Good morning everyone! Today I’ve got another wonderful story of a successful woman, Tiffany Grinstead from Nationwide. We met at FinCon, and when I told her all about this site and this series, she was excited to participate. And I’m certainly glad she did! She’s a marketing leader at Nationwide, with four kids, and has worked her way up the ladder (similarly to me). You’re going to love her story and her advice for you!
Without further ado, let’s meet Tiffany.
Tell us about yourself!
My name is Tiffany Grinstead, and I’m 42 years old. I am a marketing leader for Nationwide Financial’s individual product solutions group. I manage a team of 30 marketers overseeing product marketing for a business with more than $10 billion in annual sales. My husband John and I have four children. They are 14, 18, 20 and 22.
I grew up in a small town but now live in the city of Columbus, Ohio, where I am an integrated public-school advocate. I also write fiction in my spare time. Also, I write articles and give seminars on how to market a small business or book.
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?
As the primary breadwinner for my family, salary and bonuses have always been important to our financial security. Early on in my career, I remember a senior executive saying, “$100,000, much as it was my boyhood dream, just buys you nothing these days.” I was horrified.
At the time I was pretty entry level, maybe 24 years old, and my husband and I were living on less than $40,000 per year with a new baby and the two of us working. It really seemed like if we ever made $100,000, our lives would be amazing. I now make substantially more than that on an annual basis and my husband teaches at a university. We also have a couple of rental properties that generate income. I am always mindful to be incredibly grateful to be earning more than I ever imagined. I try to never take it for granted.
From a net-worth perspective, I’m very happy with where we are, which is on track for our retirement plan. We’ve planned our retirement with less emphasis on one big number and more on the income we feel we will need in retirement. I pay a lot of attention to how our rental properties, pensions and our savings, which we plan to annuitize, will turn into guaranteed income we won’t outlive. We are seeking to be able to fully replace our income during our retirement years. We also invest in life insurance so that we can protect each other and our children in case the worst happens.
There was a choice we made in terms of our net worth, so all four children can graduate college without debt. We feel this is the best gift we can give them in beginning their lives. We ask them to work summers for their fun money and to gain experience, but we want them to focus on their studies during the school year. Our oldest has already graduated debt-free and is now a nurse. Two more are in college, and we have a strong plan for our high school daughter as well. CMO Note – College for my three boys is also a key goal of mine. Although I don’t plan to pay for any college regardless of cost, I’ve been saving and investing for their college since they were tiny.
How did you get started in the workforce?
I really started in the workforce at 14 in the snack bar at the local swimming pool. I worked part-time jobs all through high school as a waitress, a freelance writer and once as a cashier at a tractor store. These experiences gave me a strong work ethic. They also taught me that you have to take control of your future. I waited tables with folks who had college degrees but just couldn’t break through into the careers they wanted. From that, I realized the importance of internships and made sure I focused on gaining experience while I was still in college.
The last of several internships I worked at was with Nationwide, one of the country’s leading providers of financial services and insurance. I started as an intern and worked my way up through different roles and levels of the company. Those experiences helped shape me into a leader focused on empowering others. Today, as a vice president I focus on how to drive bottom-line results by removing obstacles and inspiring my team to do their best work.
How did you get from where you started to where you are now?
While I moved from intern to vice president over the years, it wasn’t a straight shot. My career started in Corporate Communications, and I had a pretty fast trajectory to my first leadership and managerial role. I became a people leader at 27 and in many ways, I was not ready for the role. I was fortunate enough to work at a company that invested heavily in my development. As I grew as a leader, I was able to turn to strong mentors, external executive-coaching resources and leadership-development programs to help me grow.
Eventually, I was able to shift from communications to a marketing leadership role. I learned that impacting the business and driving bottom-line results through a strategic and future-focused approach was a core strength for me. I learned to pursue roles that allowed me to lean into my strengths and was willing to take risks.
At one point, I was offered my first vice president role. The role required more travel than I was comfortable doing given my family situation, but a mentor encouraged me to accept the opportunity and figure out how to make it work in my life. In the end, I took the role and was able to manage it within my own personal boundaries.
Being able to take calculated risks and lean into my strengths has been a key part of moving up, along with focusing on leadership competencies. I don’t think it’s okay to ever stop learning. Nothing is guaranteed and you need to always stay marketable. I completed the Registered Corporate Coach certification in the last couple of years, and I’m always seeking new ways to grow my skillset.
Where do you want to go in your career – and your financial life?
From a career perspective, I am focused on continuing to learn, grow and expand my skills and experience. I see myself as a marketing and business leader, as well as a strong strategist. My career will continue to grow in those areas, and I’ll continue to look for ways to develop as the world changes.
From a personal perspective, we seek what I would call financial freedom. My husband is eleven years older than me and I want to make sure that we have years together where we have more flexibility to live our lives. When we do retire, we want to know we have guaranteed income coming in every month so we can live the lifestyle we enjoy—travel, volunteer and advocacy work.
We still have one child at home and two in college, so the kids moving into financial independence is a huge goal for us. We’ve seen our oldest achieve financial independence, and we are incredibly proud of her and the work she did to get there.
I don’t see myself stepping out of work at any point in the near future, but I do see the way I work and the work I do evolving. I expect to write, speak publicly and do coaching in retirement. But, I expect I will do these things on my terms and take on the work that I want to do. Protected income that I can count on will put me in the driver’s seat no matter what happens to interest rates or the stock market, so that I can live the life I choose.
What do you see as the key to earning such a high salary?
If you want to earn a high salary, I think the key is to reframe your path to meet your passion. For many years, I have lived by the adage that if you do what you love the money will follow. I majored in journalism, even though my mother wanted me to go to nursing school because that was the best way to ensure I could make money. “There’s always jobs for nurses,” she said. She wasn’t wrong. The problem was I loved writing and public speaking. I knew I would be miserable in nursing classes and even more miserable as a working nurse. I wouldn’t have enjoyed the job or the work, and I doubt I ever would have been successful as a result.
At every step of my career I have followed my passion, and, as a result, I’ve stood out for it. I came to write for Nationwide’s newsletter, and I loved it. I was good at it, and I was rewarded with interesting new assignments. As I learned about the different roles in Corporate Communications, I took every volunteer assignment that came my way—from volunteering to help after weather catastrophes with media relations to facilitating internal strategy planning.
That’s how I learned I had a passion for building strategies and driving business results. I realized I had a real passion for being part of a business decision-making process, and I learned that I loved leading people and seeing them grow and succeed. Every role I took was about following my passion, stretching myself to try something new and expanding my marketable skills. I never took anything for granted, and I always stayed marketable outside the company. I’m at Nationwide because I choose to be, and I contribute in ways that benefit our customers and pull on my passions and strengths.
If you manage your career from that perspective and stay positive and in control of your choices, that’s how you end up being a high earner.
The other day, I researched what nurses with twenty years of experience earn. At this point, I earn as much as most and more than many doctors. Do what you love and the money will follow.
Have you ever experienced issues in the workforce because you’re a woman? What did you do in response?
I can’t pretend it’s easy to be a full-time working mom. I’ve felt the guilt and pressure. We all do. I’m the president of our urban public school’s PTA, and I’m the first call for our children’s emergencies. I’m also very, very lucky that my husband is not only a partner in caring for our family, but he’s also a leader.
He has really made so much possible for me by carrying so much of the burden. We’ve also had nannies over the years and help with cleaning, laundry and cooking. The investment in those kinds of services is an investment in both your children and your career. The space it opens up alleviates guilt and lets you have more quality time with your kids when you are home with them. I spent money on this even when I was just starting out and money was very tight.
I feel very fortunate to work for a company that supports its people, including working moms. Nationwide has been named a great place to work several times, and working at a firm that supports its people has enabled me to have a successful career, be an involved mom and give back to my community through volunteer work. It’s been one of the primary reasons I’ve chosen to stay at Nationwide over the years. I’ve been in an incredibly lucky position to be able to have flexibility and still be promoted and grow as an executive.
My biggest challenge has been within the industry and working with others outside of the company. As a female leader and a mom at Nationwide, I am one of many. However, in the community and often in the industry, I’m one of the only ones. My experience has been that I’ve sometimes had to be a little firmer with my voice in these rooms to make sure that I am heard and taken seriously.
Chief Mom Officer is primarily a personal finance blog – tell us about your saving and investment strategy
We recently hired a financial advisor to help my husband and I maximize our retirement income plan. We want to ensure we have protected monthly income to last for our entire lives and we’re focused on leaving a legacy for our four children.
Also, we invest in real estate and have retirement plans. Additionally, we both have pensions which is very rare and very lucky. We also have life insurance, and we are beginning to shop for long-term care coverage. I watched my grandfather’s legacy be significantly diminished by a stock-market drop and his long-term care expenses in his last few years of life. Leaving a legacy was a huge priority for him as a self-made small-business owner and first-generation American.
We don’t want our legacy to be put into that kind of peril, so we will plan for both long-term care and protection from market downturns. I expect annuitization – taking a guaranteed stream of income that will last for our lifetimes – to be part of our retirement plan, alongside our pensions, sophisticated life-insurance policies that will create a legacy, real-estate holdings that will result in both income and assets to be passed to the next generation and retiring all of our debts to be key to our plan.
And, as I shared earlier, we are focused on educating four children so that they can start their lives debt-free, which is the best legacy we feel we can give them in today’s environment.
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?
- Pay attention to what you’re good at and lean into your strengths. If you continue to follow the things you love, you are most likely to be successful.
- Don’t count yourself out. When I read the book, Lean In, one thing that stayed with me was the fact that men apply for jobs they have 50 percent of the experience for and women wait until they have 100 percent. That often holds us back in the workforce. You are going to have to take risks and get out there if you want to succeed.
- Take control of your finances: Avoid or pay down debt. Credit cards are a definite to avoid, as the interest rates make them hard to get out of the cycle of debt. If you have student loans, get into the habit of over paying them from each paycheck so you can end them as early as possible. Once you are out of debt, pay yourself first. Maximize your 401(k) match and get into the habit of saving 25 percent of every paycheck from the beginning of your career. Start in a savings account until you have three months of living expenses. From there, you can shift that money into investments. Make sure you’re also funding enough life insurance, which is usually cheap when you are young and healthy, to take care of your family in case of the worst. That’s part of paying yourself, and can come out of that 25 percent you are setting aside for yourself.
Where can people connect with you?
CMO Here Again!
Thank you so much to Tiffany for stopping by to share her story. The part where you talk about your boss dismissing $100k as “nothing” reminds me very much of some conversations with leaders early in my career. I once had a boss who dismissed having $1 million saved for retirement as “easy”. There’s nothing easy about it! And when you’re talking with someone who makes half (or less) of what you do, it’s a pretty tone deaf thing to say.
I loved the advice to save 25% of your paycheck, too. When you’re first starting out in the workforce, you often have more disposable income than you ever will again (especially if you’re in a corporate job). If you can get in the habit up-front of setting aside a percentage of your salary, you’ll be able to keep that up as your salary grows. Even if 25% is impossible for you, do what you can and increase the percentage each year. You’ll be at 25% before you know it!
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