Caroline A. Snyder: Founder & CEO, Verdi Advising
“My childhood, in a lot of ways, was pretty typical. My parents never talked about money, I never had to deal with it and I spent most of my free time ice skating and trying to figure out how to sneak out of my house without my mom catching me. I never succeeded at that. Luckily I eventually figured out how to deal with money though!
I lived in Virginia Water, England when I was really young (and had a British accent until I was 10!) and then Oak Park, Illinois through high school. I was a major book worm and thought I'd eventually be a teacher (like everyone else in my family) or write (if I'm a good reader, I must be a good writer, right?!). Interestingly enough I still do both those things, but not in the way I originally imagined.
I started babysitting when I was 10 and have never stopped working. I was a nursery school assistant, a day camp sports leader, a respite worker, a non-profit consultant assistant, a TA, and a teacher before moving into finance. My first jobs always had to do with kids. I love working with children and teenagers and love getting the chance to help people in a really direct way.
No super exciting stories about my first job, but I like remembering that I got paid $5/hour and thought I was rolling in it. Perspective is important. Even though I’ve been working since I was a kid, I didn’t really feel the money I was getting paid until I started working full-time. Before then the pay I received covered fun stuff, but I knew that my necessities would be paid by my parents. I was incredibly privileged in that way (and in many other ways!). My first full-time, non-seasonal job was as a high school teacher. I worked in public schools and, in retrospect, was never paid even close to what I deserved, but that first year teaching in the states I felt rich! I made enough money to cover my expenses and enough to live the care-free lifestyle I wanted outside of the classroom. Once the bigger adult expenses started adding up and I realized that I would eventually need to start an emergency savings account and pay my credit card bills that rich feeling quickly disappeared.
From there I worked in more traditional financial advising and eventually made it to my dream job - being the founder of a financial coaching company for feminists.
I taught high school for five years and absolutely loved it. I love working with teenagers and I loved the performative and team-building aspects of the work. I didn’t love the extreme hours (minimum 12 hour days + weekends) or, after that first year, the pay. My mom died when I was 25 and soon after I realized that I didn’t want to stay in education forever. I decided to go back to school to get an MBA, in part because I knew that degree would be useful for most other career options. From there I worked in more traditional financial advising and eventually made it to my dream job - being the founder of a financial coaching company for feminists.
I was a terrible saver for most of my working life. I never saved money when I was working part-time, except for short periods of time so that I was able to buy special things (i.e. that great jacket from Anthropology or a pair of new Doc Martens). Once I started working full-time I joined my school’s retirement plan and set up automatic contributions into that. I learned early on that I struggled really hard with saving unless it was automated and out of my checking account. I didn’t do a great job of building up my emergency savings until after grad school but was excellent at saving for travel when I was teaching. I would save for a few months, blow it all on a trip and then start the process over again. I look back on that time and wish that I had done a better job of building up emergency savings account since that would have saved me from credit card debt struggles, but I’m really glad that I learned the value of saving for things and experiences that I really value. I still struggle with saving unless I automate, but that just means I do a lot of automating!
I get a lot of questions from folks about saving and about how they feel like they’ve missed their chance to do that well. While it is easier to save up a lot of money when you start early, I like to think of myself as a poster child of someone who made a lot of mistakes, but learned how to make them work for me in the long-term.
I don’t have specific products that I love when it comes to saving, except that I believe everyone should have a high-interest savings account. I’m obsessed with podcasts and especially like Death, Sex & Money and Bad with Money with Gaby Dunn. I’m also in production for my own podcast - The Financial Feminists - which will launch in the next few months!
Smart spending means that your spending habits actually match your values and goals. I like to say that I should be able to look at your bank account and know who you are. If your bank account says that you’re someone else then your spending habits need to change asap. For example, if you were to look at what I spent in the last week you’d see transactions from the farmer’s market, 365, a donation to my favorite organization in New Orleans, a monthly renewal of my yoga membership and my Book of the Month subscription. You won’t see Amazon purchases (their business model doesn’t fit my values) or a car payment (my husband and I share) because those don’t align with my goals.
I think it is important to remember that habits should change over time.
My absolute favorite smart spending habit is my Money Date practice! Every week I sit down with myself and review my money goals, spending, and progress towards specific tasks (i.e. updating my insurance or refinancing my home). I track everything I spend and reflect on my spending habits during these dates as well. I think it is important to remember that habits should change over time. What was smart when I was 22 isn’t smart for me as a 32-year-old and that’s a good thing!
I love high-interest savings accounts. My favorites are Ally and Citizens Access, but honestly, there are several that are all really similar. There have been a lot of exciting investing apps that have become popular in the last few years, but most people don’t actually need all of the bells and whistles that come with that tech. For investing I recommend Vanguard, especially for IRAs and Roth IRAS and Ellevest.