s the only way to effectively eliminate you student loan debt quickly other than an employer paying the balance off or the joining the military.
MH: Are there ways Muslim college students can learn how to invest their money and make money while studying in college?
I don’t encourage students to get caught up trying to invest while in school. I want them to stay focused and to keep that money around to ensure they have enough money to finish school. The fact that they are looking to invest shows they are, I hope, debt free, and in a much better position financially than the average student. Now there are exceptions when a student has a come into a large amount of money, but they can contact me personally to discuss those instances.
MH: What resources are available to teach Muslim college students about the basics of personal finance, loans, investments and budgeting money?
At the end of the day it’s all about research, seeking a Financial Coach and being willing to think outside the box financial. 9 times out of 10 if you are handling your money differently than most people in around you then you are more than likely going to succeed because “Normal in America is broke.” Seek good financial coaches who are looking to teach you about finance. Stay away for those who are in it to sell you products because they are not worried about your wellbeing even if they say they are. They are just trying to make a sale.
MH: Where can people learn more about your work?
People can learn more about my work at http://www.truefinancialcoaches .com