Picture Wall Street during its most notorious days — intense pressure, high stakes, testosterone, insane amounts of money, expense accounts, fancy dinners, limos and very few women. A war zone from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., you all go out for drinks after the closing bell to destress and reconnect, and back to the battlefield the very next day.
That’s when I started my career in finance. As a college graduate, I fell into a job as an administrative assistant at a financial firm. As I became immersed in the industry, I learned to compete and thrive in the male-dominated field. I worked hard to quickly climb the ranks, collecting several licenses along the way, and ended up working on the institutional side of Wall Street for 25 years.
I’m now a wealth advisor and proud mother of two amazing daughters, ages 19 and 21, truly my greatest accomplishment. For Women’s History Month, I wanted to share some of what I have learned along the way, and how I’m raising my daughters to be financially independent.
1. Have them open their own bank accounts
Take your kids to the bank and set up accounts in their names. If your child is under 18 then you would need to set up a custodial or joint account. Notice I didn’t say to fund their bank accounts. Whenever they get money for birthdays, holidays or work (more on that below), make sure they deposit a good chunk of the money into their account. It’s important that they get to 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 make money feel like it’s not real sometimes, so it’s important that they understand the value of their digital dollars.
2. Encourage them to work
At a young age, both of my daughters worked. I knew it was important for them to learn the value of a dollar and develop a work ethic. This promotes financial independence, so why not start at an early age? Initially they worked at the nursery school in our town, which would turn into additional babysitting jobs in the evening. Now, they are beach lifeguards over the summer during breaks from college. They work hard, full-time, sometimes till 7 p.m., which allows them to appreciate their days off. This helps them understand that nothing is given to them, and everything must be earned. It also keeps their spending habits in check; they understand the limits of what they should spend, because it’s the money they work very hard for.
3. Make investing fun and relatable
The markets can be confusing and even frightening, especially to people who haven’t been taught about the risks and rewards. So, I knew I had to teach my daughters about investing early. I asked them to pick a brand they liked by giving them examples of companies I know they followed and told them to pick a couple they believed in.
You can start with individual stocks or index funds, which is a great way to get them involved early. If they have earned income, they can open a Roth IRA for tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals come retirement. The greatest thing they can do is to get an early start on their retirement savings.
4. Let them make mistakes
As a mother, I worked hard to bond with my children on activities that didn’t require materialistic things, to avoid teaching them potentially harmful habits. Of course, we go shopping together from time to time, but they have dialed that back all on their own. Sometimes my daughters would go to the mall with their friends and come home with a purchase just for the sake of buying something. Of course, it’s normal for teenage girls to buy clothes, but it’s not a good habit to reinforce if it’s excessive.
So how did we fix this? Early on, I would ask questions about the price they paid for clothes. We would go into a designer store and look at the price, and then go into Forever 21 or H&M to show a dramatic difference in the cost. Also, they started noticing how much things cost when they started paying for things out of their own pockets. Now, my daughters elect not to buy things they believe are too expensive. Sometimes when we are shopping, I’ll tell them I’m treating and to pick out an outfit. They’ll reply, “No, thank you, Mom. I don’t need anything.” WOW! Now that’s a parenting win!
5. Keep an open mind
I’m a big believer in this. As a young girl, I would have never thought I’d have a career in finance. It doesn’t help that our society typically doesn’t encourage girls to go into many fields, like finance, science or math. Encourage your children to try new hobbies, sports or activities they may have never mentioned or heard of. We are an active family where exercise is a part of our daily lives. We all are addicted to exercise, which is wonderful. My daughters have developed a healthy outlet here and it has also helped them cultivate perseverance, leadership and assertiveness. Hobbies don’t have to last forever, but they can teach them new skills, and more importantly, flexibility.
6. Foster good habits
As parents, we know that it’s important to lead by example. Start curating financial awareness by having them look at prices on menus at restaurants or the grocery store. Show them how to comparison shop and guide them on how to make good decisions. For my daughters, pointing out the price tags at the designer stores versus the budget retailers was eye-opening.
Work with them to put together a budget for their own expenses and show them how you manage the household’s money. When they want to go out for pizza with their friends, ask them occasionally to use their own money and watch the look you get — it’s funny. Remember that it is never too early to talk about money, and it should never be a taboo topic. The habits they learn now will set the foundation for their entire financial future.
7. Teach assertiveness
Historically, women have not been good at negotiating for themselves. If we are assertive and ask for what we deserve, we’re told we’re too “bossy” or “abrasive.” Having worked in male-dominated environments my entire career, I can say it’s imperative to stand up for yourself. I will add that goes for any environment, whether you’re male or female. If you are not being compensated for your value or not receiving the compensation you feel you deserve, then go find it elsewhere. If you are right, you will feel great about your decision to move on.
8. Encourage them to live by the one-year rule
One of the reasons for my success is my ability to stand up for myself after proving myself. I’ve always tried to have the one-year rule: Never leave a job before a 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 do not receive one. Discuss your successes, listen to your failures, and assert what you believe you deserve … and have facts to back it up. Always be prepared for discussions like this!
Talk to your daughters about the gender wage gap, and how they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for a raise when it’s due. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for what you believe you deserve. What’s the worst thing they can say … no? If you don’t believe in yourself, then why would you expect anyone else to?
Our relationship with money is personal, and we pass a lot of that onto 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 blessed to help my clients manage their finances and their lives. In my humble opinion, the stock market is what makes the world go round and having the opportunity to teach my daughters about what I do has been one of my greatest joys.
Women’s History Month is meant to honor and celebrate women’s contributions in American history, however small or large they might be. Honor the tradition by giving your own daughters your accumulated wisdom and help them grow into their own successful roles in this world.
Wealth Adviser, ALINE Wealth
Gina Grippo-Martinez is a wealth adviser at ALINE Wealth. Her Wall Street days behind her, Gina currently holds her Series 7, 63 and 66 licenses, and helps her clients plan for their futures. She lives with her husband and their two daughters in Point Lookout, Long Island. For more information, please visit www.ALINEWealth.com.