Last weekend I was lucky enough to meet Joy Liu, Certified Level 2 Trainer with Financial Gym. I found her presentation inspiring and insightful. It made me realized that most of the financial planning advice I have read, or heard has comes from men. The advice and information Joy gave was different from what I have read other places. It has really stuck with me, so I went home and asked her for an interview.
Joy, thank you so much for doing this interview with The Woman Project, can you start by telling us how you got started with Financial Gym?
I started my career working in the advertising industry. While we fancied ourselves as “storytellers”, we were really the driving force behind consumerism and selling people things that they didn’t need. After some time, I realized it didn’t fit my interests or desired lifestyle anymore. At the same time, I started working on my own finances and realized the power that came from not living paycheck to paycheck, and frankly, got a bit angry thinking about how we’re never taught how to manage our finances in school or at home. After marrying into the military, I started looking for ways to pivot my career into one that could enable me to be geographically independent from NYC so I could live in the same place as my husband. When it became obvious that I wasn’t going to be able to continue working for a big ad agency anymore, I started looking outside of the industry. Because I had saved an emergency fund or an “F*** you fund”, I was able to leave my job and live “fun-employed” in NYC for 2 months. During this time, I reached out to everyone in my network looking for new opportunities. Through 2nd and 3rd loose connections, I met the founder of the Financial Gym. It checked all of my boxes, and here we are today.
And how is the Financial Gym different than other resources out there?
Historically, the financial services industry has made it’s money by only servicing people with over $250K in assets. For everyone else who has less than $250K in assets, they have access to a “financial advisor” by purchasing expensive life insurance policies they don’t necessarily need or are handed a free app to try and figure it out on their own. While there are great free resources out there for DIY’ers, most people want to have a real-live person to talk to and get financial education and advice from. That’s where the Financial Gym comes in. We’re here to help you with your individual financial life based on your unique situation and your life goals. We don’t make money from your investments or by selling you products, we sustain our business through our client’s monthly membership fees they pay us for our service.
What advice do you have someone who might just be getting started and doesn’t have the resources for Financial Gym? What could they do right now?
Something else the financial industry has done a good job of, is making the idea of managing your finances something that seems very complicated and that requires an expert to handle, but in reality, it’s not that different from what budgeting advice you might get from your grandparents. Spend less than you make. 40% of Americans can’t cover a $400 emergency. That means almost half of the population is operating under very slim margins or overextending themselves financially on a day-to-day basis. Credit card debt is just a symptom of spending more than you make. If you can start to create more margin in your budget through a combination of spending less and increasing your income, then building up an emergency fund, paying off debt, and building up your assets to being someone with over $250K in assets is a breeze.
The Woman Project has been working to protect Roe v. Wade here in Rhode Island, and we know that our uterus can impact our access to health care, but how can our different identities impact financial planning? Are there some unique challenges?
There are so many reasons why it is so important for women to have access to financial planning services that help them become more financially literate. Statistically, women make less money due to the wage gap and care-taking responsibilities, spend more money because we are marketed to heavier than men, invest less because no one has been able to explain it to us in a way that makes us feel 100% ready to get started, AND we live longer. The cards are stacked against us and unlike other issues that negatively impact women, this one is within our control if we can start to face it and take agency over it. Money is power, so let’s go get more of it, keep more of it for ourselves, and give more towards causes that make a positive impact on us socially and politically.
As it relates to the issue of reproductive rights, our financial health plays a huge role in our decisions relating to family planning. Women have been able to progress in their careers and earning potential through the power of being able to manage when (or if we ever) choose to have children. On average, the addition of a child to the family will increase your monthly expenses by $1,000. Double income households are struggling to make ends meet with childcare costs let alone the additional financial challenge it brings to a single income or single parent household. Lack of access to reproductive health care will hurt women’s ability to get financially healthy because it just adds to all of the issues I already talked about above.
Last, if you are able to save, what advice do you have for using it for social good?
The less money you have to spend to sustain your desired lifestyle, the less you have to save for your future self, and the more you can start to give of your time and money to social good. For clients who want to give money to organizations they care about, I recommend they start a separate savings account and setup an automatic contribution every time they get paid. From there, they have a fund of money that can be used for donations to causes and political campaigns they care about when opportunities arise.