Women Leading The Finance Industry: “Schools must incorporate financial literacy into their core curriculum including budgeting, saving, credit and investing” With Chelle Adams and Jason Hartman

Schools must incorporate financial literacy into their core curriculum including budgeting, saving, credit and investing. Several of these concepts can and should be started as early as elementary school to make it part of our children’s daily activities so they learn how to save money and avoid debt. I had the pleasure of interviewing Chelle Adams, […]

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Schools must incorporate financial literacy into their core curriculum including budgeting, saving, credit and investing. Several of these concepts can and should be started as early as elementary school to make it part of our children’s daily activities so they learn how to save money and avoid debt.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Chelle Adams, Chief Financial Officer at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Chelle Adams is the Chief Financial Officer for The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas where she is responsible for managing the Finance Department of approximately 80 CoStars including general ledger, SEC reporting, accounts payable, accounts receivable, billing, development, fixed assets, payroll, revenue audit, tax and treasury. She oversees the development and implementation of accounting and financial reporting policies and procedures, financial controls for Sarbanes-Oxley and all public filings. Adams is actively involved in the Covenant Compliance Steering Committee, Compliance Committee, Risk Management Committee, IT Steering Committee, 401(k) Committee, Asset Protection Committee and several resort initiative Special Committees. Adams’ versatile background includes 19 years of accounting and internal audit experience as well as broad industry practice in gaming, hotel, restaurant, retail and manufacturing. She has managed more than 10 Sarbanes-Oxley readiness projects and served over 20 commercial, riverboat and tribal gaming clients across nine states, all while developing a strong record for cultivating high-performance teams with some of the largest accounting and professional consulting firms in the Midwest. Prior to joining The Cosmopolitan, Adams was the Partner-in-Charge of the Hospitality and Gaming industry group of RubinBrown LLP, the largest public accounting firm in St. Louis. Beyond her professional endeavors, Adams has remained active in her civic and personal life. In St. Louis, she was a Board Member and Committee Member for St. Martha’s Hall, St. Louis Business Diversity Initiative Fellows program and the Asian American Chamber of Commerce — St. Louis Chapter. Adams is currently an Advisory Board Member for The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) Gaming Audit Group and on the Board of Governors for the IIA Las Vegas Chapter. She was awarded one of St. Louis’ Most Influential Minority Business Leaders (2008) and St. Louis’ 40 Under 40 Leaders (2012), both by the St. Louis Business Journal. Adams received her Bachelor of Science in Accounting at Truman State University and is a Certified Public Accountant.

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

My father was a major influence in my career choice. After he retired from the Air Force, he went to college to obtain his accounting degree. He would find ways to incorporate me into his late-night study sessions including “helping” with his homework by punching in numbers on his big calculator. Through him, I saw the power of hard work and dedication since he worked full time, went to college at night and always made us feel like we were a priority including coaching our soccer teams and taking us on our annual summer family vacations.

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?

The story that stands out the most is an interaction I had with a local businessman during a child’s birthday party. When I meet new people in social settings, I prefer to learn about the person beyond who they work for and what their title is. In this particular instance, this gentleman was very persistent in his efforts to find out what I did for a living. At first I brushed him off by telling him that I work in Finance at The Cosmopolitan, but he was very insistent in finding out what my title was. When I finally told him I was the CFO, I could tell he had a difficult time reconciling his perception of me compared to what I had just told him. His immediate response back to me was, “It must be nice to be the Assistant to the CFO”. I like to use this story as a reminder that perception is not reality and it is up to each one of us to pave the way to our reality.

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

At The Cosmopolitan, we recently launched our Giving Module slot kiosk charity program. The program allows our guests the opportunity to give back to our community by donating change from their slot tickets to one of four pre-selected non-profit organizations when redeeming a slot ticket voucher on any of our ticket redemption kiosks. One hundred percent of the donations collected go directly to the guests’ charity of choice. We strive to increase our support and spread our contribution efforts as far and wide as possible throughout the community, and with the Giving Module, we are able to engage our guests with a more innovative touch point. As our commitment to the program, The Cosmopolitan is providing a match each quarter.

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

The Cosmopolitan is a luxury resort and casino in the heart of the Las Vegas strip that offers our guests a unique full-service experience including gaming, hotel, restaurants and entertainment. As a stand-alone independent resort backed by Blackstone, we have invested a significant amount of capital to transform the property by expanding our offerings. Our take on customer service, dedication to our employees (also known as CoStars) and diverse company culture are unmatched, including the shared devotion among the organization to give back to non-profits in need.

I was very fortunate to have found a company that is inclusive, progressive and one where I feel valued and I am personally able to make an impact. Since there were very few female role models or mentors during the early stages of my career, bridging this gap is always top of mind for me. In addition to participating in The Cosmopolitan’s formal Mentorship Program, it is incredibly rewarding to develop and guide others through their career by sharing my story, providing opportunities and pushing them out of their comfort zones.

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?

Corporate culture is evolving past the outdated practices from the past. Women are finding our voices by speaking up, asking the tough questions and challenging how things have always been done. Beyond asking the questions, we are also providing a different way of thinking to solve problems and producing amazing results. We each have the opportunity and ability to impact this change going forward by challenging the status quo, paving the way for others and bringing other women up with us as we climb.

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?

Unfortunately, the majority of schools do not teach personal finances to our children, so it is not part of their core learnings. Also, if parents do not fully understand the concepts, they will not be able to effectively teach their children. It is a brutal cycle that needs to be tackled across multiple avenues.

The basics must start at home. Parents must be engaged with and find ways to incorporate financial concepts with their children. I distinctly remember going shopping with my mother before the start of sixth grade and begging her for so many items from jeans, shirts, shoes, backpack, etc. I had absolutely no concept of how much they cost. We were both frustrated with each other. She took a step back, handed me $200 and told me to get what I wanted. At that moment, I thought she was crazy to give me so much money since I believed I would be able to get everything I wanted and more. Little did I know that what I wanted would far exceed the amount she had given me. That lesson forced me to prioritize what I really wanted since I had a limited budget to spend.

Schools must incorporate financial literacy into their core curriculum including budgeting, saving, credit and investing. Several of these concepts can and should be started as early as elementary school to make it part of our children’s daily activities so they learn how to save money and avoid debt.

Employers can also play a role by teaching their employees about saving and investing. At The Cosmopolitan, we’ve incorporated several training opportunities for our CoStars including understanding our 401(k) program and our company match, basics of budgeting and saving and bringing in experts during open enrollment periods.

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.

a. Learn how to save — Make a habit of saving a portion of every pay check. When I was in high school, I wanted to get a “real” job so I could earn extra spending money. My father was opposed to me working since he wanted me to concentrate my efforts on school. After a few negotiations, he allowed me to get a summer job, but under one strict condition, half of my paycheck had to go directly into my bank account. I readily agreed to it since half of minimum wage over the summer was better than my starting pay of zero. It was one of the best things my dad did for me. Since I never saw half of my paycheck, I didn’t miss it. I also continued his rule into college, so by the time I graduated from college, a nice little balance was waiting for me.

b. Buy it when you can afford it — I hear too many stories of individuals under mounds of credit card debt. If there is a shiny new toy you want, create a plan and timeline for how to get it. Don’t fall into the trap of instant gratification and needing everything now. Create big lofty goals and work hard to achieve them.

c. Understand where your money is going — Use on-line banking tools or create a spreadsheet to understand where your hard earned money is being spent. It is usually very eye opening to see how much is spent on non-essentials such as morning coffee runs and eating out.

d. Take advantage of your employer benefits — Many companies offer a match when employees participate in their 401(k) program. This is an easy way to save for your retirement along with capitalizing on the extra funds your company will contribute.

e. Make investing fun — Find companies that you admire or companies that produce products that you enjoy. Use this as a starting point to build research skills on why investing in one company may be better than the next.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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