On this week’s podcast, Jean tackles the topic of how we can get more women to become active investors in our own lives, and how we can recognize if a career in investing is right for us. We sit down with Janet Cowell, the CEO of Girls Who Invest, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing gender diversity in the investment management industry, where there simply aren’t enough women working today. Through educational programming, mentoring and internships, Girls Who Invest is on a mission to have 30% of the world’s investable capital managed by women by the year 2030.
Over the years, there have been a number of studies showing that diversely-governed organizations perform better and bring in better returns. “How you deploy capital is a very powerful industry,” Janet says. “When it’s deployed with more diverse teams, it performs even better.” She goes on to say, “If Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Brothers & Sisters, they wouldn’t have ended the way they ended. They had no women on their board when they went bankrupt.”
Janet says her experience over the years has taught her that women, finance, and education as a trifecta is extremely powerful, and that there are substantive ripple effects and positive collateral benefits when women manage money.
LISTEN: Fidelity Investments’ Nicole Connolly, Head of ESG investing and Portfolio Manager for the Women’s Leadership Fund, on how we can all put our money where our mouth is when it comes to supporting companies that are doing the right thing.
In order to get more women interested in investing as a profession, we have to get more women interested investing their own money, Janet says. Unfortunately, studies have shown that women tend to be less interested in math and science, because they often view these fields as being “for men.” Why? It’s embedded in so many different cultural aspects of our lives, both in America and in Europe, and is pervasive across all college campuses, no matter the region. Janet says she often hears the same stories from women who attend Auburn University in Alabama as she does from women who attend Harvard University in Massachusetts. “It’s amazing how it’s dispersed through our culture, these little micro-signals that this is not for you.”
Another hurdle Girls Who Invest is trying to cross is to help women understand what “finance” really is, and that it’s about more than just getting a loan at your local commercial bank — it’s also venture capital, impact investing, and so much more. “We’re working to expose them to the breadth of this industry, and the ways it can actually have impact in their own community and their lives,” Janet says. “And we’re building their confidence and saying, ‘Okay, you’re interested, you can do this.’ So much of investing is about telling a story.”
Janet also dishes on the best ways to talk to young girls about investing, and how to get children to start thinking about ways to invest in a company that makes something they enjoy. “You can’t just rely on families to convey information about money,” Janet says. “You have to institutionalize it through education so that every child is getting exposure to concepts with saving, earnings, and stock market games.”
Janet also gives us a rundown on how Girls Who Invest works, and how interested applicants can get started. (Hint: Sophomore women at four-year universities across America, in all majors, are eligible to apply!) But beware, if you apply, you might be hooked — 80% of the women who graduate from a Girls Who Invest program stay in the finance world. This year, 180 women are projected to graduate from the program.
Jean and Janet also discuss how we can spur a greater interest in our own money, and how older women can get started in a career in finance. The pair also dish on how women can deal with industry-specific challenges when they’re pursuing a career in a male-dominated field. Janet gives us a crash course in how to handle difficult gender-based situations that we may encounter at work, and stresses the importance of using our voice, influencing upward, and having our own “cabinet” that can offer counsel when situations arise.
Then, in Mailbag, Jean and Kathryn tackle a question from a listener wondering how student loans impact your credit score. They also dive into a question about what to do with a pension plan from a previous employer, and which online savings accounts are best for a business owner. Lastly, in Thrive, Jean dishes on what to look for in a financial advisor, including what questions to ask and how to know if you’ve found the right fit.
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Janet Cowell: (00:03)
To me it was more just through my own experience of seeing that women, finance and education as a trifecta is extremely powerful and I saw that. I mean, I sat on the state school board for eight years, introduced financial literacy into the curriculum, just the ripple effects and the positive collateral benefits when women manage their money better.
Jean Chatzky: (00:29)
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Jean Chatzky: (00:53)
Hey everybody. I’m Jean Chatzky. Thank you so much for joining me today on HerMoney. You know when we talk about women breaking the glass ceiling and bridging the gender pay gap, and finally taking our places in the upper ranks of traditionally male dominated industries, it’s often convenient to say that we are making slow but steady progress or that change will come eventually, both of which happened to be true. But what are we all doing right now on a daily basis to hasten that sea change that we’ve all been told is coming because I’ve got news for you. It is not coming without action from all of us. It’s not coming without all of us uniting together around these common goals, and don’t get me wrong, I know so many of you do so much to lift up other women at home and at work and I love that, but the truth is many of us could be doing more, which is why I’m excited to introduce you to today’s guest.
Jean Chatzky: (02:04)
Janet Cowell is the CEO of Girls Who Invest. It is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing gender diversity in the investment management industry where we all know there are just not enough women. I’ve worked with so many different financial services companies over my 30 years as a personal finance reporter. I’ve reported on the efforts that many of them have made to just bring more women into the business itself, into the upper echelons of management and many of them, most of them I would say, would just acknowledge it is not happening fast enough for any of us, which is why organizations like Girls Who Invest are so important. They do their work through educational programming and mentoring and internships for women in college and they are on a mission – I love this – to have 30% of the world’s investible capital managed by women by the year 2030. Janet, welcome.
Janet Cowell: (03:15)
Thank you so much for having me.
Jean Chatzky: (03:16)
Thank you so much for being here. So, I was wondering if we had actually met before, because you were the treasurer of the state of North Carolina and I have been to several North Carolina women’s conferences over the past, I don’t know, decade or two and I just was wondering. You don’t look familiar to me, but did our paths cross before?
Janet Cowell: (03:44)
All could be possible. I was treasurer for eight years. And of course there were a lot of events all over the state during those years, so we may well have interacted.
Jean Chatzky: (03:52)
And before that you were a securities analyst at a number of firms?
Janet Cowell: (03:56)
I started out my career in Hong Kong with Hong Kong Shanghai Bank, and then Lehman sort of took over the team. And so I worked for Lehman Brothers in Hong Kong as well.
Jean Chatzky: (04:05)
Amazing. Amazing. How did you come to focus on this mission of getting more women into financial services?
Janet Cowell: (04:16)
So when I was treasurer, I managed over $100 billion and you can imagine there’s a lot of pitches coming at you when you have that much money to deploy. And you do notice that there is not much gender diversity or diversity generally right, in money management and, I was active on a number of fronts in trying to be more inclusive both in our own sort of shop, but also to influence broader diversity. We advocated with other shareholders for more women on boards. I had emerging manager programs for rising asset managers that we hoped were more diverse, younger talent. So when I left the treasurer’s office, I decided not to run again after 15 years in public service. I wanted to do something around continuing that initiative of having a more diverse and inclusive industry.
Jean Chatzky: (05:13)
Let’s talk about diversity and inclusion for a second. Because sometimes there’s this feeling that we’re doing it for the benefit of the people who will then get jobs that they might not otherwise get. But there’s a flip side and the flip side is, when you have a more diverse workforce, when you have a more diverse and more inclusive industry, research has shown that industry does better. Can you talk about that as it applies to investing?
Janet Cowell: (05:48)
Sure. There have been a number of studies as, as you mentioned, right? Showing that diversely governed organizations do better, diverse teams on asset management do better. So this is about good business and it is about better returns, to hire a more diverse workforce.
Jean Chatzky: (06:11)
How does that apply to women managing money?
Janet Cowell: (06:15)
Well, asset management is a huge industry. How you deploy capital, it’s a very powerful industry and as much money as people have made, I think if they had deployed it with more diverse teams, they would have done better. I mean, Lehman brothers, which of course I mentioned, I had worked for, you know, there was the famous line if Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Brothers and sisters, they wouldn’t have ended the way they ended. They had no women on their governing board when they went bankrupt.
Jean Chatzky: (06:46)
We did a show recently with Nicole Connolly who is a portfolio manager at Fidelity, which sponsors this show. She is managing a fund that invests in companies that have put women forward and has a very detailed and strong filter for choosing those investments, and making sure that she’s picking the right ones. But the argument for starting this fund in the first place and anybody who wants to listen to it, we did a show on this earlier. The argument for starting this fund was that this fund would provide greater returns because when women are investing, they do better. Is that something that you’ve found? Is that what led you to try to build up this organization?
Janet Cowell: (07:44)
I’m not even sure it was that specific in that as treasurer, there are so few women managed funds and the whole gender lens investing, especially back when I took over in 2009, we were still recovering from the financial crisis. I would say there’s been a lot of progress made in the last 10 years. So I didn’t have some empirical study. To me it was more just through my own experience of seeing that women, finance and education as a trifecta is extremely powerful. And I saw that. I sat on the state school board for eight years, introduced financial literacy into the curriculum, just the ripple effects and the positive collateral benefits when women manage their money better.
Jean Chatzky: (08:32)
There is a big confidence gap when it comes to women managing their money better. And I think in order to get more women investing money as a profession, we’re gonna first need to get more women investing their own money. How do we do that?
Janet Cowell: (08:49)
Well, you’re right. And actually there’s not only the confidence gap, there’s an interest gap. Right?
Jean Chatzky: (08:54)
Well actually talk about that.
Janet Cowell: (08:56)
Yup. So when we’re recruiting young women, we did a survey of a bunch of undergraduate women this year about a thousand freshmen and sophomores. And there definitely shows that women tend to be less interested. I think just culturally in North America and Europe, Northern Europe at least. There’s some sense that math and science are more masculine – that it’s not what you do .
Jean Chatzky: (09:21)
Janet Cowell: (09:23)
Still right. Shocking. I had coffee with the new business school Dean at Northwestern is Italian and she said, you know, as much as Southern Europe is viewed as not particularly progressive for women, when it comes to math and science, it’s not that way. She’s like, I didn’t grow up with people telling me that science and math were kind of for guys. So she’s like, we have other problems. But it’s interesting that we all think that Northern Europe is so progressive, but it’s really not. And of course China, Spain, there’s a lot of countries where women don’t get the same cultural signals that this is not for them somehow.
Jean Chatzky: (10:00)
Why do you think we’re still getting them here?
Janet Cowell: (10:02)
It’s embedded in so many different cultural aspects, and I will say it’s true. I’m from the South.
Jean Chatzky: (10:07)
I can hear.
Janet Cowell: (10:08)
And I went to Auburn last spring and then I went to Harvard. You would think, oh well would Harvard be better? But I heard the same stories from women at both Auburn where they said, you know, guys want to talk to women who are elementary school majors. When I’m at the bar on campus and I say I’m a business and finance major, they’re like, ah. And then I talked to a Harvard MBA student who said, you know, I have my girlfriends, they’re all going into consulting and marketing and I want to hang out with them. But when I go into finance, it’s all men. So it’s amazing that it’s just dispersed throughout our culture – all these little micro signals that this is not for you.
Jean Chatzky: (10:47)
And of course there’s micro signals over enough time, tamper people’s interests.
Janet Cowell: (10:53)
Right? So I think part of this whole education combined with investing is important because you have to first spark that people don’t even understand what finance is. They don’t understand that it’s venture capital, that it’s impact investing. That it’s not just making a loan at your commercial bank, right? Just exposing them to the breadth of this industry and the ways it can actually have impact in their own community and in their lives. And then second, building their confidence that, okay, you’re interested, you can do this. That so much of investing is about telling a story, right? Being able to look at a company, understand why you think that company’s a good investment and convince people through, yes, some math and some basic ratio analysis, but it’s not PhD, black box science.
Jean Chatzky: (11:44)
Right. And I also think there’s a lot of just understanding what’s going on in society. Right? Of course. I did a couple of years in equity research too. I worked at Dean Witter before my first job at a personal finance magazine. And yes, you have to model everything, right? You have to understand. I was actually a healthcare analyst and the nightmare that I have on a recurring basis is the units of these surgical elements called trocars that we had to just know how many trocars are they going to have this quarter and this year and is it going to be up and is it going to be down? And you know, the trocars on the spreadsheets still make me kind of nuts. However, it’s also story, right? It’s also what’s happening in the world. Where is the country going, where is the world going? My daughter, who is a wonderful and very skilled consumer has pointed me in the direction of companies that turn out to do very, very well. And I think women in part because we do 85% of the consumption in the US if we start paying attention actually could have a real skill for this.
Janet Cowell: (13:02)
Jean Chatzky: (13:03)
Which is not to say that we absolutely have to pick individual stocks for our portfolios if we want to be good investors.
Janet Cowell: (13:12)
But it would be an interesting question, right? To just pose to a child, okay, so you’re buying this product. If you were trying to invest in that, is there a company that makes that or is that part of a larger company – like getting a kid to start thinking about that. And I think that’s another part of the disconnect, right? That people don’t even talk to their daughters about it, but they do talk to their sons more often.
Jean Chatzky: (13:34)
We see that in the research and it’s very disheartening. I want to get to two important questions, which is how do we get women perhaps no longer girls, but women to become more active investors in their own lives? And then how do we recognize in ourselves if a career in investing might suit us? But before I do that, let me just remind everybody, HerMoney is proudly sponsored by Fidelity Investments. What if you could demand more from your money and what if you could make your savings work as hard as you do, and what if that helped you reach your financial goals faster? It all starts with a financial checkup and an understanding of what you own and what you owe. From there, we’ll work with you to evaluate your investment options and ways to grow your savings and you can get started today at fidelity.com/demandmore. We are talking with Janet Cowell, CEO of Girls Who Invest, which is an organization working to grow the pipeline of women entering the investment management industry. Let’s talk about our own money then. Let’s talk about our careers. How do we spur a greater interest in our own money ourselves?
Janet Cowell: (14:49)
You know what we’ve found, and of course I was treasurer for eight years and had this broad sort of touch points with just one state of North Carolina, but much of what I found was, it’s what people’s parents told them, right? That’s how they knew whether to manage money or not. And even in Girls Who Invest, so many of our students come from New Jersey because it’s in the shadow of New York and the asset management industry. So you realize that you can’t just rely on families to convey to women or you know, men, boys, girls about money. It’s gotta be embedded in our curriculum and our schools. You have to institutionalize it so that every child is getting exposure to these basic concepts of savings with the piggy bank, earning interest on savings, stock market games. And what’s happening is that kids through their families or through more elite schools are getting exposure to that. But kids at a lot of schools in America just are not getting exposure.
Jean Chatzky: (15:47)
So how does the Girls Who Invest program work?
Janet Cowell: (15:51)
So our program targets women, right? They are really young women in undergraduate US colleges and universities and it gives them education for four weeks on campus so that they have the technical tools and soft training to be ready for an internship, which is then six weeks. And we partner with over a hundred financial firms to get the real life experience. So we match these young women to these jobs all over the United States because the asset management industry is national. And then we have partners in California, we have Chicago, Minneapolis, Boston, New York, and they go do a job for six weeks. We then follow their progress and when they graduate, 80% of the young women who’ve gone through our program have stayed in finance. Some do go to more investment banking, sell-side, but about half stay on the asset management, buy-side and are actually helping to invest money.
Jean Chatzky: (16:55)
How do you get into one of these programs? How do you know if your school has it? What if your school doesn’t have it?
Janet Cowell: (17:02)
So we are open to students from every single school in America. So every school has it. It’s just do they know about it? Right. We’re a young organization, going into our fifth year. So getting people aware is a challenge. Last year we actually used influencers. We got students on campus. We had one student at Stanford named Diva and she was fabulous because she really spread the word about our program and we got a lot of great applications. We had another student at Emory who was fantastic at spreading the word and then our own alumni through word of mouth spread the word. But we go through career services offices. We’ve done digital media, we’ve used influencers. Anything we can do to spread the word that anyone can apply. We welcome all majors. We do generally have a 3.5 GPA. We look for certain test scores, but we are looking for a really diverse class because anyone can go into asset management and be successful.
Jean Chatzky: (18:05)
What are the test score cutoffs because people are going to be listening and they’re going to write me a note. What do I have to have on my ACTs?
Janet Cowell: (18:11)
We generally are looking for a 30 plus ACT. We do look at kids who have slightly lower ACTs.
Jean Chatzky: (18:18)
Janet Cowell: (18:22)
We also look at SATs. So either one, the main thing is to get the basketball above the hoop. Apply. And it’s for sophomores, rising junior. So all of you who are here listening out there and you know, kids that are seniors in high school or freshman, they can apply when they’re that first semester sophomore for this program. We’re also going to expand to the UK in 2021. So if you know people in the UK, we’re going to have to do a lot of work there to raise awareness of the program.
Jean Chatzky: (18:51)
The four week training, that happens online. Correct?
Janet Cowell: (18:54)
No, we’re on campus .
Jean Chatzky: (18:56)
Oh, at every school?
Janet Cowell: (18:58)
No, we have hub campuses where we do the training and that’s been Penn/Wharton, Notre Dame, they have them Mendoza College of Business. And then, this year, UCLA/Anderson School of Business in Los Angeles will be our other hub university. In 2021, Duke University wants to come in and then Imperial College of London which is smack in the middle of London.
Jean Chatzky: (19:22)
So students will go to these schools?
Janet Cowell: (19:24)
Right. So students from all universities can apply and then we collect them together into cohorts, do that training so they get the hands on teaching in a classroom and then they deploy back out to their internships all over the country and internationally.
Jean Chatzky: (19:40)
Is there a cost to this or do the kids get paid for their work?
Janet Cowell: (19:44)
There is no cost to students and they do get paid for their internships. And I would say the typical would be about $25 an hour, sometimes $20, depending on the employer.
Jean Chatzky: (19:55)
And while they’re in the four week training program are their costs covered?
Janet Cowell: (19:59)
Yes, we pay for all their room and board. And even for socioeconomically disadvantaged. All they have to do is just say, it’s a challenge for me to even buy the plane ticket to get to campus. We can cover that as well. They just need to state the reasons for the need.
Jean Chatzky: (20:14)
And how many will you take this year?
Janet Cowell: (20:17)
So we’ll have 180 women on campus. We do have an online program, which you alluded to and that’s for students who may already have lined up an internship and so they would really prefer to do that. They do online set of credentials and can put that on their LinkedIn profile. So it’s an online program. We have about 180 students in that and then 180 people on campus.
Jean Chatzky: (20:42)
And when students go through the internship portion of the program, we’re all very used to hearing about these finance internships where at the end of your internship, you get a job offer. Is that what’s happening?
Janet Cowell: (20:57)
Some of our financial partners make return offers and some don’t. We partner across all asset classes. So we have pensions and endowments, you know, college endowments. Not all of them make offers every year. It’s not always the case. Where there are return offers made about 70% of the women get a return offer. We have equities, fixed income. Some of these folks hired directly out of undergrad, but some in the private equity space or others don’t. We do have a jobs board and all of our partners and all of our alumni are on there so they can stay in touch and then after they graduate they may get a job offer from a private equity firm or go interview with people they got to know three or four years ago.
Jean Chatzky: (21:45)
For women who are listening to this and thinking well that’d be great but I’m 30 or older or just not at the point where they can apply for this. How do you get started in a finance career if you are thinking, yeah, I would really like to do that.
Janet Cowell: (22:03)
Well the reason we targeted young undergraduates is it is an apprenticeship career and you do have to get started early. It is hard even at the MBA level to pivot and transfer into asset management. So I mean I think it’s really the message for high school and college is to try to get some experience early. For those who are later. I mean, I would say that there are more programs on lateral reentry, right? These programs trying to get women who may have left the workforce to come back into, particularly in wealth management and areas like that. And then, for women who have industry experience, I certainly think there could be avenues if you were a tech healthcare expert and ran a company, you might go to be a senior advisor to a private equity firm or do a partnership there.
Jean Chatzky: (22:56)
It’s amazing. You’re doing such a wonderful service for all of these young women. How has it been for you as a woman in investing?
Janet Cowell: (23:09)
Well, I think the stories that you get, a lot of the women in this industry have all experienced. What we try to alert the young women too, and you hope it all gets better. But there’s been a lot of double standards and bias and I can say I’ve worked in the private sector, as a nonprofit and in government and it’s across the board and in academia. So you know, you tried to alert women that these things may occur and how would you handle it without completely discouraging them from going forth knowing that any job in the industry is going to have challenges. I think for a while people thought, well I’ll go into tech because that’s going to be better than finance but now we know that techs, got the same issue, so you can’t really escape it. Go do what you want to do and you will find the right peers and support network and support to make good decisions and hopefully rise throughout your career.
Jean Chatzky: (24:08)
I have to wrap this up, but I do just want to ask in the training, what do you tell young women about handling the sexism and the difficult situations that are gender-based at work?
Janet Cowell: (24:23)
Well, we definitely have a lot of soft skill training where we train women about using their voice, right? How can you influence upward knowing that these women will be starting at the entry level, how to use your peers, having your own sort of kitchen cabinets so that you can get advice when these situations arise. Like get counsel and talk. I mean talk to your HR and all that. But I mean there’s no one solution to it, right? It’s more of an awareness and a sense that you do have a lot of people who are there to support you.
Jean Chatzky: (24:55)
Janet Cowell, thank you so much. Where can we get more information on Girls Who Invest?
Janet Cowell: (25:00)
So we have our website which is girlswhoinvest.org and that’s where the application is and there’s a lot more information on how to apply and other resources there.
Jean Chatzky: (25:11)
Thank you so much.
Janet Cowell: (25:12)
Jean Chatzky: (25:23)
Katherine Tuggle from HerMoney.com has joined me in the studio. Hey there.
Kathryn Tuggle: (25:27)
Janet Cowell: (25:28)
Happy Valentine’s Day. Belated.
Kathryn Tuggle: (25:30)
Thank you. You too. Did you do anything special?
Jean Chatzky: (25:33)
You know, we have a habit of not going out on Valentine’s Day.
Kathryn Tuggle: (25:36)
That is so smart.
Jean Chatzky: (25:37)
Because it’s just really hard to get a reservation that you actually want.
Kathryn Tuggle: (25:43)
And I also feel like they probably mark everything up. It’s like a wedding because they know they have a captive audience for this day.
Jean Chatzky: (25:50)
Yeah. Do you guys not go out either?
Kathryn Tuggle: (25:51)
Jean Chatzky: (25:53)
Yeah, I do sometimes go out for New Year’s Eve. But yeah, I try to go against the crowd. It’s like a reverse commute. You know, you’re just better off being a little with the opposition.
Kathryn Tuggle: (26:09)
Could not agree more.
Janet Cowell: (26:10)
Yeah. I thought that was a really interesting conversation.
Kathryn Tuggle: (26:13)
She was amazing.
Jean Chatzky: (26:13)
As you know, I went to Penn and there were a lot of finance majors among my friends, there were a lot of business majors among my friends, and I think about the women I knew who went through Wharton, and by and large, it hasn’t changed all that much, at least seemingly, based on what Janet was saying. We tend to go for the softer disciplines in business. We tend to go marketing, advertising, management and not straight into finance. I always respected, I had a friend in college who did go to Wall Street to be an analyst. She was an all-star research analyst for many, many years. And she was the first woman I ever heard say, I just want to make a lot of money. She had had some family trauma and had watched people really struggle and she was dead set on the fact that that was not going to be her and she was going to get a job that paid so she never had to worry.
Kathryn Tuggle: (27:26)
Do you know where she ended up?
Jean Chatzky: (27:27)
Yeah, I mean she made a ton of money. She retired and had her children relatively late, but by that time had banked enough I think, I suspect to live for the rest of her life, and then ended up going back to work when our kids went into grade school cause she was just bored out of her mind.
Kathryn Tuggle: (27:44)
That’s amazing. I love to see people who have that path from a young age and then realize it.
Jean Chatzky: (27:49)
Yeah. And I think what it made me realize was it’s okay for a woman to say I want to make a lot of money.
Kathryn Tuggle: (27:56)
Jean Chatzky: (27:57)
And this is one of those ways to do it. And by the way, we have every bit of the skillset needed to tackle this industry. I do think so much comes down to confidence.
Kathryn Tuggle: (28:09)
Jean Chatzky: (28:09)
Kathryn Tuggle: (28:10)
It’s interesting to women who say that they want to make a lot of money. On our episode with Tracy Keogh, she said that when she was negotiating with her bosses, she made sure to tell them ,I’m the primary breadwinner in my home. When you are evaluating my salary, don’t think that my husband is at home and he’s the main earner and that I’ll just take any salary. I’m supporting my family. And she said it made a difference.
Jean Chatzky: (28:36)
Well, and I know these statistics because they’re in a speech that I just gave, but 38% of women are now the primary breadwinners. And if you add in the number of single women who are defacto head of household, the number is 60%, so that’s a case that none of us should have to make, but all of us should probably make.
Kathryn Tuggle: (28:58)
It’s so true.
Jean Chatzky: (28:59)
Yeah. Let’s get to our questions. I know we’ve got a bunch of them.
Kathryn Tuggle: (29:02)
We do. Our first note is from Megan. She writes, hi Jean. I’m an avid listener to the HerMoney podcast. Thank you for educating us and taking away the stigma and mystery around money and finances. My question is about how student loans affect my credit score. I’m 27 and closing in on paying off my student loans entirely. It feels like a huge win to have paid off nearly $30,000 in just over five years of being out of school. Thanks to aggressive payments and sacrificing in other areas of my budget.
Jean Chatzky: (29:29)
Okay, good for you.
Kathryn Tuggle: (29:30)
Amazing. I have about $1,500 left. These loans are my oldest form of credit and I’m wondering if my score will go down when I close them out. Should I leave $10 in the account just to the loan open. My credit score is 794 which I obviously want to keep intact according to credit karma. The loans are between six to eight years old and my next oldest line of credit is a credit card that I’ve had for just four years. I don’t want my score to be punished for something that I should be proud of. Well, the loans falling off my credit history affect my score significantly?
Jean Chatzky: (30:02)
So first of all, congratulations. This is amazing. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to pay off that much debt in that few years and so you should just feel really, really proud of that. Your credit score is great. Don’t let the fact that you’re not over 800 deter you from the fact that if you look at ranges of credit scores, yours is already excellent and although paying off the loans might drop it a couple of points, a few points, it is not going to do serious damage to your credit scores. So no, do not leave $10 in that account. Just pay it off, have a party, know that the record of you paying off these loans will be a positive mark on your credit scores that will stay there, or your credit report. It will stay there for 10 years before dropping off. And the other thing that you can do to just basically counteract this a little bit is if you’ve got credit cards and the utilization on those credit cards is a little bit high, you can just pay down some of those credit cards. So in any situation you want the utilization, the amount of your credit lines that you’re actually using to be under 30% but your score will pop if you get closer to 10% or even lower. So I would just go ahead and do that and do not even worry about leaving $10 on this loan. This is fantastic.
Kathryn Tuggle: (31:42)
So true. Congratulations Megan. Our next note comes to us from Christina. She writes, since Jean launched her book at Microsoft this summer, I’ve been listening to your podcast regularly.
Jean Chatzky: (31:52)
So I did an event at Microsoft for the women employees network. It was actually with Fidelity. We had a ton of people there. It was really fun and Microsoft is just an amazing place.
Kathryn Tuggle: (32:04)
Jean Chatzky: (32:04)
The campus was beautiful.
Kathryn Tuggle: (32:06)
Jean Chatzky: (32:06)
Kathryn Tuggle: (32:07)
She says, thank you very much for giving me the tools to be able to handle my investments and be confident in my decisions. I’m a 45 year old software engineer, married no kids. Currently, I’m maximizing my 401k contributions and purchasing company stocks. I’m curious what to do with my pension plan from a previous employer. Should I cash it out and reinvest it in an IRA or in my 401k or should I wait for it to slowly grow and then take the monthly distribution at retirement? If I choose a lump sum, I’ll have about $38,000 to invest. My instinct is that reinvesting it might be the best option for earning the most money over time, but I’m not familiar with the taxes and other strings attached. I would really appreciate your input on how to handle this.
Jean Chatzky: (32:48)
So, I ran the numbers. A question like this, I have to say, really just speaks to my inner math geek. So, I really love that you wrote with this kind of question, and I think that you’re right. If you take the money out of your pension plan and you roll it right into a retirement account, an IRA, a Roth IRA, you’re not going to have to worry about paying taxes on it. So let’s just put that to the side for a second. The real question is where are you going to get the biggest bang for your buck? And so I took your $38,000 and I plugged it into a simple savings calculator. If you Google the words, “what will my savings be worth?” You’ll get a whole slew of calculators. And so I took that $38,000. I assumed you would add no money to it. You’re 45. I figured you’d retire at 65, so I gave you 20 years and I ran it at two different growth rates. If the money grows because you invested at 6% which I think is pretty conservative, by the time you retire, you’ll have about $125,000. If it grows at 8% by the time you retire, you’ll have about $187,000. So then I took those sums of money and I applied the 4% rule, which basically says if you withdraw 4% of the balance each year while investing the rest, that money should last you 30 years. The first number gets you to $5,000 a year or about $420 a month. The second gets you to $7,500 a year or $625 a month, and that’s based on the money lasting you about 30 years. The risk in this scenario is that you could live longer and pensions are designed to provide income for as long as you live, which is why my guess is that the pension payout would be lower than you would get on this. I also – cause I was having so much fun – I also took that $38,000 and I plugged it into the calculator at immediateannuities.com to see if you took that sum right now and used it to buy an annuity where you would take the payout starting 20 years from now and you set that payout up so that it would last the rest of your life, you’d get $344 a month. And so that pretty much confirmed my suspicion that what you’ll get by investing the money yourself is better than what you would get in an annuity right now. The thing to remember is that annuities and their payouts are based on a lot of things and one of those things is interest rates and interest rates right now are really low. I like the idea of having enough of a fixed income in retirement, with social security, to know that you can cover your fixed costs for the rest of your life. But I suspect that growing the money yourself and converting it to an annuity down the road when a) you’re older and the money doesn’t have to last as long, and b) interest rates might be a little bit higher, is probably going to be the better way to go if that income for life is something that appeals to you.
Kathryn Tuggle: (36:22)
I love this analysis. I also love that you’re the rare breed of English major who is also a math geek.
Jean Chatzky: (36:29)
I really like the numbers. I know. I had so much fun with this, so thank you, Christina.
Kathryn Tuggle: (36:35)
Our last note comes to us from Chris who writes, I’m looking for a recommendation for online savings accounts for my business. I have two personal online savings accounts, but neither company offers a business account option. I have over $130,000 in my business money market account at a bank where I do my checking and payroll, but I want to invest some of that cash into a higher yield account. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thank you so much. I love your podcast and recommend it to everyone.
Jean Chatzky: (37:02)
Ah, thank you so much Chris. Yeah. I’m with you. I think that you are going to want to move some of that business cash, the business cash that you’re not going to need to pay your bills for the next couple of months, into some sort of a higher yielding online savings account where it’ll just get you 20 times the return that you’re likely getting from this big bank. Some big banks do have that higher paying option, but others don’t. It sounds like you’ve done your research on this, so you just do some searching. And you can actually find a really good list of these accounts at HerMoney. If you go to HerMoney.com/saving, you’ll find a list of these high interest rates, savings accounts, and you can just go through that link and find the one that works best for you.
Kathryn Tuggle: (37:56)
Jean Chatzky: (37:57)
Thank you so much. Thanks everybody for writing. If you want to send us a note, we are at firstname.lastname@example.org. And in today’s Thrive, we all know the importance of sitting down with a financial professional who can guide us on the steps we need to take to reach our big financial goals. But let’s just take a step back and talk about dispensing with all the frustrating lingo. You know what I’m talking about? It is the liberal use of acronyms you have never heard of. The purposefully confusing terms that get used when plain English would have sufficed. It is so important that you understand the conversation that you’re having with your advisor. If you don’t understand it, you have to demand clarity and if you feel like you’re being condescended to when you’re talking about money, just ask questions until you understand. I have done this for my whole life as a financial journalist, I would just badger my sources to explain and explain and explain until I really got it. And those people who did not have patience with me would find their quotes on the cutting room floor exactly where your advisers who don’t have patience with you should find themselves. It is your money, your money, and there are plenty of advisors out there who will not only treat you as an equal, they can even make these conversations fun. So if any of this is ringing a bell for you, it is time to find another advisor ASAP who does speak your language. You can trust me. They do exist. Thank you so much for joining me today on HerMoney. Thanks to Janet Cowell for the encouraging words and the thoughts on how we can all get more women, particularly young women, interested in investing. If you like what you hear, I hope you’ll subscribe to our show at Apple podcasts. Leave us a review. We love hearing what you think. We want to thank our sponsor Fidelity. We record this podcast out of CDM Sound Studios. Our music is provided by Video Helper, and our show comes to you through PRX. Tune in next week, we’ll be back with Melanie Katzman, author of Connect First: 52 Simple Ways to Ignite Success, Meaning, and Joy at Work. Thanks so much for listening and we’ll talk soon.