A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak at the welcome reception for the Lola Retreat, which was founded last year by two amazing personal finance bloggers—Melanie Lockert and Emma Pattee. The goal of the retreat is to empower women to take control of their finances, build their confidence, and come away with specific action items to further build their financial future.
I have been able to meet, and collaborate with many personal finance bloggers over the year and each time they leave me feeling inspired and driven to do more—both in my professional and personal life. The stories they share are tremendously powerful. Like so many others, I relate to their struggles and feel motivated by their successes. As attendees arrived at the Lola Retreat, we asked them a question—what is your #financialwin (of course we had to hashtag it!). Throughout the night women would grab a sharpie, and write their financial win. Paying off debt was shared by a few attendees—and one woman told us how she paid off over $12,000 in student loans last year! Another had opened her first investment account in order to save for her dream trip to Japan. A colleague of mine shared this was the first year she was able to max out her 401(k). As people shared their wins, their smiles were as big as their pride.
So what #financialwin did I share? To represent my win, I passed around my Fidelity work badge and as it made its way around the room you could hear the laughs. A few months ago, one of my teammates took my badge and over the image of my face, taped a Wonder Woman outfit—literally making me a super hero at work!
My badge represents my win because it was the first thing I received when I started at Fidelity nearly five years ago. I got my first job when I was 16 years old and since then, I have always been a terrific saver. However, it wasn't until I started working at Fidelity that I learned my money could work harder for me. Although I have had other financial wins – paying off my student debt, opening my first brokerage account—if I had to point to the biggest one, it would be taking advantage of Fidelity's workplace retirement savings plan.
I graduated college in the middle of the recession—I think our commencement speaker literally said to us "all your dreams can come true, just maybe not right now!" In my first job I had the opportunity to sign up for the company's 401(k), but I had never heard of one, so I asked my manager about it. He told me it was something for retirement and that my money would be taken out of my paycheck and put into the stock market. At 22 years old, retirement was something that I could not comprehend, no matter how hard I tried to picture getting old. And the stock market? Was he kidding? Every time I looked at the TV it was going down! I recalled stories of friends not getting jobs and family members losing money in the market. So, I didn't sign up on what would have been my first 401(k) and lost out on four years of saving; instead, electing to keep the minimal amount of money I was making in a bank account. In hindsight, this was probably one of my biggest financial mistakes. But, the important thing is I learned from it.
While at Fidelity, I became educated on the economic cycles—learning that the stock market goes up and down, but when you are young and you have time to reach your goal, you are able to weather the sometimes unsettling ebbs and flows of the financial markets. I was taught the impact of compounding and how it was never too late to start to take advantage of it (thanks, again bestie!). In many ways my first significant financial win was correcting an early financial miss and it's one that I was proud to share with the ladies at the Lola Retreat.