…Finally, women have a responsibility to elevate one another instead of trying at times to undermine the efforts of each other. It is difficult enough to succeed in a system and environment that is prejudiced against your very presence. It is harder still to achieve progress when another female is trying to block your path. Please do not be that woman.
As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kassandra Dasent, a recognized Gen X financial consultant, educator, speaker, and the CEO of Minding Your Money. Focusing on how emotional awareness can have a direct and lasting impact on one’s relationship with money, she provides her clients and audiences with practical solutions to help them achieve financial stability, wellness, and wealth. Kassandra has been featured in numerous media outlets including US News & World Report, Business Insider, Fast Company, Travel Noire, Yahoo! Finance and News, and Glamour. Leveraging her personal experiences, financial education, and passion to change how we think about money, Kassandra’s dedication to empowering people yields positive results. Kassandra is a certified financial education instructor (CFEI), certified commercial credit analyst (GCC), certified project management professional (PMP), and certified scrum master (CSM).
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Banking/Finance field?
I was born in Trinidad and immigrated to Montreal with my mother when I was six years of age. I witnessed firsthand the sacrifices it took for my mother to piece together enough money every month to ensure that our necessities were covered. I also felt the emotional and financial effects of a low household income when my mother was laid off from her job and struggled to manage her consumer debt.
Starting in my twenties, I began a decade long struggle with my personal finances. I lacked a solid financial education but more importantly, I made a costly mistake of trying to keep up a lifestyle bent on material wants. Interestingly enough, it was during that same period that I began my career in finance. I started off in accounts receivable and later on became certified as a commercial credit analyst, successfully managing a multimillion-dollar corporate credit portfolio.
In 2009, I implemented a plan to take control of my personal finances and paid off $55K of consumer debt in 3.5 years. This emotionally and fiscally life changing experience led me to become a certified financial education instructor. More recently, I resigned my corporate role as a Software Project Manager in the field of software engineering to pursue entrepreneurship. I founded my company with a mission to help people, with an emphasis on women, immigrants, and people of colour, to achieve financial stability, wellness, and wealth.
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 have been told by several people that I have a special ability to sense when an individual may be a fraud. In the most shocking instance, which happened early in my career, a new hire in the credit department was being introduced to the team. When it came my turn, I looked at the person and instantly felt that something was not right. I was so taken aback by what I had sensed, that when the person extended their hand to shake mine, I atypically did not respond in kind and instead verbally welcomed them to the company…and walked away.
My colleagues were of course baffled by my initial reaction, but I maintained the position that eventually I would be proven right. As it turned out, this person quickly went to work on implementing a plan that involved reimbursing the value of customers’ dormant credit notes to their personal credit card and selling company products on the grey market. Their scheme netted them tens of thousands of dollars and it took well over a year before it was discovered. The takeaway here is that people should pay attention to their instinct and address red flags immediately.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am excited to be launching my signature on-demand program called “EQ Your Way to Wealth” in October 2019. The program addresses the impact of emotional awareness and why people struggle with their finances. It also teaches students ways to recover from financial trauma, how they can focus on increasing their emotional intelligence, along with developing a frame of mind that will support the changes they desire, experience success in their financial goals, and encourage them to think and grow wealth.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
In the finance industry, many professionals are focused on the numbers and place a high importance of being able to quantify success or failure. Although I agree that we need to apply sound financial concepts and calculated strategies to ensure success in our personal finances, an element that is sorely lacking is the practice of emotional awareness and developing our EQ in order to positively affect our financial behaviours and decisions.
My approach to personal finance differs from the mainstream. I take into account someone’s unique life experiences, beliefs, and financial circumstances, instead of suggesting that conventional financial wisdom and practices can be applied across the board. One of my clients that I had crafted an initial plan of action for based on her status of being financially single and other factors, two months later turned the financial tables over by announcing her pregnancy. Mitigating circumstances included her desire to stay in a country where she only has a work visa status, has no family present, and pregnancy is not a medical condition covered by her travel insurance. This is a definitive example that cookie cutter personal finance solutions will not suffice.
Through my company Minding Your Money, I am committed to helping people understand how their emotions, thoughts, and beliefs, can have a significant impact as to whether they will be successful with money. I employ a progressive approach in dealing with financial trauma and pairing emotional awareness with sound financial practices that will produce long term benefits and create holistic wealth.
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 reason is that the demographics of the United States, from a racial and ethnic perspective, is more diverse than it has ever been. Companies have begun to realize that they need to address a multi-cultural customer base and the latter in turn expect that diversity should be visibly represented in all areas of industry and at all levels of management.
Having immigrated once again, this time to the USA in late 2013, I have been able to witness firsthand and count myself among the increasing number of women in the financial industry. As more women and people of colour continue to access financial education whether by self-instruction, and/or pursuing a career in the field of finance and banking, they will be more confident in demonstrating their aptitudes and voicing their ideas. The current socio-economic and political climate is such that they will continue to push for recognition of their positive contributions and expect a seat at the table. Alternatively, they can decide to create their own table as Tyler Perry eloquently alluded to in his 2019 BET Ultimate Icon Award acceptance speech.
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?
The first thing women can do is to learn how to advocate for themselves in the workplace. This is not only important from a financial parity standpoint but also in relation to seeking professional opportunities that provide them with greater visibility.
Companies, and the men that work for them, need to hold themselves or be held accountable. They also must be willing to do away with anything that does not align with a goal of ensuring that women have access to and are considered for all opportunities offered and advancing the rights and respect of women in the workplace.
Finally, women have a responsibility to elevate one another instead of trying at times to undermine the efforts of each other. It is difficult enough to succeed in a system and environment that is prejudiced against your very presence. It is harder still to achieve progress when another female is trying to block your path. Please do not be that woman.
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.
1. Get clear on what they want to achieve financially. Knowing need to learn how to save or invest is basic however having specific and personal reasons as to why it matters so much helps greatly to direct and reinforce the desired actions.
2. Consume financial information via a medium that they prefer. This means that if they do not enjoy reading, then financial blogs and books will not be helpful. Instead, listen to a money themed podcast, attend a financial event, or watch a video or webinar if they are a visual or auditory learner.
3. Ask questions and have financial conversations with those you trust and who are knowledgeable. Money is still considered a taboo subject and it is important to do away with the notion that we should not discuss money. Communicating about money helps to educate and expose people to financial ideas and concepts that can be highly beneficial to them.
4. Find out everything they can about their company benefits and how they work including retirement plans such as a 401k/SIMPLE IRA/457b, life and health insurance including HSA plans, legal and estate planning services, etc. I also suggest utilizing workplace wellness programs that include a counselling component, in the event they are struggling with their personal finances and it is adversely affecting their mental health and productivity at work.
5. Protect their financial information as much as they can and regularly check their credit reports with the three national agencies: Experian Equifax, and Transunion. Americans are entitled to a free annual report from each of the three agencies. With data breaches almost becoming the norm, it is our responsibility to monitor and report potentially fraudulent activity and be selective as to who we provide sensitive personal information.
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?
There are two key people in my life that are my constant champions and my motivation to succeed. They are my mother and my husband.
My mother did everything in her power to provide me with the opportunity of a life full of possibilities. Her immense love for me and her willingness to leave her native country, immigrate to another where she knew virtually no one, in order to provide us with a fresh start, set me on the path to where I am today. She has been the greatest and most impactful influence on my life.
Having a partner in life who truly believes in me and is willing to do whatever it takes to help me succeed is priceless. My husband and I have built a solid foundation not only in terms of a loving marriage but have also established a financial platform upon which we can create generational wealth and leave a lasting legacy.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My all-time favourite children’s program was, and still is, Winnie the Pooh. In the series, Christopher Robin says to Winnie the Pooh “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think”. This quote has stayed with me and it reinforced the idea that I have everything within me needed to succeed, even during the times I doubted myself.
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. 🙂
Acknowledging the challenges of socio-economic, gender and racial inequality, and the responsibility of our government and elected officials to enforce existing laws and enact policies to address these issues, I still believe in the power of the individual. That enough of us can continue to come together to positively impact our communities and teach others in the ways we can prosper. It does not hurt those of us who have and know more to invest some time and knowledge in giving others the opportunity to achieve financial stability and success for themselves.
“I don’t want to live in the kind of world where we don’t look out for each other. Not just the people that are close to us, but anybody who needs a helping hand. I can’t change the way anybody else thinks, or what they choose to do, but I can do my bit.” ― Charles de Lint
Thank you for all of these great insights!