Community//

Christine DiGangi of The Balance: “Allow yourself to change your mind”

Allow yourself to change your mind. I had the same bank account forever because it was the one my parents set me up with. My mind was blown when I realized I could shop around for better interest rates and a better customer experience. The same goes for all sorts of financial products — change things up […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

Allow yourself to change your mind. I had the same bank account forever because it was the one my parents set me up with. My mind was blown when I realized I could shop around for better interest rates and a better customer experience. The same goes for all sorts of financial products — change things up as you grow up. The best credit card for students isn’t the same as the best card for people who travel or dine out frequently. If you do research on the best accounts, loans and credit cards, you can probably find something that will save or even make you money.


As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christine DiGangi.

Christine DiGangi joined The Balance in 2019 and has more than a decade of experience in service journalism as a writer, editor, and vocal advocacy for ethics and accuracy in publishing.

As Senior Editorial Director, she oversees content strategy and operations. Previously, DiGangi served as the managing editor of mortgage content at LendingTree, an editor at Credit.com, communications coordinator for the Society of Professional Journalists, and a copy editor for The New York Times.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance field?

After a few years in various journalism jobs, I thought I wanted to try marketing, so I took a role as a marketing coordinator at a construction company, but I ended up really disliking it. Then a mentor of mine from my college newspaper days asked me if I knew anyone who would be interested in an entry-level reporter role at the personal finance site she worked at. I knew it had to be me. I was excited but nervous. I remember pacing around my apartment while we were on the phone and she told me about the job. I was excited for the challenge and eager to course correct.

I fell in love with personal finance really quickly, and I spent the next four years diving deep into consumer credit, particularly the ins and outs of student loan debt. I credit a lot to sources who were willing to spend their time on the phone with me answering my questions about basic concepts, as well as the editors who challenged me to back up everything I wrote. You hit a point in writing about personal finance that you gloss over things you consider common knowledge, but you have to remember that if it were common knowledge, people wouldn’t be googling questions about it every day, and the personal finance publishing space wouldn’t be so competitive. I love that challenge of meeting people where they’re at and helping them understand the small decisions and big economic events that affect their daily lives.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

I once tracked down a story about a guy who was sent to a debt collector because someone stole his checkbook out of the trash, forged a check to buy Girl Scout cookies, and when the check bounced, he was pursued through a collections agency. I spent a morning with an 8-year-old pug and his owner, who walked us through all the costs that go into caring for an aging rescue dog. Then there was the time I interviewed a mom who sent her son an invoice — for being a jerk. Chasing down all these stories helped me learn how emotional money decisions are. Things that happen to you often don’t fit into your financial plan, and the decisions you make won’t always make sense to other people. It’s important to remember that as you evaluate your financial health over time. One-size-fits-all money advice isn’t real and doesn’t really help.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

At The Balance, we’re working on an interactive tool called Money Talks that helps people practice having difficult financial conversations with a loved one. It helps to practice talking to someone about debt or spending, because like I said, this stuff is emotional. The tool we’re building shows you how to keep a high-stakes discussion productive — and how it can unravel if you go off course.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

More than anywhere else I’ve worked, Dotdash is committed to putting users first and doing the right thing by the people who come to our websites. Last summer we decided to dive deep into helping people understand credit cards. A bunch of us were put in a room and told to figure out how to do it. A couple of us argued that in order to give people the best information, we needed a massive amount of data on hundreds of credit cards, which is an enormous project for editors, the product team and anyone who would have to tackle such a huge data project. I was pretty new and thought we were making a ridiculous ask. But in the end, it was like, “OK, let’s build it.” And it happened. We learned so much along the way about credit cards themselves, as well as what we’re capable of as a team.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?

One of the many things driving this shift is the growing awareness of the power of supporting each other, networking, mentoring and forming lasting, beneficial relationships. We’re not in competition with each other, we’re all on this climb together, and anyone who can provide guidance, advice or opportunities should do it. While we fight the many injustices that women still face, we can absolutely create and leverage opportunities for ourselves. That alone won’t solve representation issues, but it’s a nice change that I’ve witnessed in my career, and I think it will only grow.

Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a) individuals b) companies and/or c) society to support this movement going forward?

There’s both anecdotal and data-driven research indicating women are less likely to apply for jobs than men are, especially when the woman sees the role as a stretch from her current job. And there’s still a ton of pressure for women to take on family management responsibilities. If you thought we were past that, the pandemic has proven otherwise. Those are just a couple of the barriers women face as they pursue senior management-level career paths. Companies can open up the path to leadership by offering generous family leave benefits, childcare resources, and dedicated spaces for women to support each other in career growth, as well as instituting recruitment practices that include diverse hiring panels and sourcing diverse applicant pools. I think it’s really important to stress that that means nothing if we don’t break the biased lens society has used to judge women. Anyone who thinks it’s hard to find qualified women for any role either isn’t looking very hard, or isn’t willing to accept flaws that are often overlooked in men.

Let’s now turn to a slightly new topic. According to this report in Fortune, nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t pass a basic test of financial literacy. In your opinion or experience, what is the cause of these unfortunate numbers? If you had the power to make a change, what 3 things would you recommend to improve these numbers?

Most people don’t like talking about money, and many people don’t know how. How can anyone be expected to manage their finances when they’ve barely spent any time learning how it works? Financial literacy largely isn’t a part of the education system, and people tend to trust their family and friends above all else. This is great if you happen to be surrounded by financially literate people, but that’s usually not the case. So the first step is just start talking. Ask your friends what they’re working toward, and what they’ve learned. Share something new you learned about money recently, and see where the conversation goes. Normalize talking about your hurdles, your solutions and your goals. I’d love to see more people comfortable talking about finances, with a focus on personalizing it — there’s no one, right way to make your money work for you.

You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non-intuitive things one should do to become more financially literate, what would you say? Can you please give a story or example for each.

Don’t wait to “figure it out” to start investing. I was so scared of making the wrong choice and losing money that I didn’t start investing outside of my employer-sponsored retirement plan until I was in my late 20s. It’s OK to start small. Putting away even 50 dollars a month into an index fund can make the difference of 10s of thousands of dollars by the time you retire.

Accept that you will never stop making mistakes. It’s fine. Basically the same story as above. Don’t let a bad decision scare you off of finance. Just learn from it and move forward.

Allow yourself to change your mind. I had the same bank account forever because it was the one my parents set me up with. My mind was blown when I realized I could shop around for better interest rates and a better customer experience. The same goes for all sorts of financial products — change things up as you grow up. The best credit card for students isn’t the same as the best card for people who travel or dine out frequently. If you do research on the best accounts, loans and credit cards, you can probably find something that will save or even make you money.

Read a lot. There’s always an opportunity to learn about a new product, new strategy, or even a concept you haven’t yet encountered. Whether it’s on social media, websites like The Balance, news, or books, it’s up to you to educate yourself. Your future self will thank you for it.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I don’t have one person, but I have vivid memories of a few people pushing me in the direction that led me here: My high school English teacher told me I could be a writer. A visiting college newspaper advisor told me I had “it” and could be a journalist. A friend believed in me enough to think I could take command of personal finance.

I doubt any of those people would look back on those conversations and think they were life-changing. I doubt they’d remember those conversations at all. But they showed me the power of confidence. I think it’s important to remember, even if you don’t have anyone encouraging you, you can be that kind of encouragement in someone else’s life.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I wrote myself a note that’s next to my desk right now, that says, “Solve first, rant later.” Problem-solving is a main part of my job and it’s not always fun — in fact it usually isn’t — and it’s really easy to get lost in how crappy it feels at the beginning of the process. It’s not easy but separating the problem from the way it makes me feel makes solving it go so much faster. And it’s a little more fun to unload frustrations after you’re past the hard part.

It’s really valuable to be a solutions-focused person, but you have to acknowledge the emotional toll it can take. Otherwise you’re going to crack.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

This is something I’ve been thinking about as I set aside money for the holidays: For every gift you buy for someone you love, buy one for a stranger.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Evaluate Your Financial Footing

by Michael Hambrick
Community//

How to channel your inner critic to lead a more joyful and fulfilling life

by Janet Van Huysse
Photo by Jake Sloop on Unsplash
Community//

Life Lessons Learned in My 40’s That I Wish I Could Tell My 20-Year-Old Self

by Rebecca Grant

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.