We’re excited to introduce you to Lisa! She’s learned the importance of “saving herself” and being mindful and content. And just because Lisa is a high earner, doesn’t mean she doesn’t have money challenges. We think you’ll enjoy her story and find some inspiration for your own financial journey! Feel free to ask her any questions in the comments or just to say hello.
If you’d like to be considered for an interview or to share your story, send us a note.
Inspiring Money Stories: Lisa
1) Introduce Yourself to The WwM Readers!
Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a 30-something singleton lawyer from the DC area who blogs at TheGiveAndGet.I initially thought I’d write about tips and tricks for saving money but the blog has evolved more into how to create a happy and meaningful life using money as a tool. I’m not as interested in advice on “how to save 50% off a new dress” as I am intrigued by the habit of buying 3 dresses on sale, having nothing to wear and continuing this cycle of buying and regret. When do you have enough? How can you use money to feel abundant instead of frustrated? How much of your life do you want to spend buying dresses you’re not going to wear?
I’m also interested in how money affects our relationships. Sometimes I analyze my past dating relationships and I talk to other people about their dating lives and how their money scripts have affected their relationships. It’s so interesting to see how deeply ingrained our money beliefs are.
2) Did your parents teach you about money as a child? Did your family’s money situation influence you as an adult?
My parents taught by example. They emigrated to the U.S. with very little money. They adopted a frugal lifestyle out of necessity and a belief in environmentalism. Even though they’re comfortable now, they still keep these same habits. They eat out infrequently. Their furniture is decades old. Waste is the worst thing – your wallet cries and Mother Earth cries. I think most people would think I’m quite frugal, but I’m extravagant compared to my parents. Mostly, I try to be efficient and spend mindfully.
I think the very best thing I’ve learned from growing up with my parents is how to be content. My parents were middle class with 3 kids. We couldn’t go on big vacations every year, but my parents were excited to explore the country. So we would go on road trips to not-so-exotic places like Dayton, Ohio, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee or Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. People would be confused why we would go to such lame places, but I had no expectation for anything better and there’s no point in complaining about it. You learn to entertain yourself. You can be bored in Paris or having a blast in Pigeon Forge – it’s really up to you.
I’ve read Dan Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness, and he cites research to show that people don’t know what will make them happy. So we spend all our lives chasing things and we are confused when we’re not happy. The same thing happens with money but we can spend money a lot faster than we can spend time. We have to be mindful both with our time and our money.
I still use a couch I bought for $40 and I can’t imagine how a more expensive couch would make me happier. That’s what I mean by being mindful. Being mindful and being content are such superpowers.
3)What do you think is one of the most difficult money or career challenges for women?
I think we’re in a really interesting time for feminism in America. Our mothers fought for women to be equals in the workforce and now more and more top women are choosing to stay at home because it’s too hard to make it in the workforce or because they’ve married highly educated men, they don’t need to work and want to spend their time raising their children.
It’s certainly every woman’s choice to do whatever makes sense for them but en masse, it has consequences. I think there’s still some dichotomy as to whether feminism is about choice or equality. It becomes more difficult for women to succeed in the workforce if all these educated, wealthy women are choosing to stay at home. We still have a long ways to go to make workplaces as women-friendly as they can be, but the realistic future may still be that workplaces are male-dominated if many women have the choice and decide to stay at home.
It’s a totally valid and difficult choice. One choice is not easier or better than the other. But I had expected that all these women I went to college with, we’d all be storming the glass ceiling together. Instead, most of my compatriots are at home. And I hadn’t thought of it before (I assumed I would work), but I wonder if my life is supposed to be like that too.
4) Did you have a big “aha” moment related to your finances?
I had two big aha moments. One was during the Obama administration. I was throwing money at my loans (I paid off $112k in 18 months) and student loans often came up in political conversations. I really thought at some point that we, the indebted, would have some kind of savior from our collective massive loan debt. Obviously, nothing happened and waiting for it would not have done me any good. But at some point, while paying my loans, I had a realization that hey, I have to be my own savior, in my finances and in my life. This same thing came into play when I had assumed I would marry my fiance but our engagement ended. Then I realized, I was on my own – I am my own savior.
The second aha moment is when I accepted that I was wealthy. I mean, my peers don’t think I’m wealthy. But compared to the rest of the country, I’m at the tippy top. And it’s an unexpected place to view the world. I always thought I’d have a pretty average job. And I think, as a woman, we are not expected to earn much. So much of what women are taught is about navigating the world as a bit of an underclass person. It’s drilled in us that women make less than men. And personal finance for women is about how not to depend on men.
I cover this in my blog but that’s a different reality than I’m in. I’m trying to navigate a world where I assume I will make twice as much or more than the man I’m dating. The last guy I dated – I made 3x his salary. My worry is not about being a damsel in distress but about how to navigate these relationships with empathy and fairness.
5) What does your work-life balance look like? What do you do to stay healthy?
I have no idea what work-life balance is. I spend a lot of time working or thinking about work. The important thing for me is to make progress on my own goals. You can spend 90% of your time at work and 10% on goals, but if you are still making progress toward your goals, it might still be ok. The worst is when you’re too crazed at work to make any progress on your private life goals. That’s when you’re out of balance. (But 90-10% is very skewed and I wouldn’t recommend it for very long).
6) Most important piece of advice/How would you like to help good friend who struggles with money
The most amazing realization for me was that my daily habits really determine my success. For instance, I read 70 books last year. I’m sure someone else would say, I could never do that – I don’t have time to read 70 books! Most people think they can’t do it because they can only think in big steps. They’re thinking about sitting down and reading a whole book 70 days of the year. But I don’t do that. Instead, I read every day for about a half hour. I’ll read on my commute, when I’m waiting in lines, before I go to bed.
Most big things are accomplished every day with teeny tiny steps. When I look back at the money I’ve saved, it was really a bunch of tiny little good habits – not some monumental moves. So if you’re moving in the right direction even with teeny tiny steps, you will see results. It’s like that saying – people overestimate what they can do in a day but underestimate what they can do in a year.
7) Is there anything else you’d like to share with our Women who Money readers?
I think it can be so easy to overwhelm yourself with negative news and self-pity and then feel that there’s nothing to be done in the world or with your own life. I’m not saying we should be Polyannas who ignore the things that are bad. But what are you going to do – wallow for the rest of your life? This is your life. You can do anything you want. What I try to do is focus on what I can control and make a difference where I can.
The WwM Team’s Key Takeaways from our Interview with Lisa:
Lisa shared some terrific insights in this interview. We’re going to share our favorite lines as takeaways from her interview!
- You can be bored in Paris or having a blast in Pigeon Forge – it’s really up to you.
- Being mindful and content are such superpowers.
- But I had expected that all these women I went to college with, we’d all be storming the glass ceiling together. Instead, most of my compatriots are at home.
- At some point, while paying my loans, I had the realization that hey, I have to be my own savior, in my finances and in my life.
- My worry is not about being a damsel in distress but about how to navigate these relationships (with men who make much less money) with empathy and fairness.
- Most big things are accomplished every day with teeny tiny steps.
Thanks for sharing your terrific story, Lisa!
If you’d like to be considered for an interview or to share your story, send us a note.