Kemberley Washington (also known as KemCents) started doing accounting work at her father's architectural firm when she was just 15 years old.
"At that time, he had just let go of his accountant and he was looking for someone," Washington says. "He was doing some of the accounting himself. He showed me a few things and I just fell in love with it."
She studied accounting and finance in college and received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Southern University in Baton Rouge. She became a licensed certified public accountant (CPA) in 2004 and incorporated in 2007, but she didn't stop there.
She wrote her first book, 21 Days of Powerful Breakthroughs, about her experiences on a 21-day fast, during which she journaled daily, sometimes using the notepad on her smartphone when pen and paper weren't available. She's written three more books since — many combining financial literacy with her deep spirituality — but she doesn't forget the journey of personal reflection that led to her first work.
"My first book was my favorite because it was the one that I did not have planned, and it was the one where I really needed God in my life," she says. "I thought it was just for me, but when I see how many people have downloaded it ... or if I get an email from someone in China that's read it, that's bigger than anything that I'm doing."
She still journals every morning and reads the Bible when she gets out of bed at 6 a.m. She then works on her professional writing, blogging for various media outlets or her own website or social media feeds, followed by a quick workout — all before she begins her work day at 9 a.m.
"But I've been slacking on exercising lately since it's tax season," she says with a laugh.
Washington opened Washington CPA Services LLC in 2017. In her first year working as a CPA full time, she counseled more than 100 clients, while making nearly 40 media appearances and writing her fifth book, the working title of which is It All Starts with a Budget. This latest financial guide is a spinoff of her 2015 planner Are You Wearing the B.A.D.G.E.?, which set forth her five financial principles to live by: budgeting, asset management, debt reduction, goal setting and earning maximization. But, if you've been to any of her financial classes, you've heard her mantra that budgeting is key.
"I tell everyone that, even myself," she says. "Budgets are game changers."
Washington began doling out financial advice shortly after Hurricane Katrina, when clients and friends came to her for help managing insurance disbursements for their storm-damaged homes. She started a blog to tackle disaster management questions.
"I didn't realize what the end goal was going to be," she says. "I was just doing it to help people."
Washington's guidance spans the financial gamut, from the quotidian (reducing credit card debt) to the nuanced (frequently overlooked tax deductions such as the bad debt expense), but her passion for numbers is obvious, no matter what she's tackling.
"I love what I do," Washington says. "I just love giving back as much as I can. That's how all this came about — I just wanted to share this information. ... (Some of this) information may not be easily available to individuals, and sometimes people can't afford this type of advice. I'm beginning a discussion that may never have happened before."
Want more KemCents?
Washington teams up with Total Community Action to provide free financial seminars and tax preparation for qualified attendees at NOLA Tax Day (New Orleans Public Library, Mid-City branch, 4140 Canal St.). The event is 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 14; register at www.nolataxday.org.