Work out what the life you want to lead actually looks like and then work out what it costs. From this information you can work out your financial freedom figure. Sure it might change over time but having a starting point will put you ahead of 95% of the population.
As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Laura Powner.
Laura Powner is an FD, accountant, and mentor for purpose-led business owners and entrepreneurs working with miracles, mindset and money to create an abundant life and business.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance field?
I originally wanted to be a teacher but my father told me law or accounting were the way to go for a financially secure future.
I wrote to multiple accounting firms when I was still at school to see if I could get an interview with them. I managed to get an interview at every one, followed by a job offer.
I picked the largest firm out of the list. It was an international firm and a top 10 UK accounting practice. I would be working in a big city, and by big city, think Leeds not London, but it was big to me, living in a little town called Skipton.
It took me a little time to find my feet, to get past my concern that I was a teenage girl straight out of school who had no idea about business but I was excited to be talking to business owners. The biggest problem for me was that we were always talking about what happened last year and I really wanted to focus on what they were doing next year and what their vision for the future was. I learned to understand what the financial statements were showing, and I began to see that each set was telling a story.
I got into accounting because my father told me to but I ended up being really quite good at it. I enjoyed the people side of it. I enjoyed talking to all the different kinds of business owners and their staff and I enjoyed running my teams. What I struggled with was seeing clients who struggled with self worth issues beyond their net worth ones. I wanted to help people heal their money stories and you don’t really get to do that as an accountant. I’ve now managed to find a way to do both and it turned out that getting into accounting was a brilliant choice for me to make.
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?
It’s not an amusing story but it is certainly interesting and explains how I have ended up working in the way I do now.
Every single client who I have worked with who thought money was the end goal, that money would change everything, that if they just had money, life would be ok; found that was not the case at all.
Money gives you choice and choice gives you freedom but money on its own does not bring happiness. You don’t stop being lonely or scared or tired or lost when your bank account hits a certain number. In some ways it’s worse because you no longer have the hope that money will change everything for you.
It is imperative that when changing your money story you work on self-worth as well as net worth because it is the two together that create abundance and a limitless life.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I have been keenly aware that financial education is missing from our national curriculum.
Yes, I help adults rewrite their money story but it would be a brilliant thing if we just helped children understand from a young age how to have a good relationship with money so they don’t have to spend two thirds of adulthood undoing their mistakes and praying they can make enough money to last for the last third adulthood. I have complained about it endlessly and then I realised, complaining gets us nowhere, we have to create change.
So I am super excited to be working on Get REAL for kids. We will be teaching children how to have an incredible relationship with money from the very start.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The way that I work is to combine energy work with mindset and strategy. I believe all three are needed to create effective change.
I also provide belief. All my clients come wanting to create change for their clients, their family and themselves but they are all worried that they aren’t enough to do that.
I provide the belief in my clients for as long as it takes for them to believe in themselves and they tell me that is different, that it makes me stand out.
I think it is also helpful that I have had so much hands on business experience. I don’t educate from theory — everything I teach and help with is based on my own experience — as an accountant, as a Finance Director and later as a mother who struggled with anxiety. I have lived all I teach which means there is a level of empathy with the people I work with that cannot always be found.
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?
I think women caused the change. We got tired of sitting and waiting our turn, we got tired of being shamed and considered a liability because we would have babies, we got tired of being told we had to choose our family or our career and so we broke all the rules the “white boys club” set for us.
Women are excellent multi-taskers. We are empathetic. We listen and remember information for forever. We are not afraid of our intuitive side. We know how to read and respond to the people we are in a room with. We bring our emotions to the table without shame. We are real.
And that is what people want — social media is booming beyond belief, people are out there sharing their personal lives every minute of every day. People don’t want unfeeling, stiff companies, they want brands they can feel, be part of and buy into. Women are excellent at creating that.
We can get so much done in a short space of time because we have do that all day long in our personal lives. We can feel what our customers and audiences need and we understand where they are at and what they are feeling. We can remember a conversation we had 6 months ago and how that person was feeling, even if we can’t remember the person’s name and we can use that data to drive our decisions and choices when it comes to things like marketing. We have a feel for what the world is thinking and the direction it is going to go and we can align with that. We are not afraid to elicit feelings with our words and actions. We understand that all of this makes us real and that is our superpower. We are no longer afraid to use it.
And thank goodness, we are slowly but surely working on moving away from a time when our physical exteriors are what make us hireable. Man, woman, gender neutral is becoming irrelevant. Who we are and what we can do is leading the way.
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?
- Just ask. I have created everything in my life by going out and getting it. I had to ask without fear of being rejected. I used to have a lot of friends in corporate who would complain about what they didn’t have but wouldn’t dream of asking for it. When you ask, clearly and calmly and can justify why you should get what you want, it is very hard for someone to say no, if it makes commercial sense. It is important that we all do the work on our self worth so we know what we want and why. Lack of clarity on values and goals is why people stay stuck. Remembering that we can be good mothers and do a great job in senior positions can take some real personal development work but it is worth doing.
- Companies must recognition by now that women bring so much to the table and respond accordingly. Feminine energy is not a weakness. Instead of getting trapped into the old way of thinking and wondering whether a mother who must leave at 5 for her children can really be as effective and productive as Steve who works every night until 9pm, they really need to wake up. Watch what that mother can do in her 8 hours in the office. You won’t catch her chatting in the kitchen, at the water cooler and taking 10 minute toilet breaks. You will find her working hard and producing consistent quality output. Women are dependable, efficient and effective. Look at the women who are already in senior positions, who wouldn’t want more of that! If the board isn’t 50% women, why not? Reviewing the senior positions and who is in them annually, is surely key for all companies. There is no way that women are not creating results that make them worthy of a seat at the senior table.
- I think Covid has really helped with this. The UK has spent months of 2020 in lockdown with employers told to let their employees work from home where possible. We have seen that the work still gets done, in some cases I would think far more effectively. Giving women the flexibility to work around childcare and to be there for their family won’t make them less effective, it will be the opposite. When we no longer ask women to come to the office every day just because it is what we have always done, and we start making it easier for them to pick their kids up and get their work done, we will find, we are creating the very ingredients needed for effective and loyal long term employee/employer relationships. We are in fact making it possible for women to thrive and to take those senior positions that they are worthy of.
I do think that going forwards though, the world is changing. It isn’t about whether men or women at the top because that leaves out all our gender neutral population. It is about the people who are leading, being able to balance skillfully their masculine and feminine energies. Both energies need to be at the top table but our physical exterior is becoming more and more irrelevant.
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?
The primary cause of these unfortunate numbers is the fact we don’t teach financial anything to our children. It is not on any curriculum. We expect our children to pass exams, to be able to multiply fractions and understand Pythagoras theorem but we don’t teach them how to have a good relationship with money. We don’t show them how to budget, what percentage of their income they should spend, how much wealth they need to build to become financially free. The lack of education around financial literacy across the world is the cause of so many problems.
I would start by adding Money Mastery as a subject on the national curriculum for all school children. I would then have banks provide a simple course that covers basic financial education to every customer who opens a bank account. Finally, I would keep working on having open conversations about money, to remove the stigma, the guilt and the shame. We worked hard on being ok to talk about sex, now let’s do the same with money.
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.
- Work out what the life you want to lead actually looks like and then work out what it costs. From this information you can work out your financial freedom figure. Sure it might change over time but having a starting point will put you ahead of 95% of the population.
- Do not take on consumer debt. It’s just not worth it and it is a slippery slope into difficulty that you don’t need in your life. Live within your means, if you want more than you can afford, tough shit. Wait and save up, instant gratification is overrated and things rarely give you lasting happiness anyway. Being able to sleep at night without having to worry about repaying debt, is priceless.
- If you want more than you can afford on a consistent basis, you need to look at why you want them or work on increasing your income. Having a job is not the only way to make money. If you are passionate about something, great at getting the results your clients want, then setting up your own business is a real possibility. And your own business can be one of your greatest assets in life.
- Saving and being sensible gets wrongly accused of being boring, I get that, so always put 10% of your income into your fun “bucket”. This money is there to be spent on whatever you want. You’ve well and truly earned it. But also know that when you’re 40 and you never need to work again…you will be so glad, you spent 20 years treating your money right.
- As well as working on your net worth, always do the work on your self worth. You are enough. You are loved. You deserve abundance. You are magic and you can absolutely write your future into existence. I know this to be true.
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’m grateful for every single client I have ever worked with. They have taught me so much individually that I can put together and pass on to people collectively through my courses. My teachings are like a patchwork quilt of everything I have ever experienced and everything my clients have experienced all put together to bring comfort and help to others who will inevitably go through some of the patches.
I am also grateful to my first ever boss. She took a risk in hiring an inexperienced school girl. She never gave up on me when I struggled with my exams and bringing me into her office built confidence and skills that I would otherwise have missed out on.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If you can dream it, you can do it” — Walt Disney
I have always loved Walt Disney World. Whenever I have been there, I have felt the tingle of possibility. Like I could literally write my future into existence. And it turns out I have.
I knew the traditional route of school, university, job, career for life, retirement and the slow slide into death was not for me. At 16 I had decided I wasn’t going to University. Family worried I would regret that decision but frankly it has been one of the best decisions I ever made. In my career, it made me the underdog. It made me work that little bit harder. Shine that bit brighter. It set me up to acquire all the skills I would need for running my own business. It helped me find a confidence that I’m just not sure I would have found otherwise.
I now run my own business and am invested in a variety of other companies and business interests. I work from home or anywhere I fancy. I have been able to live overseas for extended periods of time. My children don’t go to school (but they are obviously educated). We live to our own timetable. I choose work that lights me up. I work with people who are a joy. I get to have fun. I get to choose my own destiny and write my future into existence every single day. I will always be grateful for every second of this life.
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. 🙂
Financial education all day long. I want financial education for all our children to be compulsory. This would change the foundations for our future generations. It would increase wealth worldwide. With that increased wealth, we could create more change. People are intrinsically good. I genuinely believe that when we show them how to create more than enough, they will follow their hearts and use that wealth to go out and create more change where it is needed. The domino effect of financially educated, wealthy people will make the world a better place. Freedom for us all is possible. It starts with education