Natalie Johnson - Good afternoon. My name is Natalie Johnson, and I am vice president of Relationship Manager Training and Development. Thank you all for joining us today for a great topic, "Getting $avvy: Why It's Crucial for Women to Take an Active Role in Personal Finance." Today, we are very excited to have this post-screening discussion with "$avvy" film director, Robin Hauser. I am sure you all saw the film, but if you didn't here's a quick tip. "$avvy" explores why it's critical for women to understand and take control of their personal finances. A little bit more about Robin. She is an award-winning director of documentary films at Finish Line Features. In addition to "$avvy," she has quite a body of work. Her film "Bias," in 2018, delves into unconscious bias and how it affects our lives socially and in the workplace. In 2015, another film "Code:Debugging the Gender Gap" premiered at Tribeca Film Festival, screened at the White House, and caught the attention of the international tech industry and policymakers around the world. Robin's exploration into implicit gender and racial bias in artificial intelligence led her to present on the TED stage in December 2017. She also delivered a TED Talk in 2019 on "The Likability Dilemma for Women Leaders." Robin is a diplomat for the American Film Showcase and speaks about unconscious bias, the importance of diversity and inclusion, and on behalf of women women's rights at U.S. embassies, conferences, and corporate headquarters worldwide. Robin is extremely busy, so we are lucky to have her here with us today. If you would like to submit a question during the webinar to Robin, please use the Q&A feature on the bottom of your screen and we will try to get to as many questions as possible. Robin, we are so happy to have you here with us today.
Robin Hauser - Hi, Natalie. It's a pleasure to be here.
Natalie - Great. So we're going to get right into it. And there are so many questions, I'm sure, but the first one that I would like to ask you is around your process. And as you were creating and doing research for this film, what surprised you the most about what you were learning or the stories that you were hearing from the participants?
Robin - Well, so many things, right? But I think one of the most surprising facts that my team and I uncovered was when we learned that millennials, to a greater extent than any other generation, were abdicating advocating financial decisions to somebody else, and usually that's the man in their life. And that was shocking. because I thought, "Okay, well, this is something that, yeah, I understand that my great grandmother, or my grandmother, or maybe even my mother sort of deferred to their spouses to take care of money and long term financial planning," but the fact that this is not getting better, that millennials and now Gen X is beginning to follow in their footsteps, that was shocking to me.
Natalie - For sure. And what do you attribute to that? Is it because maybe they didn't hear the conversations growing up? Or were you able to uncover the reason why?
Robin - Yeah, it's complicated, right? It's a lot of things. And I said the other day to somebody, "Well, gosh, if it was a really easy answer, I probably wouldn't have much to make a film about." But I think that it's a lot of things. One, I think it's just our societal norm. It's really hard to break just tradition and patterns. Right? So if we grew up in a household where our fathers were the ones that generally held the money and sort of had most decision making power around money, then that's something that we're probably familiar with and therefore comfortable with. I think also, though... And then these are generalizations, right? Of course there are lots of women that are the primary, I'd say, person in charge of money in households, but that's not really the majority of women. I think also women have a lot on their plates, right? So we are normally the primary caregiver for children and for elderly parents. We are the ones that usually do a lot of the volunteer work that's expected of us. We have full-time or part-time jobs. And we handle a lot of the housework. So if there's one thing that we can delegate, then often it's the finances, right? And why is that an easy thing to delegate? Because it's something where we're not very comfortable. And we're not comfortable because society has sort of dictated that finance is male territory. And so the more that we sort of take a backseat to it, and even really well educated women, the more and more we began to feel sort of ashamed by the fact that: I should know it an ETF is, but I don't really know what an ETF is. And I'm not really comfortable investing or not even really comfortable going to the financial planner and listening to all this because a lot of it doesn't make sense to me.
Natalie - Right. So you bring up a good topic, which is being comfortable having the conversation, so not even just managing your own finances but being willing to have the discussion. So are you finding... And even just through your own knowledge, are you finding that women are more comfortable talking to other women in similar circumstances or does it not matter?
Robin - I mean, I wish I could say yes. But my own experience was... I ended up getting divorced about six years ago. And so for the first time in 25 years, I was in a position where I was solely responsible for my financial wellbeing. And I have a college degree, I have an MBA, I even worked in finance many years ago, but I felt like I hadn't really... It wasn't my skillset that I was comfortable with, right, at age 50. And so I talked to some friends, some of whom I've known for a very, very long time, and if I asked questions like, "Well, how much have you saved for retirement?" or, "What type of things are you investing in?" they kind of squirmed. They weren't really that comfortable talking to me about that because, again, it seems, in our society and in many societies, it's not polite to talk about money. So if you can't talk to your friends about it, if I couldn't even find female friends to talk about it, who do I turn to? I didn't think I had enough money to have a financial advisor. I didn't know if I could get free advice that was safe to take. So I think it's still really hard, talking about money is taboo. And again, there are exceptions. There's always some people, other women that have gone through divorce and stuff, that were happy to talk to me; but to an extent, right?
Natalie - Wow. So thinking about the previous comment you made around some women still deferring to the man in their household or the male to make the financial decisions; in addition to age, did you see there were any other trends with people not wanting to discuss or maybe deferring different decisions? Did you see anything in ethnicity or race, or have you also seen any improvements in certain areas?
Robin - So, interestingly, in a lot of different households, in a lot of different cultures, women handle the day-to-day household money, right? So whether it's groceries, whether it's allowance for the kids, whether it's lunch, money, whatever it is; in a household, that's often the woman that takes charge of that. But that doesn't mean that she's involved in long term planning. It doesn't mean that she knows how much should be saved for retirement. Are you putting any money away for retirement? How much debt does the family have? Who holds the mortgage to your house, if you have one? Right? What's your overall budget? I mean, that's a question that would send a lot of us... sort of give a lot of us the willies, right? Like, "Budget? What's our monthly budget?" I mean, I don't know. How much do you spend on your hair? How much do you spend on food? How much do you spend on even just the fixed cost? So it's a lot. And for whatever reason, we don't feel this sense of sort of belonging when it comes to talking about money in that way, especially with long term planning.
Natalie - Wow. So it's interesting, I was speaking to some colleagues a few weeks ago and we were just going around talking about gender and how when you make a budget, and in some cases when you might be dealing with a male financial planner, when you're listing things out, we were like, "Don't they realize we have hair, we have nails, we have to go shopping?" And just that familiarity of having that conversation with other women about similar expenses was really empowering. So through the film and just in general, what other things have you found that women get empowered about once they do start having the conversation around finances?
Robin - Yeah, let me first just say that I call that the pink tax. And during COVID, it was really hard to get your haircut, find anybody. And finally overheard my boyfriend say he was going to go get a haircut, and I said, "Wait, where are you going?" He said, "Well, my hair-cutter's going to let me in the backdoor." And I said, "Well, see if she'll cut my hair too." He says, "All right." So he said, "Sure, you can come in." So it took the same amount of time, his cost $65, mine cost 100. He was like, "What? How in the world is that more expensive, it took the same amount of time?" But it's because maybe she took longer to blow dry my hair. I don't know. It was just shocking to me and to him. A woman's blouse to get cleaned at the dry cleaner is more expensive than a man's blouse, or I should say like a man's coat or something like that, right? But it's just it's the pink tax. We pay more for certain items, and I think we're just used to that so we don't question it so much anymore. If we're turning to empowerment, it is incredibly empowering, incredibly empowering to have the reigns of your finances, as I like to say, to know, "Yeah, you know what? I can afford to buy that purse this week or this month. I don't have to ask permission from anybody else if I want to buy a sweater. I know how much money I have. I know how much money I owe. I know how much money I'm earning. I feel totally confident making decisions on my own now, without having to ask permission, without having to worry about things." It's amazingly empowering, right? So especially with women when they learn to invest... And women are different investors than men, right? So women are equally financially capable and confident in everything except investing. So there's a big confidence gap when it comes to women investors and male investors in general. Once women learn how to invest, we actually invest almost a percentage point a year better than men, okay, our results, the return on investment. And the reason for that, according to studies, is because women are more risk aware; it's not that we're risk adverse, we're more risk aware. So we understand the risks, we calculate the risks, we study a little bit more about whether or not those risks make sense for us to take. And then when we do, we're careful about that. So I think that's a real bonus in terms of women and investing, it's just simply a matter of understanding. The other big difference is that women care a lot about how they're investing and what they're investing in. Women want to invest in companies that are sustainable or that do something good for the world. It's not necessarily enough for us to just say, bottom line, "I don't care, go ahead a just invest my money, whatever, in a tobacco industry or whatever." But more and more women are looking for environmental and social good, ESG investing and sustainable investing, which is really an amazing thing for this world because it means, hopefully, that more and more money is going to go into companies, for example, that don't have mandatory arbitration or certain things that haven't served women in the past.
Natalie - Definitely. So just thinking about the conversation around investing, you had a great group of women, had a lot of wisdom, they also looked like they had a lot of fun. How did you get in contact? How did you hear their story? And maybe what can you share with us about that group of ladies that was not in the documentary that we saw.
Robin - The women that weren't? Oh, the... Well, so this was interesting. And keep in mind that I was filming during COVID, right? And so we had some film, some interviews in the bag, so to speak, and we had still a lot to film, and that scene in particular, with the From Tennis to Stocks women, the investment club. But it wasn't them at the time. We had identified a really wonderful group of women in New York City, and they were... All of them actually.. We had to wait because during the winter they were going to be down in Florida. And so we waited until we were going to film them and then of course we ran into COVID restrictions and couldn't get to New York. So my team and I had to scramble and find another group. And thanks to producer Tierney Henderson, we were able to locate this group through an article in "The Sacramento Bee," and we called them up and said, "Is the group still going?" and they said, "Absolutely. We still meet monthly." We said, "Well, can we get up there to film you?" They said, "Absolutely." And I said, "We really just need to talk to maybe six of you." So she came back to me and she said, "Oh no, there are 16 of us, and every one of us want to be in the film." So it was a challenge. And then we had these big California fires and then we had the heat waves. So between having to film them outside because of COVID, having to wait till the smoke got better so that we could bring a bunch of 70 and 80 year-old women outside, and then with 104 degree temperature, it was crazy, but we finally found in day, my team was amazing, and we were able to shoot that scene. But that was quite a challenge.
Natalie - Well, it paid off. I think it inspired many of us. There's actually a question in the chat around: What resources do you know of that are available for women in their 60s who want to begin taking charge of their finances?
Robin - So we have the "$avvy" Impact Hub. And I know that we'll put that QR code up afterwards, toward the end of the discussion. You could also look at our website, finishlinefeaturefilms.com, and go to the "$avvy" page, and there's a link to the Impact Hub. On the hub, we list all sorts of resources that we recommend that are vetted sources, trustworthy sources to help. I think there's a part in the film where we talk about the importance of time in the market instead of timing, but that doesn't mean that just because you're 60 years old it's too late to start investing, right? The older you get and the closer to retirement that you get, the less risky you want to be because presumably that's money that you're going to need in the not too distant future, but there are all sorts resources to look at. I would recommend Ellevest as one, Sallie Krawcheck's company. It's particularly for women because she does a really good job of having both an educational site and robo-investing specifically for women. So have a look at that as well.
Natalie - And then on the flip side, I have a question about someone who wants to get their spouse more engaged in the financial aspect of their home, and has done the work, shared the budgets, the tax information, the income flow, but their spouse still feels a bit uncomfortable. So do you have any tips or suggestions as to how to get their spouse more involved, especially wanting to make sure that they're prepared if something happens? Robin - Yeah. So I'm guessing from the question that it sounds like that might be from a man who would like to get his wife engaged. And I love that, right? Because often we think that maybe the women want to get involved and maybe there's resistance from someone that's handling it for a long time, but the truth is there are many, many men, or let's just say the spouse, regardless of gender, who's the one that's handling the finances who really wants to share that burden, really, really wants their partner to understand where everything is just for that, in case something does happen, in case you do end up in a situation where the person that's not normally the one to handle the finances has to suddenly become responsible in that way. So I really think that it's good just to come right out and say, "This is important stuff for you to understand. And God forbid anything happened to me, but if something did, you need to know the passwords, you need to know where our mortgage is, you need to know how much money we have saved, you definitely need to know about these investments that we have," maybe it's a real estate investment, maybe it's stocks or something like that, but know about this. Because if you are going through emotional trauma because you're getting divorced or because you've lost a spouse, the last thing you want to do is also have to take on this huge burden for the first time with handling your finances, and it can be overwhelming. And honestly to sit down once a month and just say, "Hey, it's just important for me..." Find a time that works for your spouse. You don't want to do it if she's throwing a huge fundraiser the next day for a charity, or if she's in the middle of a huge work project, or if the kids are crawling all over her. Find a time that works, say, "Hey, can we go..." Maybe it's date night.. And it doesn't have to be unromantic, right, but to sit down and talk about some really important things. And then for the women or for those of us that aren't necessarily the ones that are really in charge of money, if we want to get more involved, I'd say it's about timing, tact and tone. And I learned that from Tonya Rapley in the film, and she's so right about that: timing, tact and tone. Try not to sound challenging or confrontational. Really just say, "Can we collaborate on this? I realize I haven't been taking an active role, but it's really important for me now. I want to know more about our money. I want to be involved in some of the decisions about our money. Can we change things up a little bit? And can we sit down and talk about this?"
Natalie - Great advice. And so transitioning a little bit. So we talked about those that are in a relationship or in that sort of household, what wisdom or advice might you have for someone who is single and not in a relationship at this stage, or maybe a young woman that's starting out? What advice do you have for those folks around their personal finances?
Robin - I would say, one, this is great. Number one, if you're working with a company, and if they will match your contribution to your 401k or whatever their retirement plan is, absolutely, 100%, contribute whatever your company will match. If you're not doing that, you are giving away free money. They're literally going to give you money to put toward your retirement, so contribute, put away. It might seem a lot. You might think retirement's a long way away, and it might be, but don't give up that money. That's a real gift. I think that's important. Number two, you don't have to be wealthy to have a financial advisor. So there are a lot of different companies out there that will help you invest, obviously First Republic Bank. And then if you want to start investing, Schwab, you can easily open an account with very little money. And then of course with all these apps that we have now, you can even buy just a slice of a share, right? You can buy just a little bit even on an app from your phone. You can put $10 toward Lululemon or your favorite company, or whatever you want. That was not a stock recommendation, by the way. But start investing, don't be afraid to do that. Think of it as long term. Don't be a day trader. You have to always remember that it's really important not to put all of your money into one stock, you have to be diversified. But definitely start investing, don't keep your money just sitting idle because... Have it grow for you, and over time... Yeah, the last couple weeks have been really scary with the stock market, and it might continue to be, but if you look at where was the market five years ago, you are definitely up since then. And so for us to put money in a little bit at a time and let it grow, and keep it in a long time, you're going to be really happy 30 years from now.
Natalie - Definitely. I will say, personal story, I was young, I was trying to get into investing, and I took the approach of: "Sure, I'll be risky," and never looked at my portfolio again, and just assumed that it would be great. And so that taught me a hard lesson, do not make assumptions. It's your money, be responsible about it, ask questions, get engaged. And I take that lesson with me, it was a hard one to learn. But I think it's okay to make those mistakes because then it stays with you and you recognize you have the ability to make changes in how you're managing your money, and it really is empowering, it's yours; you worked hard for it and you get to watch it grow, or you might make a decision to not do anything with it for a while. So I agree with everything you just said. And then there also was a couple of questions in the chat around just to get started. We talk a lot about a lot of concepts: having a savings account, and wills, and plans, and budgets and investing. What's just something simple that we can all be mindful of to get better about managing our personal finances?
Robin - Oh gosh. I mean, so many things. I think number one, the most important thing for anybody who has a life partner is to just start talking about it, just to become transparent and know about it. If you have a mortgage, know what kind of debt you have, know what kind of money you're putting aside for retirement. I mean, that's the number one thing I would say, is you need to talk to your partner about money so that you become aware of it. The number two thing I would say that we've already talked about is investing. I really think that investing is important. You don't have to do it yourself. You don't have to stock pick. There are so many great intelligent portfolios out there that will rebalance daily or weekly for you so you can have an automatically well diversified portfolio, and I think that's important. Don't expect to... Yeah, it's really hard when you see stocks over the last 10 years; Facebook, and Yelp, and Tesla; that have gone crazy. But I don't think that that's a realistic thing to try to do. I think it's important to put your money in, have it grow slowly but steadily. So we're not talking about day trading, we're talking about investing for the future, long term.
Natalie - Definitely. And as one of our attendees said, you have to have goals and life horizons. So I think that's also something to add to that. You just start thinking more strategically about your finances and what you want to do.
Robin - Well, that's exactly right. And as Brad Klontz says... One of the favorite things in the film that Brad says is that you have to be... We as humans aren't wired to delay gratification, so it's really hard for us to not buy that shiny thing or whatever. But if you're really trying to save money or if you're trying to pay off debt, then the important thing to do is to have your own personal hacks so that we are not tempted by things. And Brad, for example, what he did was he didn't just say savings account, because as he says, "What is savings? Like, it's so random. What does that even mean to any of us?" But if you say my child's college fund, right? So you name it, whatever, Sarah's College Fund. Or let's say you want to do a kitchen remodel, it's like this account is for the kitchen remodel, you're not going to go to that and steal from that to buy a sweater or something, probably not, hopefully not. So you have to sort of learn how you are with money, what your money scripts are, and then set things up for you so that you can be successful in that. Right? That's important. Just don't keep money that you're saving in your checking account because it's too easily accessible, put it into a money market account that's going to earn some interest, put it into investment if it's something that you don't need for a while in the future, and put a label on it so that you know what that money is for.
Natalie - Great. I'm also getting a lot of questions in the chat if you have any recommendations for any robo-advisors or any apps that you think are really good or even things that might be geared more towards a millennial audience.
Robin - Yeah. So again, we'll send everybody... I think if you look in the chat, there's a link to the "$avvy" Impact Hub, and we do list some of our favorites there. There are a lot of other ones that aren't on that site, but I would say that that's a good place to start. If you want to educate yourself, I think NerdWallet is amazing. NerdWallet will tell you what credit cards have the lowest APR, there's a whole glossary of explanations and articles that you can pull from there, so I'm a big fan of NerdWallet. If you do know something about trading and you want to have it be sort of accessible to you, a lot of people like Robinhood. I also will say that there are some people that have gotten themselves in trouble at Robinhood, right? Or not just Robinhood, it doesn't have to do with their app necessarily, it could be any investing. So be careful if you're putting too much money into one particular stock and just understand how volatile the market is right now. Again, I mentioned Ellevest. I do think that, especially for women and millennial women, it's a really great way to learn and to begin to invest, and that is a robo, they do robo-investing, and they can cater that to... I mean, there are fees associated, but the fees are reasonable, and you can cater it to your own sort of whatever risk profile you want, so you can fill out some questions for that. So off the top of my head, those are some of my favorites.
Natalie - So one other piece that your film touched on... Well, your film touched on many pieces, but something that comes to mind is around financial education, especially in schools, and how it shifted where there are... I think it was six states that only require that as part of their curriculum these days. But thinking about that concept, that that's not something that's necessarily taught in schools, what are your thoughts on how financial education and financial literacy will ultimately make this world a better place?
Robin - Yeah, that's a great question. So it's always a little risky to put fact cards in the film because things can change. I've really never had this problem as much with some of my other films because a lot of the societal issues that I deal with in films are systemic problems in society that they don't change that quickly, sadly. But the good news is that that particular fact card has changed. So when we went to print, so to speak, with "$avvy" documentary, only six states had standalone required financial literacy courses in high school, now that's up to 13. So there are a couple different groups that are doing a lot of work to try to get that number... to get more and more states. But when you think about it, still only 13 out of 50 states require it. So how is one to educate themselves if they don't have it? Some people are lucky enough to have parents that are really financially savvy and that can help them and teach them about money, others might have friends who have parents, But it's incredibly important that our schools teach this and teach relevant things, right? It's relevant. It's really important to understand what's compounding interest. How can that hurt you? How can that benefit you? What is a credit score? Why does it matter? How do you improve a credit score? What things can you do that might really be bad for your credit score? These are things that we should have all learned. And even just prepping people for the workplace. I mean, what is a 401k? What are my options if I have a SEP or an IRA, and why is that important? And what's it mean if my company's going to match up to a certain amount of money? Right? All these things are so important that we should learn. And I think especially how to handle credit cards. If we're not learning about any of that in school... If any of you have college kids, you know that starting their junior year, they will receive, like maybe even several a week, invitations to join credit cards. But who's teaching the how to handle these credit cards? It is so easy to get a credit card, which of course we need to establish credit, but then you start using the credit card and think that all you need to do is pay just the minimum and you'll be fine, not understanding that that accruing interest can be incre-
Natalie - I think Robin may have froze. Well, we'll pause, try to get Robin back. But in the meantime, I do just want to highlight that the link to the film was on our website. There also is a link in the chat, we can post it again, with many different resources. And some of you asked a lot of questions, specific questions. And we recommend, definitely, that if you have specific questions around your own personal finances or 401k, one, it's your money, it's your opportunity to get the information. So feel free to schedule time with your financial planner or a financial advisor. Come in with a list of questions. Do not feel ashamed about having so many questions. It's your right to be educated, and so take the opportunity, Make sure you schedule that time. Maybe even do a annual health check, which is great. It's your opportunity. Oh, and we have Robin back. So, Robin, you paused.
Robin - I was rambling.
Natalie - Well, feel free to ramble again, because it was great information.
Robin - I'm not sure where I left off, but continue on. I'm sorry about that.
Natalie - No, I was encouraging-
Robin - It must be the lightning storm that's going on.
Natalie - Oh no. Because we're talking about really good things, so we have to get this information out to people. So I was just reminding people that it's important to schedule time with their financial planner, come in prepared with a list of questions, don't feel shy, take the opportunity maybe to do it every year. So we all get medical checks, look at your finances in the same way; do a financial health check. So I was just giving everyone that reminder in addition to the resources that they can find via the "$avvy" website.
Robin - Perfect. Great.
Natalie - So something that was previous question, and it's come up a lot, which is just around having the conversation. Is there a question that you find really gets people talking about finances or is there a question that breaks the ice when this might be something new to do and talk about finances? Or is there something that you recommend people try out? So you talked about tips and tone and timing, is there anything else if there's someone who wants to start that dialogue with some friends or maybe even their spouse?
Robin - I mean, I think we covered this a little bit in that you need to really choose the right time to talk about money. I think that's important because money is the number one biggest stress in relationships, right? Most people, if they're getting divorced, sadly, or if marriages break up, or if there's just, say, horrible tension in the marriage, it has to do with money. So obviously it's a subject that carries a lot with it. And what that means is that, number one, I think we should all become more comfortable talking about money. We shouldn't feel shame when we're thinking about money or to talk about money. And we should become a little bit more open and accepting about this idea of talking about money, and not necessarily judge other people when we hear them talking about money, right? It's interesting when you think about it. A couple men could be standing at a cocktail party saying, "Boy, you know, I invested in Tesla and it's been really darn great," and, "What about that IPO?" But if a woman came over to a group of women and started talking about that, I promise you there are certain women in the group that would look at me like I was crazy, right? Or, "Wow, she's a little weird," or, "She's a little confident," or whatever. You know? So we have to stop judging each other and we have to start talking more openly about money and become more comfortable with that, and that takes time, a lot of time. But there's a real advantage that men have that women don't have because they do learn from each other about this. And remember, men aren't just innately more savvy about money than women, right? We have equal opportunities to learn and to be good with money. And there are many women who are incredibly, incredibly smart, and brilliant with money. But as... I think that Wendy De La Rosa says this in the film: The person in a relationship that does handle the money more becomes more and more savvy, and the-
Natalie - We can hear you, Robin.
Robin - Okay, good. Sorry about that. Now we're back on. So I just think that that's really important to understand that's why you need to stay involved in it, right? Super important to stay involved and to talk to your partner or your spouse, and let them know that it's not because you think they're not doing a good job. Offer them the fact that you know how stressful it must be at time, and you know what a big job that is for them, and that you want to collaborate. It's about being collaborative.
Natalie - That's a great point. So I think sometimes people get caught up in: "I'm a certain age," or, "By this age I should have X number of dollars saved." Do you think that we should all work towards a certain number or do you think it might change or depend based on the circumstance? And how do we get comfortable with that or even have that discussion as we're collaborating with our partner?
Robin - It's very individual, right? I mean, some people are working really hard to get their kids' college funds paid for, other people are thinking about building a second home. So, I mean, I think it's really up to an individual to discuss that. But I do think having an emergency fund is incredibly important. And we just learned this going through a pandemic. So many women lost their jobs. And men lost their jobs too, women to a higher extent because we had more part-time jobs. And so having an emergency fund. And the emergency fund; if you talk to Suze Orman, she's going to say 9 to 12 months. But I think that can be almost overwhelming to a lot of people, especially young people. So I like to say to young people, let's just think about three to six months to start, and just think about how much do you need to save. How much does your rent cost? How much does insurance cost you? How much does, say, gas, your phone, utilities? Think about all that, and then put that... Try to start saving, right? So in the film you see the hilarious Mrs. Dow Jones talk about how save your $1,000, put it into a separate account called Emergency Fund. And then of course you have to have a pretty good definition of what is an emergency. An emergency is not: "I really need a new winter jacket." Right? An emergency fund is probably more like: "I just lost my job," or, "I am not being treated very well at my job and I don't want to have to stay here, I want time to look for something better." Right? Or, "I'm in a not so great relationship and I need to get out and live on my own," you've got that emergency money. I mean, that's so important to have.
Natalie - Definitely. And thank you for that. I think the biggest key was just to start. So even saving $1,000 is something that's very attainable. And once you save that first 1,000, it gives you a boost, like you did it; check the box, you're able to do more. So those small wins build up to something very large, they build up to 12 months of that emergency fund.
Robin - Yeah. And look into Acorns. I think Acorns is a really cool app that helps you save just by little bits, like every day, just by sort of rounding up certain things and putting a few cents towards savings, or of course you can contribute more. But it's really amazing how quickly things add up.
Natalie - Mm-hmm. Definitely. And even just being prepared. So with maybe information around insurance or medical cards, or those things, do you have any recommendations for how we can be prepared in that sense, especially if we have a spouse or children or loved ones, how to make sure we can access those documents when needed?
Robin - Well, I think Chanel Reynolds in "$avvy" documentary is amazing. She started that website, I don't think I can swear on this platform, but Get Your S-H-I-T Y Together, that's her website, and it's on the "$avvy" Impact Hub. She's amazing. She's got this whole list down there of everything that we should all take care of: a health directive, our wills. In her case, they'd executed their will, or rather they had planned their wills, they never executed them formally with a notary and so they were invalid. And sadly, she lost her husband. So these are things that we really need to take care of. She's put together a comprehensive list of all the things that every one of us, whether we're married or not, should have and should just take care of. Just set yourself a goal, say, "I'm going to do it by the 1st of June," and just take care of that stuff.
Natalie - Definitely. So we're all getting really good advice. So one, make sure we have that emergency fund. Do not stop at $1,000, but that's a great moment, but keep going, make sure we're reading our resources, getting documents in order. But the reality is it is a lot of information, and many times people don't have this sort of conversation at the dinner table with their family, many times the generational wealth gap comes into play. From your standpoint, what are some things that you've noticed dealing with people coming from different backgrounds, different incomes, different ethnicities, that have gone into their own financial health or their confidence around financial planning?
Robin - I really think it's just about getting involved. I think we all become more confident once we start doing it and planning it. So even just finding out, "How much debt do I have? So do I have a student loan? Do I have credit card debt? Do we have a mortgage? Do I have a car loan?" So start looking at that: "Okay, this is what I have, so how am I going to pay that off? And what should I pay off first?" So if your student loan has a pretty low interest rate, it's like 7% or something, but your credit card debt has 17%, well, then you have to think carefully about, "Okay, I should definitely pay down my credit card debt before because that's costing me a lot more money." Right? So I think just being smart about it. But again, you can get financial advice. I want to mention Savvy Ladies. Savvy Ladies is a group that I wish I'd known about when I was going through divorce because they're... It's an amazing organization of women who are certified financial planners, financial analysts, and they will, for free, help you with financial decisions. So if you have a lot of credit card debt and you just don't even know where to start, if you have a few different student loans and want to try to consolidate, if you're going through divorce and don't know what your rights are or how you're going to afford life after divorce, they can help you. So I really suggest that Savvy Ladies organization, it might be savvyladies.org, but, again, it's on our Impact Hub, that you can look at.
Natalie - Wow. Now thinking about maybe retirement strategies, do you think they should differ for men and women, or is it more of a one-size-fits-all model and that's okay?
Robin - Can you ask that question one more time, you froze up on me.
Natalie - Oh, sorry about that. I was saying for regarding retirement strategies, do you think they should differ for men versus women or is a one size-fits-all model okay?
Robin - Well, actually women have more needs for retirement because we live longer than men, we spend more time out of the workforce caring for children and elderly parents, and we sadly earn less still, right? So we only earn about 79 cents to the dollar. So we need to- So I think it's really important for women to be able to start saving early and to save enough, understanding that women will likely have less social security and will live longer, at least on average we do.
Natalie - Now, just taking that a step further. What if the person who's saving might be self-employed or a entrepreneur that does not have a lot of money coming in, do you think there's anything that you would suggest that that person do in order to prioritize planning for the future or even thinking about retirement for them?
Robin - Somebody who doesn't have a lot of extra money coming in?
Natalie - Doesn't have a lot of extra money and they're self-employed, so there's a little bit of a difference than those working at a company with different... with like 401ks in place.
Robin - I would say it's worth finding a financial advisor to help. Because if you're self-employed you can establish a SEP or an IRA, and then every year you can put a certain amount in that's tax deferred. Again, I'm not a financial planner so I can't advise on that, but I do know that I'm in the same situation and I was able to find a financial planner that... and an accountant, actually, who's very knowledgeable and was able to help me set up a retirement fund as an entrepreneur.
Natalie - Great. Thank you. So turning back to the film a bit, and there were so many stories, but can you share with us maybe something that was on the cutting room floor, maybe a tip or a conversation you have with someone that did not make it into the film that you can talk to us about right now?
Robin - You know, it's so hard to edit a film because there are so many amazing stories. And we had a really wonderful outpouring of women that shared their stories with us. And I'm so grateful to those that that did and, of course, to those that made it into the film. I think that the cost of healthcare and especially healthcare for women is a really big issue that we wished we could have had time to include but we didn't. But healthcare is very, very expensive, and it's especially expensive for women with women's health issues. And so that's something that unfortunately we weren't able to cover; and maybe to go a little bit deeper into this, what we're calling the pink tax and this idea that things cost more for women. Other than that, we really identified what we felt were the most important issues that not just women, of course, women and men, because it was important to me not to marginalize a male audience either. I did make this film for women because that's who I was obviously identifying with at the time that I wanted to make it, and because women, in general, need more help with this than men do. However, all of this information is relevant to men as well. Understanding your credit score and student loans, credit card debt, all of that, is equally important.
Natalie - I think something that stuck out to me, it was the couple that was speaking and the woman knew her partner's debt numbers and sort of how much his expenses were, she knew it off the top of her head. And I think from a gender stereotype standpoint, we're like, "Oh, that's usually the man that knows all of these details." So it was nice to see the reverse, but also their interaction, that he was open to it and that that's part of their relationship.
Robin - That's Caitlin Boston, she's amazing and she's a powerhouse. And I think that was an interesting scene to film too, because in a couple early cuts it appeared as though she was somewhat emasculating; and in our society, that's not great. And again, I didn't want it to come across that way because they actually have a really beautiful relationship. And their dynamic is such that there are things that he teaches her and that he is an expert on and there are things that she's teaching him. And one of the things in their relationship was that Caitlin had paid off $220,000 worth of student loan debt. She understood how to consolidate debt. She understood ow it was important to look at which things to pay off first, how to keep her credit score high, how to negotiate for higher pay at a new job. And so those were things that she was able to help him with, and that wasn't his forte. He was kind of more happy-go-lucky, whatever, "I'm making money, I'm spending money," and not really worrying about it that much. So that was such an important sort of scene to me in that relationship, and a lot of people really can respond and can relate, rather, to that scene.
Natalie - That was great. Thinking of scenes, so there was another young woman in the film who talked about being in an abusive relationship and feeling like she did not have the funds to leave and change her circumstance. So we do have a question from a participant. What are your thoughts? Do you think that women should have a secret fund or a private stash that they could use if they need to leave or maybe if they get a divorce in the future?
Robin - I think that in a really good... ideally in a good, solid relationship, you want everything to be transparent. you don't want to have secret anything, anymore than you would want your partner to have anything secret. But I do think you should have your own bank account, absolutely, and I think that that could be your emergency fund, right? But I think it's incredibly important for, number one, women to have a way to make money. I tell this to all my daughters and my daughters' friends. Even when you start having children, keep a foot in the working world, have a way that you can make money. You don't ever know if you're going to become 45 and divorced, or widowed, or if you're going to be 25, God forbid, and end up on your own. But you have to have a way to make money, that is so important. Your man is not your plan. Do not rely on anybody else for money and in order to make money, because I think that that's really dangerous to do that. So I don't believe you should have a secret account, but I believe that you should absolutely have your own money. And then in a lot of relationships, it works best to say, "Okay, look, I'm going to have my account, you can have your account, and then why don't we have our joint funds?" And that joint fund is for if we're living together, right? For the mortgage or for rent, or for when we're out to dinner together, or when we're going to go to a concert together, or your vacation together. Right? So it really depends on the couple and how you work dynamically. But absolutely, yes, I believe everybody should have their own account. It doesn't mean you can't have a shared account too, but have your own account.
Natalie - Mm-hmm. And I think that's great advice for us to all consider, and the ability to make money. So to make sure you have agency and empowerment but that you're active in this space with your partnership, it means a lot. So we're winding down on time, just a few minutes left. But I will keep an eye out on the chat to see if there's one last question. But while I'm waiting on that, Robin, are there any thoughts or advice that you would like to leave with the audience?
Robin - I just want people to know that money doesn't have to be scary, it's actually incredibly motivating and exhilarating, really, and, yeah, stressful too sometimes, but to be in charge of your own money. I think that we need to start talking about money more. I think that we need to be financially independent. I think that we need to, as women, start to invest and really take pride in the fact that we know where we stand financially in this world. And Farnoosh Torabi says, toward the end of the film, "When women become financially savvy, the world becomes a better place." And I truly believe that because it's about collaboration. It's about men, women, and people of all different... non-binary individuals coming together to make the world a better place and to however we can put our money to work to better the world, right? So women having access to that, taking ownership, and being financially active is a really great thing for the world.
Natalie - Thank you. Thank you, Robin. And it's interesting because one of the questions that just popped up is around the intimidation factor. And so what you stated are all the reasons which will help with us being less intimidated in these spaces, but making sure that we are advocating for ourselves and it's not always about being wealthy to get this information, but this is our right and this is something... there are resources that we can find, but really getting engaged and involved. So from that standpoint, this has been very exciting, very educational. We have your site. I think we plugged that. And that's pretty much all that I-
Robin - Natalie, can I just address one question I'm seeing in the chat now to-
Natalie - Yeah.
Robin - A young woman is saying... I'm guessing it's a young... She says that she has a 401k but that she's never talked to a manager or anybody at her work about it. Absolutely go to human resources, go to whoever's managing the employment at your company and sit down with them. I mean, it's part of their job. Unfortunately nobody really helps you with that. You're supposed to read through all these pages, sign a bunch of things when you first get a job with a company. Most people don't even know what a 401k because we haven't been taught in college anything about that. And so absolutely ask questions. Your employment office at your company, that's their job, is to teach you what your options are, to teach you how it works. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't feel like you're not intelligent because of that. You're at that job for a reason, they want you. Value yourself, know how important you are in that company. And ask questions. There's no dumb question when it comes to money, right? But this is not innate knowledge, I mean, it's stuff that we have to learn, all of us, so... And it might be different from one company to the next, too, how that works, right? So it's just really important to not be afraid and to, yes, sit down with your manager or with the human resource group and ask them all about it.
Natalie - That's a good point. And I also want to piggyback on that and say that we're constantly learning at every stage of our life. So what you're hearing at 25 might resonate a little bit differently than what you're thinking about at 35 or 55. So it is important to keep asking those questions at every stage in your life. So thank you for that reminder. Yes, everyone, go to your HR rep, ask the questions, and get the information. So with that, thank you, Robin. We really appreciate you for speaking with us today. It was very memorable. We learned a lot. There's a lot of important stories about women and personal finances that we've learned through your film "$avvy." As a reminder, a replay of this session is available on the First Republic website in a little bit, and we will make sure to share those resources. So thank you everyone for joining in, and have a good afternoon. Take care.
Robin - Thank you. Thank you, Natalie.