The world of finance tends to be an unfamiliar territory to women. Armed with her masters in management from Harvard in hand, Bridgett Myrell, financial advisor, author and founder of nonprofit, the Pink and Green Initiative, has made it her mission to educate women on how to manage their future.
INTERVIEW BY: SARA SMOLA
When did you start becoming interested in finance?
I began my career as an undergrad majoring in electrical engineering. My first job was in technical sales. While working in the office, I noticed that my male colleagues, during lunch, were always following the stock market. They were often talking over their cubicles about what stock was trading at what, what mutual fund was hot and what they should be buying. That’s when I became curious about educating myself on the market as a whole, learning about the Dow Jones and what it really means to have a budget.
When did you start getting serious about managing your money?
It wasn’t until I got my own financial advisor around age 24 and I started saving to buy my first house. Becoming a mother was also a major influence in realizing the importance of saving and planning for my future. Everything I learned from my financial advisor increased my desire to learn more. I attended seminars, webinars and workshops on money management and investing. Everything my financial advisor taught me or told me to read, I shared with anyone who was willing to listen.
Why should people see a financial advisor?
We pay a doctor when we need medical advice, we pay a lawyer when we need legal advice, we even pay experts to take care of our hair and our nails. In almost every other aspect of our lives, we pay for the advice, guidance and service of an expert. We should also seek the advice of an expert to help us develop a roadmap for our financial future. When we don’t seek the advice of an expert to help us manage our money, we potentially place ourselves in a position to create generation after generation of individuals who are ill-equipped to lead and maintain the lifestyles we desire in the future.
Why did you decide to focus on helping women specifically?
Educating women and girls has always been my passion so it only seemed natural that I find a way to couple my passion with something that could be meaningful. Before becoming a registered advisor, I founded the Pink and Green Initiative to focus on educating 1 million women and girls about financial literacy. You know, people ask me all the time, ‘Why women? What about men, what about boys?’ It can seem ironic because I’m the mother of boys, but, as women, we play a key role in managing our household finances. Last year, we earned nearly 18 trillion dollars in the U.S. More than 70 percent of women controlled or influenced household spending. I focus on educating women because when you teach a woman, she will teach her children, she will share with her friends and she will impact her community.
How are men and women different when it comes to investing?
Research has shown that men and women don’t really differ that much when it comes to investing. The perceived differences may have more to do with men’s ability to demonstrate financial confidence—hence the reason financial literacy for women is so important.
Women have proven to be just as good—if not better—than men when it comes to investing. Why do you think men dominate investing?
We’ve had a bit of catching up to do. Prior to the last 15-20 years, women didn’t have the resources to invest in themselves or in the lifestyle of their choice. Historically speaking, many of our mothers and grandmothers lived in a patriarchal society where men filled the breadwinner role. That, however, is changing. Women now make up nearly 60 percent of the workforce and earn more than half of the business-related degrees conferred today.
Research has shown couples fight about two things the most: family and money. How do you responsibly handle money in your relationship to avoid the drama?
In my personal life, I believe in having three accounts—a joint account and two separate accounts. The process by which we decide what goes into the separate accounts is based on the allowance we have both agreed upon for each of us as a couple. For example, we may both agree to allocate $500 a month to our individual accounts to prioritize and spend as we choose. If however, I only spend $100 of my allowance for that month and he spends his entire $500 on whatever he chooses, then my $400 rolls over to the next month, and I start off the new month with $900. In this scenario, it would not be in the mutual best interest of the family for him to pull from the joint account to catch up to my $900. As in many cases, equal giving does not necessarily equate to equal prioritizing. As long as the household bills are paid, and the goals we have set for our future are on track, I’m okay with the choices and decisions that he makes for the allocation for his life because it doesn’t affect the overall big picture of what we are striving to achieve as a family.
Best advice for handling your finances?
Manage your personal money like a business. One of the key goals of business is to minimize outflows and maximize inflows to increase the bottom line. Take what you have left over and decide how you want to allocate it. Just like business, make a decision whether to invest in yourself through higher education, skilled training, or with certifications and designations that will increase your earning power. Just like business, you can also make a choice to invest in your future through retirement, new business ventures or other areas of your life that impact longitudinal change and matter to you.