This single mom of two daughters is also a wealth advisor. And she wants moms everywhere to take better charge of their finances.
by Elena Epstein
When it comes to money, Mary John, Senior Vice President and Wealth Advisor for the Beverly Hills Region of Wells Fargo Private Bank, is on a mission. She wants every woman, starting at a young age, to understand money management and be able to make wise, independent financial decisions. “Too many times, women defer important financial decisions onto the men in their lives,” she says.
As a single mom to two young girls and a wealth advisor, John is living the “new normal” of families being financially supported by women rather than men. I recently chatted with John about the steps every woman should take when it comes to money.
Finances can be so overwhelming. How do you get started?
The first step is to set aside some time and gather all your financial documents such as bank statements, investment accounts, loan papers, insurance information – everything – in one place. Then you have to go through it, line by line. Write down your questions as you go through the documents. In order to be an active participant in financial decision making, you have to know exactly how much money is coming into your account every month, how much is going out, what other investments you have.
You talk to your clients a lot about setting goals. Tell us why this is important:
In order to reach your objectives, you have to be very clear in what your goals are. Many people set aside a savings account, but how you best invest that money depends on what you’re saving for. Are you saving for your child’s college education, for a home remodel, for retirement, for a big family trip? You will need a different financial strategy for each one of these goals. It’s important to seek out trusted advisors– a CPA, a banker, an attorney, and a financial planner – to answer your questions and help guide you in reaching your short and long-term goals.
Why is financial literacy critical for moms?
When you become a mom, your life changes in every way. Your priorities, responsibilities and focus completely shift. One of the most important financial documents to have in place is an estate plan. Every family should have a will, a trust, a healthcare directive, financial power of attorney. Life is unpredictable. We cannot control unfortunate events that could affect our family. What we can do is have a plan in place that manages that risk. Having a solid financial plan is a critical component of being a responsible parent.
When should parents start talking to kids about money?
It’s never too early to talk to kids about money. You want to raise financially aware kids. I’m very transparent about money with my kids. I give them spending money each month and they have to manage that money the entire month. But I set up certain guidelines. Twenty-five percent has to go into their savings and 10 percent has to be used towards some type of charity. It’s their choice. They can give it to an organization they like or buy lunch for someone we see living on the street. It’s really important for kids to learn to balance a budget, read and understand a bank statement, understand how credit card fees work and have a basic overview of how the stock market works. By giving them these financial tools, we are giving our kids the knowledge they need to take care of themselves.
Elena Epstein is Director of Content & Strategic Partnerships at L.A. Parent.