Where Are They Now: Julien and Kiersten Mitchell Saunders

Julien and Kiersten Mitchell Saunders of “rich & REGULAR” were the recipients of a 2018 Plutus Award. Now, a year later, we catch up with about their new e-book, what TV shows inspire them, and how to find fresh angles for the topics they cover.  

1. Can you tell us about your blog and what Plutus Award you won?
Our blog is called “rich & REGULAR,” and we document our experience to financial independence from a black American perspective. Aside from telling our own story, we confront the deeper, social and cultural aspects that impact how the black community manages money. Most people don’t like to talk about this stuff, so we try to talk about life, crack a few jokes and sneak a little financial education in there when they’re not looking.

2. How did you feel when you won the award, knowing it was from your peers?
We were genuinely blown away. It may sound cliché, but we were just happy to be finalists and didn’t think we had a fighting chance to win; when Bethany called our names, we were genuinely shocked. It’s a moment we’ll never forget.

3. What have you been up to in the past year; are you still doing the same blog? Have you decided to focus on anything in particular this past year or have you changed course in any way?
The last year has been amazing! We’re still blogging and traffic has grown significantly. We’ve been guests on several podcasts and picked up some media mentions along the way.

We also launched an e-book that blends our love for cooking at home and personal finance called “Eat Better on a Budget.” We wanted to provide a starting point for people who would like to save more money by cooking at home, but don’t know where to start. We also wanted to debunk the myth that eating on a budget is a punishing and unpleasant experience.

Besides that, we’re toying with a few multi-part blog series for the latter part of this year that will allow us to go deeper into given subjects and tell other people’s stories.

4. Have there been any topics you’ve covered/are planning to cover that people have really responded to? Why do you think that is?
Yes, we were really surprised by the overwhelmingly positive response to us tackling wealth and race. Both are uncomfortable subjects, so when you combine them during these politically volatile times, it can invite a healthy dose of ugly and insensitivity. We think people were open to it because we didn’t point blame at anyone; we simply stated our opinion and put a few pieces of the puzzle together for those who hadn’t thought to connect a few dots. That, plus a little bit of humor, goes a long way these days.

We’re hoping to dig into other topics more deeply, such as how varying sub-cultures within the broader African American community view money differently, entrepreneurship and the evolution of feminism.

5. Is there anything that you’re reading or listening to right now that you’ve found really inspiring? Why?
We’ve been really inspired by the growing bodies of work in film and television that are more honest reflections of life. HBO in particular has a few unscripted series like “The Shop” with LeBron James and “Home Videos” with Jerrod Carmichael that give viewers a “fly on the wall” feel of real conversations. That’s what we want to do with money.

6. Do you make stepping away every now and then a priority? What do you do to recharge?
We sure do. Kiersten has been kicking butt with her daily at-home workouts and I [Julien] am slowly but surely getting back in the gym more regularly while ensuring we both have a well-rounded diet. Whenever we hit a wall, we make a point to go outdoors for a family hike or stroll in the park. It does wonders for recharging the creative spirit.

7. What advice would you give someone looking to start their own blog?
If your goal is to create a platform for creative expression, give yourself some time to find your voice and empower yourself to shift directions as needed. Too often people feel like they have to stick with what they’ve always done and ignore the signs telling them they should try doing something different. Read 100% of the “how to create a great blog” articles and ignore 99% of it.

If your goal is to create a platform that prints money, read 100% of the “how to create a profitable blog” articles, do what you can to follow that advice quickly and in an authentic way, and outsource the rest.

If you’re looking to do both, then our best advice is to be fearless in your approach to writing. Stop caring about what the hypothetical “they” might say about it. Be bold and consistent.

8. How do you find new, fresh ways to approach the topics you cover?
We make a point to zag when the rest of the world is zigging. Basically, whatever is hot at any given moment, we look in another direction. It’s not easy, but it ensures we’re adding value to the broader conversation rather than adding to a pile-on or taking another stab at cracking a funky math equation. We also look at content and story-telling innovation outside of blogging and draw inspiration from there.

9. What do you consider your greatest achievement outside of “rich & REGULAR”?
Well, the two are somewhat related but amassing the wealth we have at our age during these times is a pretty big achievement. We don’t share all of our numbers, but compared to the median family in the U.S., we’ve definitely made some good investment decisions over the years. Besides that, raising a kind, curious and loving little boy that we actually enjoy traveling with is our greatest achievement.

Thank you, Julien and Kiersten, for catching up with us!

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