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From $1 million in debt to empowering young women

From $1 million in debt to empowering young women

All Sarah Kurtenbach wanted was a cup of hot chocolate at a University of Sioux Falls football game.

“I’m freezing my butt off, and it’s halftime of the football game, and I know my dad is in the stands,” she recounts on our financial podcast, Common Cents on the Prairie™.

“So, I call my dad, and he answers the phone. I’m like, ‘Dad, I’m freezing. Can you please buy me a cup of hot chocolate? I didn’t bring any cash with me.’ And he goes, ‘Sarah, you work. You make your own money. You can buy your own hot chocolate.’ And he probably hung up the phone on me.”

That money memory is one of many that shaped Sarah’s financial future: a future in which she would pay down nearly $1 million in debt and later start moveHER Money, an online educational program aimed at teaching young women financial literacy.

And now, the Sioux Falls entrepreneur and digital and social media expert is sharing her story on an upcoming episode of Common Cents on the Prairie, our podcast by First National Wealth Management and the first of its kind in the Sioux Falls area.

 Financial literacy

“Money is really one of the core foundational pillars in someone’s life,” Sarah tells Adam Cox, the host of the podcast. “That’s why it’s so important also to teach girls at a young age.”

Sarah herself was taught financial literacy at a shockingly young age, dating much further back than a cup of hot chocolate at a college football game.

As she tells Adam, her history of managing her own money started with her first checking account in fourth grade:

“My dad took me to a bank, and he opened up my first checking account,” she says. “He took me home, and he taught me how to balance a checkbook. And then he said, ‘Sarah, things are going to change in this house when it comes to money. You are now responsible for what you want to buy.’”

Learning those money skills early on was sure to come in handy for Sarah later in life, like when she and her husband, Chad, were tasked with paying down nearly $1 million in combined debt.

Chad had accumulated debt from medical school loans, and together the couple had purchased a plot of land and were in the process of building a home.

“We had so much debt, and when we did our taxes our first year and I really saw line items of how much we were paying in interest, it made me just want to throw up,” Sarah tells Adam. “And that was the moment for me when I said, ‘We are paying this off quickly.’”

Where money and passion intersect

From learning how to balance a checkbook in fourth grade to paying down a monumental sum of debt in adulthood, Sarah’s money experiences throughout her life served as a basis for starting moveHER Money.

The business venture also gave her the opportunity to combine her greatest passions: finances, faith, and mentoring high school and college girls.

“I’ve always had a desire, and I feel kind of a calling in my life, to be able to do something to really significantly help that age range of girls,” Sarah tells Adam. “And when I could combine my other passions of finance and business and faith all into one — which is her moveHER Money — it just all made me so excited.”

She also says that the news in 2022 of a potential student loan forgiveness program pushed her further towards starting the company.

“This is a crisis,” Sarah says on the podcast. “If we want to fix the crisis, we have to teach people the right way to avoid mistakes and make the right decision. That’s what really lit a fire under me to also create moveHER Money.”

Topics of conversation

The full podcast episode featuring Sarah Kurtenbach drops on Thursday, July 13.

In addition to Sarah’s money history and founding of moveHER Money, Adam and Sarah discuss a wide range of topics: making money mistakes and learning from them, the scars left by debt — Adam himself paid down $220,000 in past debt — how social media hinders financial literacy, and why it’s important to teach good money habits early on.

If you’d like to dig a little deeper before then, we have a great track record of featuring local experts on our podcast for in-depth money discussions.

On top of First National Bank’s own in-house financial experts, past guests have included Jodi Schwan, founder and owner of SiouxFalls.Business and Pigeon605; Danielle Konechne, a broker with Fisher Sisters Real Estate; Andy Patterson, president of the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation; and Sioux Falls and Dell Rapids couples who shared their stories for the podcast’s popular “How We Money” series.

How to watch/listen on July 13

Because Common Cents on the Prairie is a video-based podcast, you can watch or listen to the entire episode on July 13. Here’s your full range options:

And no matter how you choose to watch or listen, make sure to hit that “Subscribe” or “Follow” button to be notified of future episodes of the podcast!


Have questions? We're here to help.

Adam Cox

Adam Cox

Executive Vice President and Chief Wealth Management Officer
Maggie Groteluschen

Maggie Groteluschen

Fiduciary Services Manager
Don Rahn

Don Rahn

Wealth Advisory Manager
Kyle Cipperley

Kyle Cipperley

Trust Investments Manager

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