TSU Alumna Dr. Lakisha L. Simmons adds fuel to the fire as a financial freedom coach

By Ciara Walker Williams

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – When Dr. Lakisha L. Simmons graduated from Tennessee State University with a B.B.A. in Business Information Systems twenty years ago, she set out to live what she thought was the “American Dream” – until it wasn’t.

After earning her bachelor’s, Simmons worked in corporate America at Caterpillar Financial while pursuing her MBA and later receiving her Ph.D. in Management Information Systems. After earning her doctorate in 2011, she transitioned into higher education and worked as a professor at Indiana State University and later Belmont University until she FIRE’d herself in May 2021 at the age of 41 with $850K in investments.

FIRE stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early and is a movement that Simmons learned about as she was researching what to do with the profits from selling her home after getting divorced in 2017. At that time, she was a mother of two young boys living paycheck to paycheck.

“Growing up we were financially insecure, and after getting divorced I began to feel like that same young girl,” says Simmons. “I decided to sell our family home and move into something smaller.”

Simmons’ parents were teenagers in high school when she was born. Her father graduated and joined the Marines, but her mother did not graduate and endured some challenges that led to Simmons being raised by family members. She attended different schools, and because of that, her path to college was unclear until she came across a flyer for an HBCU college tour.

“I was very unmotivated in high school. I skipped class and my grades were poor,” says Simmons. “College was not a big factor in my life, but when I saw the flyer for an HBCU tour, I took the number down and that organization brought us to TSU. I was exposed to black colleges for the first time.”

She recalls how touring TSU changed her life. “The students were walking with purpose. They looked happy,” says Simmons. “They looked like leaders who were on a mission to be something and be somebody. That was powerful to see – even as a young girl, and it changed my perspective on life.”

She knew then that she wanted to go to TSU. As a first-generation student, Simmons focused on her academics and was drawn to honor societies such as Beta Gamma Sigma and Phi Beta Lambda. She says TSU’s motto – Think. Work. Serve. – was engraved in her by professors like Dr. Kathy Lassiter, Dr. Aurore Kamssu, and Dr. Gerald Marquis.

“I remember all of them like it was yesterday. They had a passion for teaching and wanted to help us excel in life,” says Simmons. “Dr. Lassiter poured into me in ways I didn’t have prior to TSU. She drove 2 ½ hours from Knoxville to teach in Nashville. That’s how much she loved TSU. She taught me how to be a great teacher.”

Although Simmons is no longer a professor, she continues to fulfill her passion for teaching by coaching others on how to achieve financial freedom and retire early through her four-week program The Wealthy AchieveHer. She also hosts speaking engagements, facilitates workshops, serves as a financial spokesperson for Personal Capital, and is the author of “The Unlikely AchieveHer” workbook.

“We need to know our net worth, budget numbers, and how much we need to retire. We have to take steps to figure that out,” says Simmons. “I am inspired when a new [coaching] student has never invested and is now on track to retire in eight to ten years or when a student says their budget is already tight, but at the end of the four weeks they’ve shaved $300 of expenses.”

Her journey and expertise have been highlighted in national publications (magazines) such as Black Enterprise, Cosmopolitan, and People. Simmons has also had guest appearances on BiggerPockets, Journey to Launch, GMA, Business Insider, and most recently CNBC and The Tamron Hall Show. Accolades and awards include 40 Under 40 by the Nashville Business Journal, Rising Star Award by CABLE, and Susan Short Jones Emerging Leaders Award by the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. Metro Nashville Chapter, just to name a few.

Simmons believes that everyone is worthy of being wealthy and there is no reason many students can’t be financially free by the age of 40 if they start pursuing FIRE right out of college.

Her advice to students: “When you get that first job after college, keep a humble lifestyle. Instead of buying what’s new and flashy, consider creating your financial freedom plan first.”

To get started, she offers several free tools and resources such as the Budget Bestie spreadsheet, free apps for shopping and tracking money, a discount mobile service, and ways to make extra cash on her website www.lakishasimmons.com, YouTube channel “Lakisha L. Simmons, PhD”, and podcast “The Wealthy AchieveHer”.

“Anything is possible. You just have to be willing to believe it,” says Simmons. “It’s not about how much money you make. It’s how much you save and invest.”

TSU proudly salutes alumna Dr. Lakisha L. Simmons during Women’s History Month.

Department of Media Relations

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About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and eight doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.