By Cassidy Klein
La Mesa resident Guen Garrido set a goal to pay off $68,000 in student loans by the time she was 33 — and she did, in just three years. March 30 is the one year celebration of her being debt-free, and she will be speaking about her journey at San Diego Women’s Week, taking place on April 1-5.
“It’s been kind of a whirlwind of a year,” Garrido said. “It’s cool that all this is still affecting me and that I’m able to continue to spread the message.”
Debra Rosen, also a La Mesa resident, is the president and CEO of the North San Diego Business Chamber, which produces San Diego Women’s Week. Rosen said the chamber chose Garrido to speak at the conference because “many of us can relate to paying off college loans and credit card bills, and it can be one of the greatest challenges many of us face.”
“Being in control of our financial destiny is important as we get older,” said Rosen via email. “Almost all of us have debt, and we wanted a speaker that was debt-free to share their story. We did not know Guen but did a search for someone that fit this topic, and we reached out immediately knowing that she would be perfect. Her story is real, inspiring and empowering. If a millennial can pay off her debt with a plan, anyone can do it with the right tools.”
San Diego Women’s Week is in its 10th year. The theme of this year’s event, which will be held at Mission Valley’s Town and Country Resort & Convention Center, is “leadership and unity.”
“This year’s lineup of speakers will be one of the best with diverse leadership stories and journeys,” Rosen said. “Every one of the speakers will leave us feeling empowered and inspired to go out and achieve what we want.”
After Garrido paid off her loans, she was invited to attend a conference in New York City with SoFi, an online personal finance company. While there, she and her now-husband won a trip to Iceland with National Geographic as part of a SoFi partnership. She has been interviewed by CNBC and has a strong social media presence as an inspirational figure.
“After everything that’s happened this year, I kind of wanted to step back and focus on my wedding so I kind of went quiet for a while,” Garrido said. “Then Debra contacted me and I was kind of hesitant, but my husband was like, you have to do this [speak at the conference]! So I’m glad I am, and I’m excited.”
Garrido hopes people learn from her that anyone can pay off their debt.
“It’s important to educate yourself about money,” Garrido said. “Be efficient, be educated. I feel more blessings have come to me because of my hard work.”
Rosen said the San Diego Women’s Conference exists to promote women in leadership and “teach our young daughters early that they can reach for the moon and get there.”
“Women’s equality in leadership has become extremely visible,” she said. “We need to teach [young women] to be bold, not perfect. The many lessons learned during Women’s Week makes it easier to share stories of women that have been able to get there, and know it wasn’t without struggles.”
Garrido said she is thankful for La Mesa and the opportunities she’s been given in her hometown.
“I feel so spoiled by La Mesa,” she said. “I love how calm it is, yet you can still go downtown easily. I get to live the best of both worlds right at my fingertips.”
Garrido can be found on Instagram at @money.and.gratitude. For more information about Women’s Week or for tickets, visit sdwomensweek.com.
— Cassidy Klein is the social media editor at SDCNN, parent company of La Mesa Courier. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.