Money. How do you feel about it?
“I want a new career but I’m beholden to my financial situation.” or
“I want to do work I love, but I also want to make a lot of money,” and even,
“I want a high-paying job, but I don’t want the stress.”
These are some of the things I hear from Work Bigger members. No matter where you are in your career, money plays a big role. So let’s talk about it…
This week, I’m thrilled to interview Shannon McLay, Founder and CEO of The Financial Gym, a modern financial planning company helping you build your best life.
Shannon created The Financial Gym to help people of all financial shapes and sizes get and stay financially healthy. Today we’re talking about:
- Some of the biggest challenges that Shannon sees with women and finances (Maybe you can relate to what Shannon sees out there?)
- What you can do right now to be more savvy with your money, and
- The challenges that Shannon has overcome building a company that’s not an app! (#challengethestatusquo).
So much good stuff in here. Meet Shannon!
Give us some background. Where are you from, and where did you start out?
I’m originally from New York and started my career 17 years ago working on the trading floor at Bank of America. There were a little over 200 people working on the trading floor, and I was one of only 15 women.
It set the stage for my career path as I’ve only worked in male dominated environments: trading floors, hedge funds, in financial advisory, and now I’m an entrepreneur.
What is your mission, the work you want to do?
My mission is to improve financial literacy and the financial health for all Americans but specifically for women.
What led you there? Can you recall any experiences you had that pushed you to your mission?
I was working as a financial adviser at Merrill Lynch, helping rich people get richer, but I also met who I called my “pro-bono clients,” people who didn’t have $250,000 in assets but wanted to work with a person to help them with their money.
After a pro-bono client told me that I was “saving her life” with a financial plan I created for her, I realized that I needed to build a business around clients like her.
Every financial services company wants to work with people who have money.
So I created the Financial Gym, to help people of all financial shapes and sizes get and stay financially healthy.
Instead of a website or an app, we give people a person, a financial trainer, to provide support. We also provide a community of hundreds of other Financial Gym members who are passionate about financial health.
What challenges did you face along the way, and how did you overcome these challenges?
I’ve had nothing but challenges as I’ve built the Financial Gym over the last four years; and the greatest challenge has been around raising money to grow and expand.
Investors questioned my ability to find and train other financial trainers, my need for a physical location rather than building a business around technology, my choice of an all female executive team, and my ability to grow and run a company as a woman.
I overcame all of these challenges because I know that my mission is bigger than me.
Throughout this journey, any time I’ve felt down or questioned myself, I’d get emails or texts from clients sharing their financial success stories. They served as reminders that I needed to keep overcoming every challenge that came my way.
Can you share why you chose to build a business that offers one on one support versus creating a technology solution?
I chose to build a business of people working for people because I simply saw a need for it, yet no one was willing to address it.
While I was working at Merrill Lynch, I continuously met people that wanted financial advice from a person, but didn’t have the assets or financial means to attract a traditional financial planner, and I was frustrated that there was no place to send them to.
I’ve also been continuously frustrated by the financial services venture capital space as it only wants to fund technology companies.
Money is personal and apps are great for DIY people but most of us are not comfortable with DIY. Our financial choices are frequently more complicated than an algorithm or bot or AI adviser could decipher.
What are some of the biggest challenges you see with women and finances today? What can they do to overcome those challenges?
Women find much of the jargon around money confusing so they avoid it. Also, how many groups of women get together to talk about money?
Unfortunately, most guys get together and talk about how they’re investing or how much bitcoin they earn or how they’ve asked for raises, etc.
Women need to start educating themselves more around money and then talking more about it. Women also need to become more mindful of where their money is going. Billions of advertising dollars are spent on making women buy products and services they don’t need. Just look at stores like Duane Reade where almost a quarter of the store is filled with products for only women to buy.
We’re mindlessly spending our money on stuff where men are thinking about investing their money.
I think women need to also spend more time following where their money is going and there are a number of free apps like Expense Tracker that make it easy to do that.
I suggest tracking your spending and then looking back to determine if you’re spending on what’s important to you or wasting money on what’s not.
What are your favorite resources on finance and money?
I love podcasts, blogs and books to get educated. I have my own podcast called Martinis and Your Money – Living a Better Life One Cocktail at a Time or I suggest some other resources in this article.
What advice do you have for 20 to 30-somethings who want to do work they love but are currently feeling stuck?
Have patience. We work with a number of people in their twenties and thirties who want to make a change but don’t know how.
I didn’t find my purpose until I was 35 years old, and before that I was just working and earning a living.
I understand the desire to make a change, but I guarantee you that if that’s what you’re meant to do, the way to do it will come to you at the right time.
Meet Shannon IRL! Work Bigger and The Financial Gym are bringing you a live event in New York City, “Career Change & Money: Become Your Own Boss without Breaking the Bank.” RSVP and Learn (1) Career-necessities: What are the key items that will set you up to make your transition seamless? and (2) Financial-necessities: Where should you be financially to ensure you’re thriving versus solely surviving? RSVP HERE.
Join the discussion 2 Comments
Great article. I loved Shannon’s story about overcoming obstacles in a male dominant industry – and overcoming them by sticking to her heart-centered mission. I’m disciplined on saving and spending, but definitely challenging living in a big bright city, like Chicago. Currently reading and educating myself on high-level financial strategies to continue setting myself up for success and love it! Will download your podcast for my commute. Thanks!
Thanks for your comment Rachel! I agree that managing money can feel more difficult in a big city (New Yorker here!). I think it’s awesome that you’re taking steps to educate yourself though. I think once you build a habit of saving / managing money it gets much easier!