It’s taken me a long time to change my money mindset.
For some time growing up, I thought money was evil. I’m sure I learned that from some random conversation my family members were having.
Eventually, as I got older, I knew I wanted to make a lot of money, but I also carried an attitude of – I don’t need money to be happy, and being a good person is most important.
I realize now all of that is contradictory and damaging to the impact I can make (and to my wealth).
There are a lot of stories out there where ego + money = disaster, and in those stories the lesson is that money is the root of all evil. (I think if we dig deeper, we can probably see it’s the ego not the money that causes the disaster.)
As women, we need to hear and start telling different stories.
- Money provides expansion – expansion of experiences and impact.
- Money can be integrated with our values so that it’s leveraged to live a full life.
- Money is a source of positive power. The more we make, the more we can give back.
This week, I’m thrilled to interview my good friend and author of the 30-Day Money Cleanse, Ashley Feinstein Gerstley. Ashley’s money philosophy is rooted in all of the above. In this interview, Ashley and I talk about:
- How Ashley had a background in finance, but knew nothing about her own finances,
- How she pushed through scary challenges of a career transition and starting her own business, and
- 3 things we can do right now to build up our bank account!
Meet Ashley. (And to watch the live webinar we hosted with Ashley, scroll to the bottom.)
Give us some background. Where are you from, and where did you start out?
I’m from Florida (born in Miami and spent most of my life in Naples).
I went to college in New Orleans and Philadelphia and moved to NYC to work in investment banking.
I did a two year program and learned a ton but the lifestyle was really taxing on me – mentally and physically. I transitioned to a corporate finance job, took a pay cut and had so much more free time to spend money.
I remember looking at my bank account and realized that this lifestyle was completely unsustainable. I had to figure out how to manage my finances and had no idea how – despite my finance background!
I started reading books and blogs. (Fun side note – one of the first books I read was Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach and I got to meet him last week.)
I started blogging about what I was learning and sharing my journey. I did it because it was a personal challenge for me. I was terrified of having and sharing a voice on the internet! It felt so permanent. My blog was called the Fiscal Femme, and it has now grown into my full-time business!
What is your mission, the work you want to do?
I’m out to end inequality through financial well-being. When we’re financially well we can negotiate harder, take more risks in our career, leave situations (and people) that are not serving us and invest in the causes that are important to us.
This means getting paid what we’re worth, getting women on management teams and on boards and investing in women-owned businesses.
I can go on and on about this but bottom line is that we need women to be wealthy because it will change the world. It’s a virtuous cycle. Women invest more in their families and communities, we’d see more investment go to women-owned business, and we’d have more solutions to the big problems we face.
So in order to get there, the work I want to do is help women get wealthy. I do that via my program The 30-Day Money Cleanse, speaking, writing and coaching.
What led you here? Can you recall any experiences you had that pushed you to your mission?
I’ve always been a feminist and have been on a crusade for women to have equal power, voices and opportunities. I needed financial help and guidance myself as I was transitioning in my career and found so much power and freedom from what I discovered that I realized there was a really important link between the two – money and equality.
In addition, we as women have a lot working against us when it comes to getting wealthy. We have the pay gap, the pink tax, we’re investing less (even though we’re better at it when we do) and we live longer so we need more money saved to retire.
I’ve had this mission since the beginning (even though, at first, I wasn’t great at articulating it) but becoming a mother has definitely changed the game for me as I’ve experienced a lot more of the societal constraints that I’m out to help change.
What challenges did you face along the way, and how did you overcome these challenges?
Being an entrepreneur is a rollercoaster, and I experience challenges every day. Still to this day, I have to do all kinds of things I have no idea how to do.
Monitoring my mindset is really important. I love Carol Dweck’s work on growth vs. fixed mindset. I talk about this in my book and relate it to money but it applies to everything.
When we approach life from the mindset that we can improve and get better rather than our abilities are fixed, it’s a lot easier to overcome challenges.
I also do things that scare me all the time. My whole blog started because I was afraid to write and have a voice. Then I was terrified of speaking, so I started building a speaking business.
What does living from a place of possibility mean to you?
Waking up in the mindset of – what you are creating and what could you create? It’s future-focused and mission-based, which is exciting.
Can you recall a time when you shifted from making a decision(s) out of fear vs. possibility? What was that like? And why did you feel the need to make that decision?
I’m in a mastermind with another entrepreneur, and we’ve determined that we often make decisions and take actions from a place of not being “worth it.” It’s pervasive.
And that’s very much a decision from fear. The good thing is having this awareness allows us to make a shift from fear to possibility.
Making decisions from fear keeps us small, which impacts others and ourselves.
A big practice of mine is enjoying the journey.
I used to think when I achieved a certain goal, I’d feel accomplished or like I “made it.” I have a goal book and write down everything I want to accomplish and it’s pretty crazy but the things in there happen!
What I’ve found as I’ve reached these goals is that – yes, it’s important to celebrate milestones and success, but I don’t feel different after these accomplishments. I don’t feel like I’ve ‘made it” and I don’t think I ever will – no matter how much I accomplish.
That’s why it’s really important to enjoy the journey and the excitement along the way.
Let’s talk about the money. What are your top 3 money tips – especially for anyone who is feeling really overwhelmed by their finances right now?
Keep a money journal. Write down everything you spend and earn, however is easiest for you. Keep track in a notebook, planner, or the notes on your phone – as long as you’re writing it down. If you forget, just pick up where you left off. This is such a simple tip but it’s one I share over and over again because it really works. When we have a clear picture of where our money is going, we’re in a position to make more thoughtful and informed decisions about our personal finances.
Pay yourself first. We pay our bills, our loans, our rent, etc, and then it never feels like there’s anything leftover to save. Make saving a priority by treating it like any other expense. Set up an automatic transfer to send a set amount of money to your savings account (start with $5!) each week. You can increase the amount over time, but making the transfer automatic will ensure that your savings will continue to grow.
Pay in cash. This is another trick that can help us stick to our goals. For a week, put away the credit cards and apps and stick to old fashioned cash. So much of our spending is mindless – we hop in and out of Ubers without thinking too much about the cost, and we make purchases instantly on Amazon because our payment information is already saved. Credit cards make it hard to really feel the implications of our spending and looking at our balance, we have no idea where we stand as far as our bank account. Switching back to cash, even for just a week, makes us more aware of our spending. We’re less likely to purchase the things we don’t really want so we can put our money towards the things we do!
What advice do you have for 20 to 30-somethings who want to make an impact through their work but are currently feeling stuck?
Do things that are fun and that you’re attracted to. Don’t worry about connecting the dots or understanding where they’re going.
Before I started my business, I created a wine club with monthly wine tastings for my friends, I volunteered on a board of a micro-finance company that supported women entrepreneurs, I mentored women, and I devoured self-help and psychology books.
These were things I was naturally attracted to and enjoyed doing and they led me to what I’m doing today. One day in spin class (I get my aha moments in workout classes) I realized that I wanted to combine all of those things into a new business.
But that doesn’t mean I figured it out. Still to this day I still “follow my heart.” I have some fun ideas but I can’t with certainty tell you what the business will look like in a year. It’s a journey!