headshot of Cinneah El-Amin in a yellow suit against a multi-color background
Cinneah El-Amin

Building wealth doesn’t only have to be attained through entrepreneurship. Social media give us the highlight reels of what we can do to generate wealth while owning a business and being our own bosses. However, we seldom see influencers promoting doing the same while securing a 9-5 career or job.

Cinneah El-Amin knows this experience all too well. In February, she was laid off from her six-figure tech job and is now taking a break from corporate America to grow her thriving online career and lifestyle platform, Flynanced.

She launched Flynanced in 2020, a community for “9-5 hotties” to earn more and build wealth, and in a short time has taught over 1,000 women to create the dream lives they want.

Earlier in her career, she earned $72,000 and eventually grew her take home pay to $186,000, more than doubling her salary in four years.

She’s grown a large following of more than 200,000 followers across Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and email, sharing her journey from paying off thousands in student loans and consumer debt to scaling her side hustle while growing her six-figure-paying career as a project manager.

El-Amin spoke with the Defender to share ways to build wealth while keeping your 9-5.

Defender: Tell our audience about Flynanced, what you provide and its impact on Black women and their finances.

Cinneah El-Amin: Flynanced is an online platform where I teach ambitious working women, aka 9-5 hotties, how to earn more effortlessly, build wealth and do more of what they love. Through my content and workshops, I’m helping other young, Black millennial women see what is possible for us in terms of career paths that we can embark on in terms of the money we make and where to put those salaries to turn them into wealth. Flynanced came from a background of not coming from money. I was not someone who grew up talking about investing. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. A lot of these things I did out of survival. Taking my learnings from working in corporate America, building a career as a product manager, and other lessons I’ve learned in my 20s … I’ve taught over 1000 students. Many of the 9-5 hotties who’ve worked with me are doubling and tripling their salaries, being the first in their families to break six figures, and being the first in the family to work in big tech. It’s truly a movement.

Defender: One of your first financial milestones was saving your first 100K. How were you able to accomplish that goal?

El-Amin: It was not overnight. It took me about two and a half years to get to the point where I could say, ‘I did it.’ First, I had to pour into my mental health. I was in therapy. I was working with a life coach. I was just trying to unlearn some of the traumas holding me back. I was putting myself in financial disarray because I wasn’t addressing the other traumas and things I’ve gone through. Two, understanding that these are baby steps. I never said my big goal was going to be $100,000. I started by wanting to learn how to live on a budget. I knew I had all this extra money I was making every month that I couldn’t account for where it was going. The goal was a lot smaller initially, but as I got momentum and accomplished things, I could stretch myself and say that would be a goal I wanted to set for myself. Third, find that tribe. I was able to start making relationships and connections, especially with other Black women. Not feeling like I had to go about it all alone. Looking to people in the community who were going through similar things, could be supportive of me, had other recommendations, or worked with other financial people. Those three things helped me shape my mindset.

Defender: Back when you launching Flynanced in 2020, what did you feel needed to be added in budgeting and financing that you weren’t seeing before creating this platform?

El-Amin: Early (in my personal finance journey), I leaned on social media. There was a hashtag debt-free community that I was following, and it was great because I was getting a lot of inspiration, good ideas and tips from other creators who were talking about their journey to pay off debt. I started to reflect on all the content I was consuming. I realized that a lot of it was very whitewashed. A lot of it was very middle-class white Americans. Those who may have mommy and daddy to say, ‘Oh, we’ll pay for your mortgage’ or ‘You don’t have student loans because we paid for your four years of college.’ I couldn’t relate to some of their stories.

On the one hand, there was also a really strong narrative especially pushed by the Dave Ramsey methodology; if you’re in debt, you shouldn’t be taking vacations. That rhetoric felt strong, especially in 2018 and 2019, when I was consuming a lot of content. It felt anti-Black to tell working-class people they have no time for enjoyment or pleasure as they’re trying to achieve their financial goals. White people might have the luxury of being able to focus all of their attention on their money goals, but as far as Black and Brown people, our lives are too short and too precious to say, ‘Well, it might take five years to get out of debt, that’s all I’m going to focus on for the next five years.’ If I can’t travel, for example, there is no way I will stay committed to this financial journey. It will take me several years to be debt free or get to the first $100,000 and where I have true financial freedom. The more I sat with it, I (realized) that there’s no one talking to people like me, people who love to travel, embrace experiences, and grow our careers. Why does it have to be mutually exclusive? So, that was the light bulb moment for me. At first, I had imposter syndrome. I was afraid to talk about money online. I was afraid to put myself out there. I convinced myself that I was not an expert, I was not helpful, and I was not credible. I realized that it wasn’t just that piece. It was that authentic voice, showing up and being a voice for other young Black women.

Defender: What do you say to those who might not be in a career but have a 9-5 job and want to build wealth? How about those in low-salaried careers/non-compete contracts that don’t have wiggle room to increase salary?

El-Amin: We all have six and seven-figure skills to use to make money. If you’re not currently making the money you want, you have the skill set to do so. There are two main lanes for it. For most people who are college-educated, who had previous work experience, no matter what industry or job you’ve had, many times we’re working in jobs not realizing we have the same skillset as people that are more highly paid than us. There’s a bit of finesse that has to happen. (However), at the end of the day, if you were to look at job descriptions for a program manager and compare that to what you do right now as an administrative assistant, you would see many similarities. Another hurdle that we have to overcome is that there are so many jobs out here in lanes for our current skillset, especially if you are that person who has a degree and feels like you’ve never made the money you wanted to make despite the work experience. There is a lane for folks who need a degree or work experience. There is no better time than now to upskill.

So many programs will pay you to learn skills to become competitive in the job market. I share this in my free newsletter every Friday, ‘Free Game Fridays.’ If you’re willing to work and apply for scholarships, you could be in a six-to-10-month program that would lead you to make six figures. That’s why I created my six-figure masterclass because I get so many questions from qualified Black women. Bringing in that strategy, leveraging that technology, and sites like LinkedIn to see the money is out there.

Defender: What are the biggest mistake people make when strategizing to build wealth while working for an employer?

El-Amin: Not realizing that they have accounts at their disposal, they could be growing wealth quickly and effortlessly. How many of us are contributing to our 401k plans? Statistically, very few of us, especially those who identify as Black. Many of these accounts are a part of our total compensation; we need to realize it’s money we leave behind if we don’t contribute. So, if you work for an employer offering an employee match toward your retirement and don’t contribute, you’re missing out on your total compensation.

When I started working full-time, I had no cushion, savings, or investments, so my 401k was my first investment account. Fast forward to today, the combination of all my 401k plans across different jobs I worked will be worth over $1 million by the time I retire. That gives me peace of mind knowing I’m growing assets without thinking about it. Investing in other things like real estate or another brokerage account frees up my energy. Another mistake is not tracking where our money is going. No matter what salary you’re making, you have to live within or below your means to be able to start building wealth. What are my expenses? Is there any money left over? How can I be intentional about making money and where to invest it? It’s crazy to see statistics; most Americans making six figures live paycheck to paycheck.

Defender: You expect to return to a 9-5 but are choosing to take a break and scale your business — why are you considering returning to corporate?

El-Amin: I’m on a rich hot girl sabbatical. There is this huge misconception around 9-5s that it’s like you’re giving up something by working for (an employer). I love 9-5s. That’s why I call myself the 9-5 hottie, because I want a consistent check that I don’t have to do anything for. If anyone has transitioned to full-time entrepreneurship, you know that’s a different type of grind. To wake yourself up every day and tell yourself that you don’t get paid if you don’t get it done.

In a 9-5, you get a consistent check; you’re getting healthcare benefits and the chance to put away extra money to invest. If you’re looking to buy real estate, it makes it much easier for loan officers to approve you for a loan when they see W2 income versus income going all into your business accounts. As I looked back to last year, as I was building my business and working my 9-5, that was the most money I have ever made in my life. Knowing I have this consistent six-figure paycheck coming in every other week and knowing that I don’t have to live off of any money I’m making for my business is a dream for me. I want to reinvest all my money from my business and scale my business and create new business lines from this. I want to get into real estate and buy a house in Turks and Caicos. That all can’t be done off of one check.

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...