March 5, 2021

Practice Profile: Bringing personality to personal finance

It was about five years ago when Tiffany Vaughn, an audit and assurance director from…

It was about five years ago when Tiffany Vaughn, an audit and assurance director from a Big Four firm on maternity leave with her first child, decided to devote more time to another money-related passion of hers, personal finance.

Given her recent life change, Vaughn was evaluating her family’s own finances when she began sharing her strategies online, via her blog and social media. Her expert tips, which became the foundation for Cents Savvy — recently relaunched as a full website and online shop — covered everything from budgeting to student loan management, to building credit and tools to get out of debt.

Vaughn, a CPA who has been with her firm for more than 12 years, also began offering consulting services to individuals and small businesses local to her in Canton, Michigan.

“I started out grassroots, in my community, my networks, and expanded to multiple demographics,” she said. “Mostly, my clientele was from the African American community.”

Since then, her reach has expanded, with her “bite-sized” tips reaching hundreds of readers on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram, though she continues to advise small-business owners locally.

“It transformed into assisting specific clientele and individuals, helping them to get on the right path for new and up-and-coming businesses — entrepreneurial thinking of starting a business, from an accounting perspective. Behind every good business is a good accountant,” Vaughn noted, explaining that she provides clients a checklist of all the financial considerations for a small business, including tax planning.

For both individuals and businesses, Vaughn’s focus is getting clients on the right path to achieving their financial goals.

“I believe there is a need for more financial literacy,” she explained. “That was my mission when I started [Cents Savvy]. Thinking about it in the communities that want to be financially independent and build generational wealth, having access to those tools, and where to get that information, sparked me to begin.”

Tiffany Vaughan of Cents Savvy

Building the brand

Vaughn relaunched the Cents Savvy website in 2020 to reflect the range of services and resources she offers, in the categories of personal finance, credit repair, tax preparation, small-business accounting and life insurance. She also conducts virtual training sessions on financial wellness for small businesses as a team-building exercise, where the majority of participants range in age from their late 20s to their early 40s. Overall, Vaughn reports women between the ages of 35 to 54 are the main demographic visiting her website and following her on social channels.

Last summer, Vaughn added an online retail hub to the website, “The Savvy Shop,” which offers guides on getting out of debt and building credit, along with financial planning notebooks, cash boxes and her best-selling cash-saving envelopes.

The envelopes facilitate the budgeting strategy of tracking expenses by sorting cash into different categorized envelopes, and can be customized to their purpose, whether the day-to-day — groceries, entertainment, transportation — or long-term goals like vacation funds, college savings or a house downpayment. They can also be labeled with some of the catchphrases that adorn the online store’s T-shirts and cash boxes, like “Act Your Wage” and “Girls Just Want to Have Funds.”

Vaughn had purchased a Cricut, a computer-controlled cutting machine, to help in her crafting projects, and soon deployed it to generate these customizations. With her full-time accounting job and two children, she primarily creates her products on nights and weekends, which she calls a “nice hobby-getaway.”

Balanced growth

As passionate as Vaughn is about continuing to build Cents Savvy, she plans to stick with her first love of accounting in her 9-to-5 hours.

“I truly love both things I’m doing,” she shared. “Five years from now, I see Cents Savvy continuing to grow, to reach a larger audience with messaging, products and services. It’s a separate lane from what I’m doing at the Big Four firm with assurance and audit, and I see [doing] that as well; it’s what I truly love doing.”

Vaughn also plans to keep Cents Savvy rooted in introductory education: “I tell all clients, I’m by no means a stockbroker. When I get into that, I refer them to someone different, to wealth management companies, to get more resources. For basics, that’s the lane I stay in for subsequent calls ­— budgeting sessions, to get budgets set up, credit education, teaching how to budget, retail products, and tax planning and preparation.”

Operating within this niche, Vaughn hopes to connect with more college students, whom she identified as most in need of better financial education. She has been in contact with her alma mater, Michigan State University, and other local colleges to better reach this underserved population.

Across most demographics, Vaughn said that the people she advises have a “wide range of financial literacy practices,” which motivates her to continue offering customized services, though the goals are universal.

“Ultimately, all people want the same thing,” she observed. “To understand how they are operating, moving money, and how to achieve these goals: to do better, be better, and [where to start].”