Meet HappyNest Author: Tanja Fijalkowski

About Tanja Fijalkowski

Tanja Fijalkowski is one of HappyNest’s blog contributors.

A UCSD alumni with a B.A. in Writing, she worked in the insurance and financial services sector for four years. While with The Hartford Financial Services Group, she underwrote personal lines and small business policies. She was also in charge of training new hires in risk management best practices. Through this role, she came to understand how various businesses models, how they generate revenue, and manage liabilities in financial terms.

She moved on from that role in 2016 when she accepted an editorial role with Printers Row Publishing Group. There, she was the editor for several of the imprint’s proprietary, originated projects, including the multiple award winning title, Strange Crime. While working as an editor and designer there, she became involved in creating pitch decks for business deals. Creating business pitches and incubating new lines of business is a skill that became increasingly central in her career as it evolved.

She joined the 101 Network in 2017 where she served as Managing Editor. She played a critical role in dialing up the network’s subject-driven verticals History 101, Finance 101, and Science 101. The sites that would generate over 100 million views under her leadership. She then accepted a role on the 101 Network’s innovation team. There, she was tasked with developing new lines of business.

Tanja joins HappyNest

Today, she freelances creating pitch decks for businesses seeking investment as well as a writer for various publications including AdWeek and Upside Chronicles on topics such as finance, economics, business, and technology.

Tanja is known for reliably having a fresh take on topics as well as a unique writing style. She is able to make complex topics approachable to even the most novice of readers.

We’re leveraging Tanja’s ability to breakdown the complicated into bite-size nuggets to empower every HappyNester to take control of their financial future.

Check out Tanja’s numerous articles on our blog page – you’ll definitely learn a little something something if you do.

Tanja Fijalkowski, writer for HappyNest

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My Financial Journey: Drew Appelbaum

My name is Drew Applebaum, and I am HappyNest’s Director of Customer Support and Engagement.

Are you someone that has pushed off investing until recently? Was watching your savings account “grow” month after month just enough for you to feel like you were saving for that inevitable rainy day? Or is investing just not your thing? If you nodded, screamed, flinched, or said “yes” under your breath to any of the above, I’m with you.

At heart, I’m a simple man. I don’t need fancy things or seven-figure cars. I’ve never strived to work in finance. The thought of wearing a Patagonia vest to work every day was my nightmare. I simply wanted a decent job where I could have a true work/life balance, with life being the focus of that balance. Yet, what I learned quickly was that simple comes with many perks as well as many struggles. Sure, I don’t care to ride around in a Ferrari (livin’ that Honda dream since 2014).

But I do crave financial freedom. I do not want to be another stereotype where I “live to work” to uphold my life.

So, there I was, all motivated to invest my hard-earned, slow-growing savings account into something great … but what? I think we can all agree if you listen to too many people, you will find yourself terrified to invest but also terrified not to invest. That’s when I learned about HappyNest.

The process was quick, easy, and incredibly user friendly. I had a rough idea of how much I wanted to save within a certain time frame. HappyNest took the guesswork out of it for me. It broke down how much I needed to put in monthly to achieve my goal. The best part – I’m not doing any more or less than I used to with my sluggish savings account, yet my growth is far greater.

Will I become a millionaire overnight? No. The one thing I really appreciate about real estate investing is that it’s a slow and stable burn, regardless of what the rollercoaster we call the Dow Jones is doing. For me, I finally have a piece of mine that there is an investment option out there that is working for me and my goals, even if they are simple.


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How I Learned About Real Estate Investing

By: Melissa Etezadi, HappyNest PR and Content Manager

Like many novice investors, I was told at a young age the only way to save money for retirement was to invest in your 401(k), open an IRA, and of course, invest in the stock market. Growing up, I remember watching my dad emotionally react to the twists and turns of the Dow. His mood would fluctuate as the market would swing from high to low. We knew as kids if the numbers on the tv are red, it’s not the time to ask for money.


It wasn’t until I graduated college with over $100,000 in student loan debt, and a mediocre first paying job, that I realized I needed to find new ways to diversify my portfolio and grow my nest egg. The real question, though, how? I decided to take to the internet – it’s here where I learned about investing in real estate.
So, what makes real estate worth investing in? Unlike traditional investments such as stocks and bonds, real estate is not tied to the stock market’s volatility and fluctuations. Real estate is a tangible asset, so it relies on the economics of a local market instead. There have been many situations where the stock market has been in a downturn, while real estate investments’ value was on the rise.


I learned that real estate is a less liquid asset, so it takes longer to convert to cash. This is one of the main reasons many financial experts stress the need for a balanced portfolio of real estate, stocks, alternative investments, and bonds. In the finance world, it’s called diversification.


My investment journey was slow. I did not invest in some fantastic stock that turned into millions overnight or purchase a $5M CVS Pharmacy or apartment building. I researched the subject and visited popular sites such as, and to help learn the terminology.

Real estate investing for beginners: REITs

After exploring all my options, I decided to buy shares of REITs. They seemed to be the best way to gain exposure to real estate investing without all the maintenance requirements.
I learned that REITS are a long-term investment and traditionally pay 3, 4, or even 5% dividends, helping me double my investment over time. My goal is to continue growing my wealth by maintaining a healthy portfolio of diversified investments. My goal is for me children to not have to see me go through the stress my father did.

My Financial Journey: Jesse Prince, Founder

My name is Jesse Prince, and this is my financial journey.

I often think about the series of events that led me where I am today. 

A vibrant childhood (I am the third of four boys), years of playing team sports, a 6-year-long military career – all formative experiences of being part of something bigger than myself. 

It might sound cliché, but bear with me. I think many of you reading this will be able to relate.

The Prince Family principles

You see, growing up, my parents impressed two things upon us:

  1. Never live outside of your means, and
  2. Do good things. 

When the time came for me to fly the nest, so to speak, I enrolled in the United States Military Academy at West Point, in accordance with these principles. (Go Army!) 

Head shot of HappyNest Founder and CEO, Jesse Prince
Me in my Army days

By serving my country, I could sidestep burdening my family (or my future self, for that matter) with the crushing student debt that burdens so many young Americans today. It was a win-win.

After six years of active duty – including two tours in Iraq – my worldview had fundamentally shifted, to say the least.

Perhaps the biggest challenge of assimilating back into civilian life was that what had once satisfied my desire to “do good” just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

Frankly, I had to do something bigger. Something great. I wanted to have a meaningful impact.

But how?

Lost in combat 

Three things serving in the military will give you: Thick skin, lasting life skills, and a deep love for learning. 

That, and a paycheck every first and fifteenth of the month.

What the military doesn’t give you are the skills needed to manage that paycheck effectively. As far as I can tell, schools aren’t acing the subject either

Growing wealth, saving for retirement, building rainy day funds – these might not be the skills you need to survive combat. But you sure as hell need them for a fighting chance at the American Dream

When my time in the service was over, I found myself in a position I never thought I’d be in – aimless, unemployed, and defeated. 

Overnight, I went from a Captain in the Army with command over 120 soldiers, to reading rejection letters from employers due to “lack of work experience” in my parents’ basement where I was living.  

The transition was jarring and brutal. 

I had neither income nor resources. The only thing lower than my self esteem at the time was my bank account balance. It was humbling. It was terrifying.

A lot of grit and a little luck

Fast forward a few months (and a handful of rejection letters).

There I was, standing in my parents’ kitchen (staring into my mother’s freshly packed refrigerator, oddly enough), when it struck me: “Speak the language of your profession.” 

Of course. Classic Occam’s razor: The simplest answer is usually the best one. And as expected, something I had learned in the service would indeed guide my life outside of it.

I started with a list of all the things I find joy in. I’ve always had a natural interest in real estate – it seemed like now was as good a time as any to explore that further. 

Step one, of course, would be to learn the language of the real estate industry. I was essentially starting my career anew. There was going to be a learning curve.

I didn’t just want to learn it – I wanted to master it.

I enrolled into graduate school with a Real Estate Finance degree fixed in my crosshairs.

At the same time, I looked for employment in the industry. Every soldier knows you never truly master your craft until you’ve had real combat experience. After what felt like a lifetime in the reserves, I was more than eager to get my boots on the ground. 

Luckily, I stumbled upon a handful of amazing people who helped me do just that.

Building the nest

I’d always known real estate investing was an incredible way to build wealth. However, like most Americans, I didn’t exactly have mountains of cash at the ready to drop on investment properties. 

So I turned where many of us do when we need answers to life’s pressing questions: Google. 

A quick search for how to invest in commercial real estate without having to front large sums of money for a downpayment only brought up a GIF with a menacing Jack-in-the-box popping out holding a sign that said “better luck next time.”

Okay, okay…that didn’t really happen. 

But it may as well have, because all I found were real estate investing platforms with high minimum investment requirements ($1,000 or more) and confusing, technical language. 

Without access to wealth building investment opportunities, how could everyday people build their financial future? 

I thought to myself, “If I, as a professional, am turned off by these platforms, I can only imagine what others are feeling.” 

And then it hit me. I could satisfy my “do-something-great” drive by helping others live within their means while building wealth.

In other words, I could feed two birds with one scone. That’s how HappyNest was born. 

My vision was to create a place where everyone – regardless of the financial hand they’re playing – can access an opportunity to build their wealth and improve their financial literacy.

HappyNest takes flight

I gathered the information and resources needed to help HappyNest take flight. 

My first order of business was lowering the barrier of entry. A thousand dollars is a lot of money for most people – prohibitive even. It certainly was for me at one time. 

Real estate was an investment asset class once reserved for the wealthy. We may not serve caviar or champagne here, but $10 will get you a seat at the table. 

I made $10 the entry point because, at one point in my life, that’s all I had in my bank account. I like to think that if I could afford it on my worst day, others could also buy into the chance to change their financial futures. 

My path hasn’t been the easiest, but I’m confident that I am not alone. I hope HappyNest can help you achieve whatever goals you may have.

And that is my most important mission to date. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my story.

My name is Jesse Prince, and that is my financial journey.

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