Hi Michelle, we’re so happy to be working with you for The Bullish Conference! First, tell us about you! Where do you live, what did you study in school – and what is the most bullish thing about your life?
I’m excited to work with y’all too! A little about me: I’m a fiduciary financial advisor and financial coach based out of Atlanta, GA. I got my degree in International Studies from the University of Chicago, then taught Theatre for a year before going back to school to get my MBA. This led me to my work in financial services industry. I’d say the most bullish thing about me is that when I’m passionate about a project, I really make it my own and put my spin on it. I don’t like to do things because “they’ve always been done this way.” In my life and in my work, my goal is to constantly learn about the world around me and then actually apply what I’ve learned.
OK! So tell us how you started Young + Scrappy (love the name!)
I’m a big Hamilton fan, so when I was still working at my last job as a consultant for financial advisors, I had drawn all over my office window with the phrase, “young, scrappy, and hungry,” from one of the songs in the musical. It became my refrain as I navigated being on the executive team of this small Knoxville-based startup—work that was intellectually stimulating but made me feel like I wasn’t giving back. Because I had both the marketing and finance backgrounds, plus I had gotten to know the good, the bad, and the ugly of financial advice, I was convinced I could do it better. More than that, I wanted to make money less scary for people like me: young people, LGBTQ+ people, entrepreneurs and hustlers, people who weren’t rich… just regular people. In January of 2017, I quit my job, and six months later, Young + Scrappy was born.
Were you always good with money? What was your biggest-ever money f*ckup? (And, I guess, what did you learn from it? Although everyone likes reading about relatable f*ckups!)
I was never bad with money, though I’ve made a f*ckup or two in my day. I left my first real job as a teacher after just a year, and instead of rolling over my 401(k), I cashed it out and went to Europe. The trip was a great experience, but I hate thinking about how much that money would’ve grown since then. I tell this story to clients a lot because they feel awful for not knowing about personal finance. But look, I wasn’t really taught this stuff either—I didn’t really start to understand any of it until I got a Master’s in Business—and so it’s never too late to learn.
So, I often see ads about “no fee” financial advisors. No fee sounds good, right? But it sounds like you’re saying it’s a bit of a trick.
It is a bit of a trick. When an advisor doesn’t take a fee, it often means they’re getting paid in the form of commissions. This means two things: 1. It’s not always clear how much those commissions are. 2. They have an incentive to sell you what nets them the most commission, not which products are actually consistent with your long-term best interest. To me, it feels an awful lot like taking advice from a car salesman or a pharmaceutical rep.
Contrast this approach with a fiduciary advisor. We may get paid on an ongoing basis, but our fees are transparent, and we are legally and ethically required to put a client’s best interest first. You’d think this would be a standard for everyone, but it’s not—so be careful out there.
How do your sessions work? Is this nationwide? Online?
While I do love in-person meetings with my local clients, my business is definitely nationwide. I can do all of my usual investment management, financial planning, and financial coaching work through phone or video conference as well.
What should women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s be most focused on with their money?
I think there are a handful of things. First, regardless of your age, you should have an idea of where your money is going. Ideally, this would be a full-blown budget, but at the very least, a list of your big expenses. Second, you should have an emergency fund. If this seems like an impossible dream, start with a goal of $1000, then work your way up to the typical 3-6 months’ expenses. Finally, these years are the best time to build a solid foundation for retirement—the earlier the better. Even if you’re worried about making ends meet, contribute enough in your employer 401(k) to get any potential company match, or if you don’t have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, open up an IRA or Roth IRA and start contributing. Even $50-100/month while you get your feet beneath you is a great start, but ideally by age 40 you should be contributing 10-15% of your income towards retirement.
There’s more than that obviously, but you can read about all that stuff on my website, otherwise this blog post would be more of a novel 😉
Young + Scrappy offers services specifically for LGBT+ people. What’s different with finance for this group of people?
For me, the biggest part of it is acceptance of their identity and lifestyle. Even beyond “traditional” gay and lesbian issues, I work with a lot of transgender, non-binary, and polyamorous humans. It’s so rewarding to help them navigate a system that is clearly designed for two genders, two partners, etc. I’m bisexual, queer, and poly, so I get that they’re not here for a lecture about their personal choices—they just want to get their financial s*it together like anybody else.
What’s feminist about money management? Or, how does feminism relate to what you do?
I have definitely been called a “feminist financial advisor” in the past, which is true. Because I work with a lot of women, my work often centers around helping them understand their value and self-advocate, regardless of whether they choose a corporate path or build your own business. I also take seriously my goal of encouraging more money conversations in general, both for/among women, between partners, and even in the workplace. Until we’re able to have constructive conversations about money without guilt or shame, we have no hope of making progress on issues such as the wage gap for women and people of color.
Personal question – what’s your motivational routine? Do you have a song, a caffeinated beverage, a special desk setup?
Oooh, that’s a great question. I do think I get my best work done on the patio of a coffee shop with an iced coffee and a chocolate chip cookie. Beyond that, I am a big believer in using checklists to keep myself focused and prioritized, which live in a series of tiny Field Notes brand notebooks.
What can we expect hangin’ with you at The Bullish Conference – and what can we expect if we set up a consultation with you online?
If you see me at the Bullish Conference, come and say hey! I love meeting new people, despite my status as an awkward introvert money nerd. There may or may not be gin and swearing involved, along with a healthy dose of real talk about life. If you set up a consultation with me onlinethere will be zero gin, but just as much swearing and real talk. I’m grateful to work in a role that allows me to be true to my personality even in professional matters 😉 If you set up a free intro call, I’ll ask you candid questions about your financial situation, try and identify what your real pain points or gaps in your financial strategy are, and then I can offer ways for us to work together. Either way, whether in person or virtually, I would LOVE to talk to you!