Keep track of your income and expenses daily or weekly — in your business and in your household. So many individuals aren’t tracking how much money is coming in, and how much is going out until money is really tight or when they have to pull together their business finances around tax time. Tracking your income and expenses daily or weekly not only saves you time in the long run, but it can save you a lot of money too.
As a part of our series about “Women Leading The Finance Industry”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole Barham.
Nicole Barham is the Founder and CEO of Design Your Wealth where she shows women entrepreneurs how to stop stressing and stay on top of their finances by implementing simple strategies that take just 5 minutes a day.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance field?
I started my career many moons ago in accounting and worked in a few different roles, however I came back to the finance field about three years ago. I had filed bankruptcy two years prior and had to literally start from scratch. I used my love of numbers and some tech skills I acquired along the way to create simple finance tracking systems that helped me keep up with all the money coming in and out of my household. I then decided to start a business helping other women with their finances because I knew there had to be others like me who needed these products and services.
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?
My first job ever literally fell into my lap and that was when I learned the power of networking. I was 17 and had just finished high school back in Jamaica and knew that I wanted to find a job because I was READY to leave home. My hairdresser’s sister had just returned from England from a tour of duty at the Jamaican High Commission (she worked with the Jamaica Foreign Service, similar to the State Department in the U.S.) and overheard me saying I was looking for a job. She asked me for my resume, passed it on to the HR department and within a few weeks I was called for an interview. I got the job and started as a clerk in their accounting department. Four years later I was sent on a tour of duty to the Jamaican Consulate in New York City. At 21 I was a diplomat! It was unheard of and beyond my wildest dreams. I then moved on to Canada to work in the Jamaican High Commission in Ottawa until I left the foreign service to move permanently to the US.
The moral of the story? Never underestimate the power of a connection. They just might open unbelievable doors for you!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
At the moment I am working on expanding my 5 Minute Money suite of products to support and empower entrepreneurs at different points in their entrepreneurial journey, from the entrepreneur just starting out to the one who wants to scale to 7 figures and beyond. They need efficient finance systems to stay on top of their money goals and my products help them do that.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
It’s how simple my products are. The feedback is always about how my clients feel like they can “definitely do this.” My goal is to empower women and show them that finances don’t have to be stressful and overwhelming; it can be easy and, I daresay, FUN!
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?
Wall Street and financial institutions are recognizing that a lack of diversity and inclusivity is actually harmful to their bottom lines. With the rise of social media, brands and businesses are finally waking up to the realities of these injustices. And consumers are demanding diversity and inclusivity from the brands they shop at, support or fund. Wall Street knows that it is in their best interest — financially and socially — to stand up and take notice or lose the opportunity to enact REAL change.
There’s so much work that needs to be done here, but I’m encouraged by some of the institutions taking steps. A great example is the “One Million Black Women” initiative by Goldman Sachs. The world is changing, and BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ and “othered” people are stepping into these mostly white spaces. And it’s time the finance industry embraced it.
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 are a number of things that we can do to support this movement. On an individual level, we must end the stereotyping around women and money. We have to quit telling women that they don’t know math and dismantle the women are bad at money narrative. If we keep telling women they’re bad at money or can’t manage it, they won’t want to even explore working in financial institutions — much less lead them!
For companies, we need to make a commitment to hire a greater number of women and from a more diverse talent pool. This can be done by creating balanced recruitment plans and reimagining the current antiquated recruitment and selection process. As women are being recruited and hired on, companies need to have comprehensive development plans that help them move to the next position and the next department. Those plans then need to be embraced and followed by every manager. And of course, on both a company and societal level, we MUST start paying women what we’re paying their male counterparts. Women don’t want to climb the ladder for half their value.
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?
Oh this one is easy! Financial literacy isn’t taught or talked about anywhere. Not in schools, not in homes, and not among friends. Money is such a taboo subject that we just don’t talk about it at all or talk about it as little as possible. And then we are expected to know how to handle credit cards with high interest rates, know our credit scores, try to get and keep an “excellent” rating, not get into credit card and student loan debt, and the list goes on.
If we’re not teaching financial literacy, how would we know what to expect, plan for and watch out for? The first place to start is to ensure that more people are “literate” about finances. This is an initiative that more financial institutions can spearhead instead of waiting until someone is deep in debt or making other financial mistakes to try and course correct. Here are some steps we should take:
- Start building financial literacy into education and curriculum, and I don’t mean just counting pennies in kindergarten or talking about the national debt. We’re waiting until our children are in college to teach them how to balance a checkbook. We need to address credit early on — how credit scores work and are built.
- In our homes, we need to get rid of the stigma of talking about money. We need to teach our kids about income and budgeting, and have ongoing open conversations about money. We can also teach our children how to build credit and not just talk to them about bad credit.
- We also need to create more accessible community programs around financial literacy so that everyone, regardless of their past experience with money, can learn how to take control of their finances moving forward.
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.
- Spend 5 minutes in your money every single day. I used to avoid looking at my money, and now I’m in it every day. Developing this daily habit is key!
- Keep track of your income and expenses daily or weekly — in your business and in your household. So many individuals aren’t tracking how much money is coming in, and how much is going out until money is really tight or when they have to pull together their business finances around tax time. Tracking your income and expenses daily or weekly not only saves you time in the long run, but it can save you a lot of money too.
- Work up to budgeting. When we’re taught about money, we often hear that we need a budget. And while I’m a big believer in a good budget, I don’t recommend jumping head first into budgeting until you’re keeping track of your money regularly. Then, you can start building a budget and doing projections around your money!
- Start reading about money. This is one of my favorite ways to increase financial literacy while also getting even more comfortable with money. Add books to your nightstand that talk about money! A few of my favorites are The Latte Factor, We Should All Be Millionaires, and You’re a Badass at Making Money.
- Create mantras around money to help you become more comfortable with money — and make more of it. My favorite money mantra is “money comes to me easily and effortlessly.
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?
My grandmother is hands down the best influence in my life. I remember from a young age she instilled in me the importance of getting an education. I recall her asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said “a lawyer, grandma” and she said “no, don’t be a lawyer, lawyers are liars (sorry lawyer friends!), be an accountant instead.” That started me on my career path in accounting which led me to now being someone who helps entrepreneurs be their own “accountants.”
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Don’t look back, you’re not going that way” has been my mantra especially over the past few years. Filing bankruptcy brought with it a lot of shame for me and I used to beat myself up over the silly mistakes I made that brought me to that point. When I decided to stop looking back and instead focus on where I’m going, I was able to shed all that shame and create a business that transformed my life and the lives of my clients.
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. 🙂
I want to encourage women to dream bigger through their own financial system. I want them to be able to see how much is coming in and out and then make smart decisions about their money. That visibility into their money is empowering — and women don’t have to just wing it anymore. They can make financial decisions that help their businesses and expand their impact.
Finances aren’t scary. Changing the way that society sees money and finances — especially the way women engage with money — can have such a positive impact on an individual and societal level. Making small changes like loving on our money, having regular “money dates” and paying attention to our money can help us make more money. And when women have more money, they can change the world. It’s called the Diva Money Movement, and it starts with our money mindset.
Thank you for the time you spent on this interview. We wish you only continued success.