How To Advocate For Your Financial Future, with Lisa Stone
Episode 34: How To Advocate For Your Financial Future, With Lisa Stone
Lisa Stone is a Principal in Bernstein Global Wealth Management, however, when she started her career that’s not what she set off to do -- she was heading to another country, bright-eyed and hopeful, with the vision of changing the world. Yet, life happens, and she went into finance. She has now been at Bernstein for 13 years. In this episode, Lisa shares her career journey, how to become comfortable (and successful) doing sales, picking a financial advisor, the bag lady syndrome, and more.
00:13 Kristy Wallace: Hello and welcome to the Ellevate podcast. We're really excited that you've chosen to join us here today. But before we get started, Maricella, tell me how was your holidays?
00:23 Maricella: Hey, Kristy. They were pretty chill. Friends, saw the parade, had some fun. My brother was visiting.
00:32 KW: Oh, fun. From where?
00:34 Maricella: He lives in Finland. Yeah, I got to see him every once in a while.
00:38 KW: Thanksgiving does not have the significance to him?
00:41 Maricella: No, honestly not. To me, I think it's great holiday, but I'm from El Salvador so we don't have that traditionally. It's a nice four day weekend.
00:53 KW: There was a really interesting article, I think in the New York Times about a week ago, that talked about... It profiled people from different ethnic backgrounds and what they did on Thanksgiving, and how they evolved traditional Thanksgiving food into foods that fit their culture. Someone made pumpkin flan, or a turkey stuffed with rice noodles and carrots and wrapped in Rice paper, almost like a...
01:28 Maricella: Whole turkey roll?
01:28 KW: Spring roll. Yeah. It was a good article. Really delicious food options. I actually had fried chicken on Thanksgiving.
01:37 Maricella: Really? No turkey?
01:39 KW: No. We are hosting... We're doing a lot of family stuff the next couple of weeks, so we decided to do it low key and we ordered fried chicken, 'cause that was what was available, and it was delicious.
01:51 Maricella: Wait, but you also told me you were going to the soup kitchen.
01:55 KW: Yes. My husband and I, we have three kids, and for us it's very important that they learn the value of volunteering and giving back. And recognizing that... Now I'm getting all choked up talking about this, but in recognizing that not everyone is as fortunate as they are. So we went to Craftbar which is a Tom Colicchio restaurant in the City, becomes a soup kitchen, serving food to those less fortunate in New York City on Thanksgiving. We went there and my kids worked the lines, handing out corn bread and cleaning dishes and giving out lots of smiles. It was nice.
02:35 Maricella: Oh, I love that. I really love that. Especially today, today's Giving Tuesday for those of you who don't know. It's a big day for giving. So let us know how you gave back this year. Tweet at us @EllevateNtwk use the #ellevatepod and the #givingtuesday.
02:54 KW: Yeah, there's so many ways for us as individuals in a community to give back. When you think about your money, of course always helps by... Where you spend your money, donating money, your time volunteering, your thought and skills, serving on a board, non-profit board is hugely impactful. I serve on two. All of that can really help to have a positive impact on those in need. I think also raising awareness about the causes that are important to you, sharing it on social media, sharing it with your communities, letting others know about the opportunities to also support companies that you care about and causes you care about. So please speak up, use your voice. Use your time, your money.
03:47 Maricella: Use your social capital.
03:48 KW: Yeah, your social capital to drive change and to get involved in the Giving Tuesday conversation, but beyond that, everyday. We're very fortunate, I'm very fortunate and so I'm always thinking about how I can give back and how I can raise my kids to do so as well.
04:06 Maricella: I love that.
04:08 KW: Today we have Lisa Stone who is one of the New York City Chapter leaders at Ellevate.
04:14 Maricella: She also gives back quite a bit.
04:15 KW: Yes. She does give back quite a bit. Thank you, Lisa. But in her day job, Lisa is a principal in the Senior Investment Advisor Group at Bernstein Global Wealth Management. Lisa has some great insights to share with us today including her term, "Bag Lady Syndrome," which we're gonna get to in just a few minutes. But, Maricella, I know you have some stats you want to share with us today?
04:38 Maricella: Of course. We asked our members which of these causes you the most personal anxiety? The number one answer was, "Work or my business" with 36%. Then, "My personal finances" came in second with 33% of responses. Which is sort of what Lisa talks about with the Bag Lady Syndrome.
05:00 KW: Absolutely.
05:02 Maricella: 11% said, "My personal relationships." Another 11% said, "My kids" and 10% said, "All of the above."
05:09 KW: I remember taking this poll. And if you subscribed to The Ellevate Morning Boost you have the opportunity to take the poll as well. And I chose "All of the above" because my children, my relationships, my finances and my work all lead to stress. But the key is how you manage that and we've talked in previous podcasts about the value of wine, and meditation, and therapy, all important, all very important. But yeah, there's lots of stresses on us as individuals and as women so it's important to be aware of that and to learn how to manage it.
05:48 Maricella: Absolutely. Wine, meditation, exercise. Not necessarily in that order.
05:54 KW: I started taking Kickboxing.
05:56 Maricella: You did?
05:57 KW: Yes.
05:57 Maricella: When?
05:58 KW: It is the best thing ever.
06:00 Maricella: Really? I feel like I'm gonna... I wanted to try it, but I feel like if I do it, I will not be able to breathe.
06:09 KW: No, it's good. It might be different in other places, but it's definitely some cardio. But you learn some great physical defense skills which are important, and get a lot of aggression out because there's lots of punching and kicking, it's fantastic.
06:23 Maricella: Oh my God! I should so try that out.
06:24 KW: Yeah, you can come with me sometime.
06:25 Maricella: Yeah, I'll have to join you.
06:27 KW: I highly recommend it. Yeah. I'll bring you, we can get some pictures.
06:30 Maricella: Sounds good.
06:31 KW: Alright, let's get to Lisa.
06:48 KW: Welcome Lisa, we're so happy to have you here today.
06:51 Lisa Stone: Thank you. I'm excited to be here.
06:52 KW: Why don't you share with our listeners a little bit about yourself and your career.
06:57 LS: Well, in summary, I was born and raised in New York City on the upper west side, and I live a block away from where I grew up now. And I went to Smith College and majored in African-American studies which was a natural lead up to becoming a financial advisor. So I graduated from college thinking I was going to go abroad and save the world and, unfortunately, a civil war broke out in the country I was headed for. So I found myself having to find a job very quickly. And through a series of twists and turns, I stumbled into a startup financial software company where I was the 12th employee, and when I left, I was running global sales, and we were up to about 150 employees. From there, I was starting to think about making a change and I was contacted by Bernstein about becoming a financial advisor, and first I thought they must be contacting me by mistake. Because as I told them, I knew nothing about investing, and I didn't have any rich relatives and I wasn't even particularly interested in investing. But they convinced me to come in for an interview and, as they say, the rest is history. That was 13 years ago.
08:24 KW: Wow. Totally random question off topic, but it's very interesting your college major, and I think about this a lot. I was an English major, English and Sociology double major in college. And it was one of those moments, I loved every minute of it until it was the end of my senior year and everyone's like, "What are you gonna do when you graduate?" And I'm like, "I don't know." And I remember calling my parents like, "Why did you not tell me that this does not lead to a career path," and it did, it did. Just not an obvious one at the time. Has that helped you, hurt you, had no effect on your future career?
09:03 LS: Well, strangely, I can't imagine any major that I could have chosen that would have been more helpful than what I did. I'm a big believer in liberal arts education, and fortunately I've had bosses over the years who believed that if you hire the right person, you could teach them the subject matter. And the way I ended up choosing that as a major, is I went to college with no plan whatsoever, no idea what I wanted to do with my life. But I took the advice quite literally about just studying whatever was interesting to me and the rest would fall into place. And my freshman year I took just an intro to African-American studies, and I just had a fabulous teacher and ended up choosing that as a major.
09:54 KW: Did sales scare you? 'Cause I did sales for a while in my first foray into that scared the crap out of me. I was like, "I am not a salesperson," and fortunately I became one. But was that scary to you or just completely natural?
10:08 LS: Well, I'd say probably more natural. I started off in high school. I worked all throughout high school, and my first job was a sales person on the floor in the gap. And that will get you over fear of sales pretty quickly working in retail. It also gives you a lot of good information about what you don't want to do with the rest of your life. And I ended up working in a series of sales jobs and telemarketing jobs throughout high school and college. And when I started off in my first job out of college, I started off as a sales assistant and then we were just a fast growing company, so I very quickly became a salesperson there. And at some point I just decided to get comfortable with it and embrace it, and sales is not Willy Loman. It's not pushy telemarketing. It's really about relating to people and that's the thing I love the most.
11:14 KW: Yeah, I couldn't agree more. I think everything that you do in business is some form of sales. You're creating relationships. You're trying to get someone to buy into your idea, your product, your company and having those skills goes a long way.
11:31 LS: Yeah, I really believe that. I mean, everything in life is sales and I always tell my children that. And people are endlessly fascinating, so if you're someone who's just a student of the human race, sales is the most interesting job in the world.
11:49 KW: Your product... You are a financial advisor, tell us what that is.
11:55 LS: In my role as a financial advisor, I'm responsible for bringing new clients into the firm to invest their money, and also to manage the relationship on an ongoing basis. Which a lot of that means bringing the various other resources of my firm to the table as needed at the appropriate times. And I have a wonderful support team who do a lot of the day-to-day leg work, a lot of the administrative tasks, a lot of the day-to-day customer requests. And I spend my day trying to solve problems for clients and help them reach their goals.
12:41 KW: What point should someone reach out to a financial advisor?
12:45 LS: I think it's incredibly valuable even before you have any money to invest, and just starting to think about being a grown up and being financially responsible for yourself. One of the aspects of my job that I love is oftentimes my clients ask me to meet with their college age, or young adult children and help just to educate them about the basics of investing. And in most cases these people don't have any assets or any significant assets to invest, but just helping them think about some of the basic principles, the importance of contributing to their company's 401K, understanding the strength of compounding. And I think the sooner you start, the better. And it's really encouraging to see how many young people really do take this seriously.
13:42 KW: How do you pick a good financial advisor?
13:44 LS: I think a lot of it is word of mouth and someone that's recommended by someone you trust. I think a lot is really understanding some basic things about the way the industry is structured, so you know what you're looking for, what type of firm you want to be with, or whether you want someone who's just completely independent and not affiliated with the firm. But at the end of the day, I really think the most important thing is that you feel comfortable with the person you're working with, and you feel like you can discuss difficult topics and share your hopes and fears, and a lot of it's very, very personal. So if you're not comfortable talking to that person, it's not going to be a successful relationship.
14:30 KW: Yeah, I remember when my husband and I bought our house and a friend said, "Well, what did your financial advisor think about this?" And we looked at each other and we were like, "We didn't call him." And that was like, "Oops! Okay. Clearly, our relationship is not the way it should be, 'cause that was a huge moment and we should have absolutely called him." So we switched, I mean, that's a good indicator that if you're not thinking, "Oh, let me call this person and talk to them," that something's not right there. You've talked a lot about the "Bag lady syndrome" which I think is really interesting, particularly relevant to our audience. Could you share a little bit about that with us?
15:08 LS: Sure. A big part of the practice that I've developed over my years at Bernstein has been working with women. I work with a lot of men too, but among women there are a few different demographics that people generally fall within. So I work with lots of women executives, and business owners, and sophisticated people in financial services. But I work with the whole gamut, so I also work with a lot of women who have just gone through a divorce, or recent widows who have never been responsible for managing their own finances. One of the common threads that I've seen with women in general, much more so than with men, is just the fear of running out of money. That's what we call the "Bag lady syndrome." And I can tell you, just based on my experience, there is no correlation between how much money someone has and how much they worry about running out of money. And probably, if I was going to put together a study, I would say probably the more money someone has the more they worry about it.
16:22 KW: Why do you think women tend to worry more about this. Is it because we live longer or more conservative? Am I applying some generalizations that are unfair? Educate me. Tell me.
16:35 LS: There are a lot of reasons. You're absolutely right. Women do tend to live longer. They tend to outlive their husband, so even if they have handed that all over to their husbands or partners to take care of, it's likely they're going to outlive that person. I think women, unfortunately, are much more likely to suffer from what I call the "Prince Charming syndrome" and just bury their heads in the sand, and hope that someone's going to come along and rescue them. And whether you have a partner who provides for you financially or not, I think it's incredibly important for everyone, and especially for women, to understand their financial picture, to know what... To have a plan, to understand the plan and to be comfortable asking questions, and have someone to go to who can answer those questions.
17:30 KW: So what's the first step of understanding your financial picture?
17:33 LS: The first step is taking an assessment of what you have. And even if it's nothing, you have to look at retirement savings, work based plans, any other savings you might have, what you might have in your checking account under the mattress. Think about any future events that will impact you financially such as a... Buying a home or an inheritance you may be expecting.
18:04 KW: Or having children in the very expensive New York city area.
18:08 LS: Yes, and yeah. We can't forget that one.
18:10 KW: Yes. [chuckle]
18:11 LS: And really think about what your goals are and take an honest assessment of what you have. Then you need to look at what your income is, and the really tough part that everyone struggles with, is figuring out what their expenses are. One of the things I say to everyone that I start working with is to remove the embarrassment of not knowing how much they spend, because nobody knows or a very few people really know. So it's taking a hard look realistically what your lifestyle is costing you, and from there putting together a plan. And I think another reason people don't do this is they don't want to know the truth, which might be that they need to make adjustments to their lifestyle if they're not gonna run out of money, or if they are going to reach the goals that they've set for themselves.
19:04 KW: Yeah, so I have to tell you, every year during tax time, I'm huge into Excel. I love Excel, it's my baby.
19:12 LS: Excel's your friend.
19:13 KW: And I download all of my accounts and I put into a sheet, and then I tag everything and see how much we spent on... Here's how much we spent on groceries, and here's how much we spent on diapers and clothes. I do have a separate category for wine. That is probably, it's not even a joke, the category that is always like, "Wow, really?" And then I try to be like, "We had a lot parties. That must have been that."
19:36 LS: Right. It's all about entertaining.
19:37 KW: But I mean, that is part of it. I mean it all adds up and when you look at the major places you spend your money, for us it's often travel. And it's easy to say, "Oh, you like travel and it's enjoyable, but it can be very expensive." And so it is having that hard conversation and maybe it's, "Okay, we're not... We can't do so many trips this year because we're not paying the credit card bills, or we wanna invest in a house or something else."
20:04 LS: It's really... Ultimately, it's much less stressful to know the reality than to ignore it.
20:13 KW: Yeah, absolutely. You are a phenomenal networker.
20:19 LS: Thank you.
20:20 KW: I'm always impressed when I see you at events and just everyone I meet knows you, which is really fun. Give your tips, share your tips.
20:29 LS: Well, I'm a little bit slow to the game in the social media thing, so I am a huge proponent of face time. And I'm not big on phone. I don't mind exchanging information by email and texting, but when it comes to getting to know someone I really think there's no substitute for looking each other in the eye. And people assume that I'm an extrovert and assume that most people that do a lot of networking are extroverts, but the reality is nobody's comfortable walking into a room full of strangers. It's stressful for anyone and it's really facing that fear. People to me, and I think if you ask the right questions to anyone, people are just endlessly fascinating. I don't go into most networking events with a particular goal of, "I wanna collect five business cards, or I wanna meet such and such person." I really just try and go with an open mind and just have interesting conversations, and if you're genuinely interested in people, it just... Things flow from there.
21:41 KW: Yeah. How do you invest in women? How do you give back?
21:46 LS: Well, definitely I enjoy working with young women; whether it's a formal mentoring arrangement or just other women that I work with. And so I really always make myself available to... Anytime anyone wants to meet with me. As long as they can find a time on my calendar, I'm really happy to meet with anyone. And so that's one thing. I think I do a lot of education to women, not just about investing and financial matters, but about balancing work and life, and just career paths and overcoming obstacles. And I do that a lot, just day-to-day meeting with people. And I also host a lot of events on different topics that are of interest to women and often times men as well.
22:45 KW: Absolutely.
22:46 LS: One thing I really do always try and remember is, no matter how successful you are, how big your business is; I really value the time I spend with anyone. And I really try and make time for anyone who wants to spend time with me. And you just never know where it's going to go and I just love helping people.
23:12 KW: That's so important. And it's human interaction and relationships which defines so much of who we are, and where we're going and the connections we have. And it's really important and we lose some of that, particularly with technology and fast paced life, and being in New York City and all of the various computing interests. But staying true to that and being open to meeting new people and giving back to them without the expectation of something in return, is really what life's about.
23:45 LS: Right, right. And look, we're all people. We all have our struggles. Other people's problems may not seem important to you, but to them they're important. And I think it's all about just being authentic and being true to yourself, and remembering you're never too important to help other people.
24:08 KW: Well, thanks for joining us today, Lisa. It was great to have you here.
24:10 LS: Thank you.
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