Good morning everyone, and happy Wednesday! For this weeks Working Women Wednesday, I’m excited to bring you the first post in a series about successful moms. And I’m really excited about the first interview I have up today – with Mama Fish Saves. It’s a fascinating one, and you won’t want to miss it.
First, a bit about this new series. When I was a brand new mom in the workforce, I was an avid reader of all kinds of stories about successful working moms. I was already the family breadwinner, and didn’t know other women like myself “in real life”. So I would read those stories in magazines (remember those?) and books, interested in seeing how other women did it. Now that I have my own corner of the internet here, I’m hoping this series can help other women – especially moms – see that it’s possible to both be successful and an amazing mom.
So without further ado, here’s the story of Mama Fish!
Tell us about yourself!
Hi! I am so glad to be on Chief Mom Officer today! I am a 27-year-old mother to a giggly one-year old son, wife to a rockstar stay-at-home dad, creator of the personal finance blog Mama Fish Saves, and investor at a major hedge fund. I love any time I can spend with my guys and we particularly love hiking and being outdoors. The little man hates to be cooped up. I enjoy reading, blogging, quilting, and watching ice hockey in my free time.
Let’s get some details – how much money do you make, and how long did it take you to get there? And are you a millionaire or are you on the way?
This is a tough one, as about two-thirds of my income comes in the form of a discretionary annual bonus. To give a rough estimate, I make $350k-$450k annually. I started my career out of college at 21, with a base salary of $70k and my first annual bonus was $30k. I saw steady increases each year I have been in the work force (bonus grows much faster than the base), but saw a significant jump up when I moved from my first company out of school to where I am now.
We are not millionaires yet! We are on our way there. Our goal is to hit the seven-figure net worth mark before I turn 30.
How did you get started in the workforce?
In college, I studied economics and mathematics to prepare for a career in finance. I attended a liberal arts school that didn’t have a specific finance degree. While in college I had two internships on Wall Street, the first focused on trading stocks and the second focused on publishing stock recommendations for large investment funds around the world.
I got almost no enjoyment out of trading stocks as traders are an inch deep and a mile wide when it comes to understanding what they are actually buying and selling. I accepted a full time offer with the second company after my internship because I really enjoyed learning the details of businesses and debating their merits and valuations with fund managers. I packed up and moved to New York!
How did you get from where you started in your career to where you are now?
I spent 3 years at my first company, covering stocks in one sector of the market and advancing from updating models and writing reports to holding one-on-one calls and meetings with clients. I loved meeting with management teams and thinking about investing strategies, but I didn’t like everything about my job. The culture at the Wall Street firm was tough and not where I wanted to be to raise a family. My husband and I didn’t love New York and were ready for a change. Plus, I wanted to try my hand at actively investing over just researching.
During my third year, someone from a hedge fund who was also a client reached out via LinkedIn to ask if I would be interested in an opening at their firm. The firm was in Boston and had an excellent reputation. After a whirlwind two weeks of interviews and diligence, I took the job. The move meant changing cities less than three months after getting married. It also meant going from covering stocks to investing in bonds and loans, a completely different ballgame. I was pretty nervous and had to put in a lot of extra hours that first year to get up to speed. I took every opportunity to learn more and was in senior folks’ offices all the time asking for more work and what they recommended I read. After about 22 months at the new firm, I was promoted to Vice President and given responsibility for my own investment portfolio.
Where do you want to go in your career – and your financial life?
My career goals are somewhat in transition. Coming back to work after having my son was incredibly difficult and I was struck more than ever by the lack of social impact my job has. While the mental stimulation the work provides is great, I don’t feel like I’m bettering the world in any way by doing it.
My goal is to achieve financial independence by the time my son starts school and commit more time to financial education and education reform in general. When he is old enough to remember Mom being away for work, I want it to be for more than dollars in the bank.
What’s the biggest challenge in being a breadwinning mom? What’s the best part?
The biggest challenge for me as a breadwinner mom is the guilt and the pressure. Seeing pictures of other moms in my mom groups snuggling with their toddlers for afternoon naps rips me to shreds. Then, when I’m distracted by missing him and not performing to my top level at work, I wonder if I am jeopardizing the family’s financial situation. I have a major case of imposter syndrome and no matter how well my performance reviews go, by the next one I’m always worried the company is going to tell me they hate me and I’m fired. No fun.
I’m always trying to hustle to be the best mom, the best employee, a loving wife, and there just isn’t enough time in the day. Adding a goal of financial independence in 5 years was a double-edged sword. The goal feels like a light at the end of the tunnel, but cultivating new income streams to get us there takes even more time.
On the flip side, the best part of being a breadwinner mom is seeing my husband be the most amazing father. He was never built for a desk job and knew he wanted to stay home when we had kids from before we got married. He is so incredible patient with our son and the two of them have so much fun together. I love that my job allows us to give our son that full time attention from a parent and provide my husband with so much joy.
Have you ever experienced issues in the workforce because you’re a woman? What did you do in response?
I’ve been pretty lucky in my career so far to work at two companies that support and respect women and mothers. I can think of one bad issue though, and one that I built up in my own head.
For the first, I had just turned 23 and was barely in my second year of working. I got sent on a diligence trip for a company that was going to IPO with analysts from other firms that would be covering the company once they were public. This required a day of meetings followed by an hour-long bus ride in the evening to a hotel, with a tour of one of the company’s plants the next morning. I was the only women on the trip. Well, when the bus arrived it turned out to be a party bus. The men on the trip found this quite hilarious. For the first 15-20 minutes of the ride various members of the group joked about having me pour them drinks and whether there was a pole and if I would dance for them. Keep in mind, I was ten to fifteen years younger than anyone else on that bus. I would love to say that I went on a feminist rant, but in reality, I sat quietly and don’t think I could have sunk any lower in my seat. You could have fried an egg on my face. Luckily, the representative from the company that happened to be on the bus finally piped up and told everyone to back off. I sat through the rest of the trip in awkward silence and thinking about it still makes my skin crawl.
For the second, my husband and I found out we were going to have my son the year I was up for VP promotion. We knew that he would become a stay-at-home dad after the baby was born, and the timing of our due date made me very nervous. My son was due about 5 weeks after promotions were to be final. The company I work for currently has a lot of senior women and tends to have very fair policies for parents, but the idea that they would promote me mere weeks before I was going to go on maternity leave seemed impossible. I spent most of my pregnancy worried about whether having a baby was going to delay my promotion for a year or more. Lo and behold, 5 weeks before my due date, my manager called me into her office and handed me new business cards! Then two days later, HR announced a new maternity leave policy that would go into effect immediately, increasing leave to 16 weeks from 12. I felt like I won the lottery. CMO note – I love this story! It’s great to hear about companies that promote women to the positions they deserve, without regard for their current child bearing state. After all, men whose wives are pregnant get these opportunities-so should we!
Chief Mom Officer is primarily a personal finance blog – tell us about your saving and investment strategy
My big financial goal for 2017 is to save +50% of our pre-tax income. We are on track so far, but it requires paying more attention to the small expenditures in our budget than we have in the past. I allocate at least 15% to retirement (IRA) and a very large chunk to my son’s college fund (we want college funds secured before achieving financial independence). Then some money is coinvested in my company’s funds and almost all of the rest is in index funds and ETFs. I am a big fan of automation and have most of my investments set to allocate automatically each month.
We have never invested in real estate as the market around us is frothy and we don’t want a rental property in a place where we can’t manage it directly, but we are investigating a few new investment ideas. My favorite prospect right now is a passive investment in a local business that wants to expand. We love the business and think it has great potential. And it would take way less direct effort than being a landlord!
Personal finance is definitely a hobby of mine. My interest in money started very young and I was always a diligent saver (almost too much so). At 12, I read Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose (CMO note – this is an affiliate link. If you buy it, I’ll get a quarter, which I’ll split with Mama Fish!) and wanted to be an economist to understand how money worked. As you can imagine, I had lots of friends. I’ve been reading and learning about personal finance for as long as I can remember and love helping friends with their budgets and investments. It is what spurred me to start Mama Fish Saves!
What’s the top three pieces of advice you’d have for someone just starting out in the workforce, struggling with their career, or just looking to improve how they handle their money?
If you are just starting out in the workforce, be a sponge. Ask as many questions as you can, get involved in any project where you can be helpful, and raise your hand for unique opportunities. Never let the phrase “that’s not my job” cross your lips. Your ability to control your work-life balance in ten years will be largely determined by the foundation you lay in your first few years. Cultivate a reputation as an efficient and hard worker who is willing to do what it takes to support the team.
If you are struggling with your career, my best piece of advice would be to take a step back. Figure out what your pain points are and what you really want. If you hate your job and getting dressed for work every day makes you sick to your stomach, it might be time for a bigger change. I am a huge fan of Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map (CMO note – affiliate link), which focuses on setting goals based on how you want to feel not where you want to be. Instead of thinking “I want to be promoted in the next year”, think “I want to feel valued at work in the next year” and start doing whatever you need to do in your career to make yourself feel that way. Most of the time, you’ll end up in a much better place.
Finally, if you are looking to improve how you handle your money start by setting financial goals and maintaining a well-organized budget. If you don’t know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter how you get there. My favorite goal setting, budgeting, and investing tips are covered in my Roadmap to Financial Health on Mama Fish Saves. Check it out!
Where can people connect with you?
People can connect with me on my blog, Mama Fish Saves, on Twitter @mamafishsaves, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love hearing from other working moms and am always available to answer one-off personal finance questions!
I Want To Hear From You!
CMO here again – thanks so much to Mama Fish for the interview! I found her story to be fascinating, and I hope it will help other moms out there that might not know others like themselves “in real life”. Be sure to leave a comment for her, and swing by her site!
If you haven’t already, be sure to swing by my one-stop shop page for Breadwinning moms, featuring all my prior articles and interviews (plus some updates on prior interviewees!). Know someone that would be perfect for this series, or is that you? Hop over to my “Be Featured!” page to access the request form.
Be sure to follow my blog for more great posts via e-mail or WordPress, or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter and say hello! You can also check out what I’m buying or baking on Instagram, what I’m pinning on Pinterest, or the latest books I’m reading (or want to read) over on Goodreads.