By Lynn Branigan
How do you ask for a raise during a pandemic? Is it better to pay down debt or make a smart investment? When you’re on a strict budget, how do you socialize with friends and also save money?
These and other questions were asked and answered on March 11, when New York’s Young Executive Committee hosted a panel conversation moderated by Sally Holmes, Editor-In-Chief of Marie Claire. The session was called Financial Fearlessness, and as we enter April – National Financial Literacy Month – I am remembering some of the brilliant advice and wisdom that was shared by the participants: Kara Stevens, Founder and Content Creator, The Frugal Feminista; Alexandria Streid, Chief Product Officer, Ellevest; and Carrie Seifer, General Manager, GWI.
These financially savvy women shared stories that ranged from their early days of personal finance naivety (putting money in an IRA and neglecting to stipulate the investments so it wasn’t growing, or ignoring student loan payment demands because it wasn’t clear that those loans actually had to be repaid), to the sound financial acumen they’ve honed through years of testing and learning (asking an employer who can’t afford a wage increase “what else can you offer?”, to investing through online companies starting with as little as a dollar).
Offering sessions like Financial Fearlessness is part of our ongoing commitment to help women stay strong, current, connected and included. We believe that fortifying women’s economic empowerment is good for the world, because women are vitally important to the global economy. According to USAID, if the same number of women as men participated in the global economy, the global GDP would grow by $12 trillion by 2025.
The conversation that took place on March 11 dispensed practical thinking and suggestions for requesting, investing, and managing money. Some of the highlights:
- Get comfortable asking for money. Look your employer in the eye and say, “here’s what I would like to make,” or “here’s what I want from you,” then hold your gaze and say nothing.
- If you don’t have a lot of money to invest, explore online investment platforms like Ellevest (built for women by women), which allows you to start investing with a tiny amount.
- If you have debts to pay but also want to make investments … pay down the debts that have a 5% or higher interest rate, because the stock market often earns more than that 5% interest. (Getting rid of debt is conventional wisdom.)
- Create a financial support community. It could start with identifying a YouTube host that resonates with you, or seeking out a friend who’s financially savvy. Talk to your HR team about resources that might be available, e.g. financial planning, legal, etc.
- If your employer matches your contributions to a 401K plan, prioritize that investment. It’s free money
- Imagine where you want to be in the long run and plot backwards. If you want to work two days a week as a highly paid consultant telling people stuff you already know, pin that and map your journey to get there.
- If you are applying for a job and the company cannot pay you what you want, explore what else they might offer. Tuition reimbursement, mentoring, personal leave, sabbaticals, professional development, health benefits … these don’t earn you cash but they can contribute to your happiness and that’s priceless.
The past year forced many of us to reevaluate our finances: how we spend, save, invest, and earn. The new rules of pandemic life also allowed us to think differently about where we live and work, and how we allocate our time and money. Whether you weathered 2020 as a full-time employee, a gig worker, or someone seeking the next opportunity, this new year is an opportunity to “level up” financially. She Runs It wants to be part of your professional journey and financial security, so we will continue to shape programming that helps you reach your goals.