Connect Confessionals

Women In Their 50s On What They Wish They Knew About Money + Career In Their 20s

Lindsay Tigar  |  November 19, 2021

A look at how to set yourself up for financial success from women who have been there, done that and have some wisdom to share.

No, we can’t change the past, but we can always shape our future. One of the best ways to do that is by learning from those who came before us. This week, we spoke with women over 50 and asked them where (and how) they gained wisdom, understanding and financial savvy — from their careers and their personal finance journeys. Here’s a look at what they shared, and what they wish they’d known about their finances when they were first opening their portfolios. 

“Make financial education a priority and habit.”

Recent studies show that women spend more time on social media than men. I encourage them to spend a portion of that time reading about financial trends and behaviors. Gen Z leverages Tik Tok and Reddit for financial advice. Many Millennials follow influencers such as Mrs. Dow Jones, as she ties humor and pop culture into her discussions about money management. (And at HerMoney, we love Tori Dunlap, too!)  If I were to go back in time, I would have invested more aggressively in companies that I loved as a consumer. When people are young and passionate about a company and its products, they can assume more risk and invest in their convictions. Many young women drastically underestimate the amount of wealth necessary for a comfortable retirement. Healthcare costs continue to rise, home prices are peaking, and wages will not always exceed living costs. Saving money while you are young will eliminate significant stress as you age. Do not push this decision into the future. Start today. —Melisse Burstein, a partner at Gerson Preston

“Focus on diversity.”

I did well in my 20s by investing money in stocks, purely intuition-driven, in companies I believed in. I had no expectations, I considered it a long-term investment, and it paid off. Now, it’s fairly easy to play with the stock market and cryptocurrency. You can create a diverse portfolio so your funds are not devastated when a sector goes down, and keep liquid cash in your account, so you have money to invest when there’s an opportunity. Finally, don’t put all your money in high-risk avenues. Set up a bank account that automatically transfers a percent of your deposits into a savings account. —Laura Eisman, co-CEO and co-founder of Her Highness

“Take control of your own finances.”

Don’t fall prey to the archaic presumption that women are ‘worse with money’ or ‘don’t understand their finances.’ The financial industry can be intimidating, but there are countless tools and resources to demystify it and take more control. Money is power, and money is freedom; don’t think of it as a dry or overwhelming topic. Think of it as a lifeline. I have known countless women, specifically breadwinning women, who are either left in the dark or deliberately betrayed by their partners about their finances. I love the notion of not thinking about your job as your only source of income; there are investments, there are side hustles, there are board service and advisory roles. Many women at a certain point in their career feel stuck. Change your mindset to think about other ways that you can achieve professional and financial goals outside of your ‘day job.’ —Bethanie Baynes, Director of Global Partnerships at Google 

“Create your emergency fund.”

Someone gave me the advice to always have a little emergency fund of about two to three months of expenses, and that was such good advice, I always pass that on. I think it’s hard to save money when you’re younger in your career, but it’s an essential habit. Always save something of whatever you have to spend. —Allison Krongard, co-CEO and co-founder of Her Highness 

“Don’t just save — invest.”

I heard about savings from my mom, but not enough to take action. Meaning, I wish I was told to save a specific amount, like 10% to 30% of what you are earning, especially while living at home and working a part-time job. After you have a small nest egg saved up — six months of your expenses — divide what you’re saving in half and start investing. Invest in things you either know about or enjoy learning more about. Not everyone is interested in stocks. Some people are fascinated with homes and the concept of owning property. You can still go out and party and travel, just not spend every disposable piece of income that you have to do it. The earlier you start putting away/investing a small amount, the better off you will be in the future that is coming faster each day. —Taylor Sparks, an erotic educator and the founder of Organic Loven

“Make retirement planning and budgeting part of your job now.”

If I would have started a retirement fund in my 20s, I would not have to be as aggressive in my retirement contributions now. I wouldn’t have necessarily noticed incremental increases to my retirement contribution as my salary grew — because you can’t miss what you never had. There is a sense of urgency as you get older if you haven’t adequately planned for retirement. Late planning requires a more substantial contribution to play catch up, and it does not go unnoticed. I also wish someone had sat me down — and followed up regularly — to make sure I started to learn the habits of saving money with each paycheck and the importance of making and sticking to a budget. I imagine they would have said something to the effect of: ‘Do you want the option to retire early?’ or ‘What if I told you that I could help you put away $15,000 a year without sacrificing shopping or other things you love?’ — Sharon Smith-Akinsanya, CEO of Rae Mackenzie Group and the Founder of People of Color Careers Social Hiring Network

“Seek mentors.”

I wish I was allowed to travel the finance journey with my parents an earlier age. I was not. Decisions were made on my behalf without my knowledge. The transition from the piggy bank, to opening accounts, to investing was done on my behalf by my parents. I never visited a bank with them to contribute or withdraw funds. I never saw a checkbook until I was 16 years old. I wish I’d gotten a job earlier, or interned. It would have been great if I had been able to meet, observe, learn from, or be advised by business owners. I never knew women could own their own assets until much later in life! I’ve gained so much over the years from continuous learning and seeking advice from mentors. I can’t recommend enough that women seek out other like-minded professionals who they can learn from. — Dr. Ibilola Amao, the principal consultant at Lonadek Global Services 

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