Imagine Wall Street in its most notorious days – intense pressure, high stakes, testosterone, insane amounts of money, expense reports, fancy dinners, limousines and very few women. War zone from 9:30 am to 4 pm, you all go out for a drink after the closing bell to de-stress and reconnect, and back on the battlefield the next day.
It was then that I started my career in finance. After graduating from university, I found a job as an administrative assistant in a financial company. As I immersed myself in the industry, I learned to compete and thrive in the male dominated field. I worked hard to climb the ranks quickly, collecting several licenses along the way, and ended up working on the institutional side of Wall Street for 25 years.
I am now a heritage advisor and a proud mother of two amazing daughters, aged 19 and 21, truly my greatest achievement. For Women’s History Month, I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned along the way and how I’m raising my daughters to be financially independent.
Take your kids to the bank and create accounts in their name. If your child is under 18, you will need to open a custody account or a joint account. Notice I didn’t say fund their bank accounts. Whenever they receive money for birthdays, holidays, or work (more details below), make sure they are depositing a good chunk of the money into their account. It is important that they experience the process and see the money grow in their accounts.
Teach them how to deposit checks with their bank’s mobile app and show them what happens when they buy something with their debit card – and the consequences of spending more than they have. Technology can sometimes make the money look like it’s not real, so it’s important that they understand the value of their digital dollars.
Markets can be confusing and even frightening, especially for people who haven’t been made aware of the risks and rewards. So I knew I had to teach my daughters to invest early on. I asked them to choose a brand they liked by giving them examples of companies I knew they were following and told them to choose a couple they believed in.
You can start with individual stocks or index funds, which is a great way to get them involved early on. If they have earned income, they can open a Roth IRA for tax-exempt growth and tax-free withdrawals in retirement. The best thing they can do is start saving for retirement early.
As a mother, I worked hard to bond with my kids on activities that didn’t require materialistic things, to avoid teaching them potentially dangerous habits. Of course, we go shopping together from time to time, but they called it back on their own. Sometimes my daughters would go to the mall with their friends and come home with a purchase just to buy something. Of course, it’s okay for teenage girls to buy clothes, but it’s not a good habit to reinforce if it’s excessive.
So how did we solve this? At first I was asking about the price they were paying for the clothes. We would go to a designer store and look at the price, then go to Forever 21 or H&M to show a dramatic difference in the cost. Also, they started to notice how much things cost when they started paying for things out of their own pocket.
Now my daughters choose not to buy things they think are too expensive. Sometimes when we go shopping I tell them that I am looking after and I choose an outfit. They will say, “No, thank you, Mom. I do not need anything. WOW! It’s a parental victory!
I am a big believer in this. As a young girl, I never thought I’d have a career in finance. It doesn’t help that our society generally doesn’t encourage girls to get into a lot of fields, like finance, science, or math.
Encourage your kids to try new hobbies, sports, or activities that they may never have mentioned or heard of. We are an active family where exercise is part of our daily life. We are all addicted to exercise, which is wonderful. My daughters have developed a healthy outlet here and it has also helped them cultivate persistence, leadership and assertiveness.
Hobbies don’t have to last forever, but they can teach them new skills and, more importantly, flexibility.
As parents, we know it is important to lead by example. Start organizing financial awareness by asking them to look up prices on restaurant or grocery store menus. Show them how to compare prices and guide them on how to make good decisions. For my daughters, highlighting the price tags in designer stores over budget retailers has been a revelation. Work with them to budget for their own expenses and show them how you manage household money.
When they want to go out for pizza with their friends, ask them every now and then to use their own money and watch the look you get – it’s funny. Remember, it’s never too early to talk about money and it should never be a taboo subject. The habits they are learning now will lay the foundation for their entire financial future.
Historically, women have not been good at negotiating for themselves. If we assert ourselves and ask for what we deserve, we are told that we are too “bossy” or “abrasive”.
Having worked in male dominated environments my entire career, I can say defending yourself is imperative. I will add that this goes for any environment whether you are male or female. If you are not being compensated for your worth or are not receiving the compensation you think you deserve, then go find it elsewhere. If you are right, you will feel good about your decision to move on.
One of the reasons for my success is my ability to defend myself after proving myself. I’ve always tried to have the one-year rule: never quit a job for one year. Give yourself the opportunity to adapt to the environment, learn their culture, add value and be a team player. After one year, ask for a review if you don’t receive one. Discuss your successes, listen to your failures and say what you think you deserve… and have the facts to prove it. Always be ready for discussions like this!
Talk to your daughters about the gender pay gap and how they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for a raise when it’s due. Never be afraid to ask for what you think you deserve. What’s the worst thing they can say … right? If you don’t believe in yourself then why would you want someone else to?
Our relationship with money is personal and we pass much of it on to our children. Teaching fiscal responsibility is one of the most important things we can do for our children to foster independence, especially for our daughters. I am fortunate to help my clients manage their finances and their lives. In my humble opinion, the scholarship is what makes the world go round and having the opportunity to teach my daughters what I do has been one of my greatest joys.
The purpose of Women’s History Month is to honor and celebrate the contributions of women to American history, no matter how small or large they may be. Honor the tradition by giving your own daughters your accumulated wisdom and help them grow in their own successful roles in this world.