Welcome to the If Money Were Easy podcast! Co-hosts Mary Beth Storjohann, CFP® and Neela Hummel, CFP® explore timely topics regarding your money, including the wins and losses they’ve personally experienced along the way. Show guests will include leading authors, business owners, professionals, and many of the in-house financial advisors here at Abacus Wealth Partners, all discussing how to grow your wealth, make an impact with your money, and expand what’s possible with your finances.
Tune in to the first episode to find out more about co-hosts Mary Beth and Neela, how they ended up in the financial industry, and the many lessons they have learned.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode
- What to expect from listening to If Money Were Easy
- The impact of Mary Beth and Neela’s backgrounds, and how it led them into the financial industry
- How Neela’s background guides her approach in helping others with their finances
- Money messages Mary Beth received growing up and how it impacts her finances today
- The most challenging part of keeping your financial path pointing in the right direction
- The one question Mary Beth uses with clients to help determine financial success
- Why this podcast was created and what they hope you take away from it
- Where the podcast’s name came from and why money isn’t always easy
- The industry myth of how challenging money should be (and why it’s a myth)
- What drives Abacus Wealth Partners and other guests you’ll hear from
- Neela and Mary Beth share the best financial advice they’ve ever received
- Everyone makes money mistakes; find out the ones Mary Beth and Neela have personally experienced
Resources Mentioned on the Show
- Abacus Wealth Partners is a dynamic, deeply human financial planning and investment management firm with a passion for impact investing. Schedule a 15-minute call to find out if working with Abacus is a fit for you.
- Join the Abacus community by connecting with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on LinkedIn.
- Connect with Mary Beth on Twitter, Instagram, and on LinkedIn.
- Connect with Neela on Twitter, Instagram, and on LinkedIn.
Enjoy the show?
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Transcript of the Episode
Mary Beth (00:14):
Hey there. Welcome to the If Money Were Easy podcast, the show where we teach you how to expand what’s possible with your money. We’re your hosts, Mary Beth Storjohann and
Mary Beth (00:25):
Certified financial planners and co CEOs of Abacus Wealth Partners. Throughout this podcast, you’re going to learn from leading authors, business owners, professionals, and many of our very own in-house financial gurus. from Abacus. You can expect to hear about money and values, growing your wealth, creating an impact, leadership, financial wins, and some losses and more. Our goal is that you walk away from each episode with at least one takeaway that you can implement on your own financial journey.
And now for a brief disclosure from our compliance department. This podcast is for educational purposes and is not intended as investment, legal, or tax advice. Any opinion shared is not the opinion of Abacus Wealth Partners. Without further ado, let’s jump into our first episode.
Mary Beth (01:13):
Welcome Neela, to our very first podcast episode.
Hi, Mary Beth, welcome.
Mary Beth (01:19):
I’m so excited to be here with you.
Mary Beth (01:22):
If we could just tell you how excited Neela and I are to be behind microphones. It’s wonderful.
They’re really neat. I, I highly recommend
Mary Beth (01:29):
All you need is a microphone and some headphones you just feel really like polished.
Mary Beth (01:34):
So we wanted to jump in today. We are very excited to be here. We’re launching our very first podcast from Abacus Wealth Partners and Neela and I, co CEOs are behind the scenes. We’re really excited to share our story and a bit about why we’re doing this podcast and why it’s so important to us to share some of this messaging with you. And so what we’re gonna do is spend some time right now sharing a bit about ourselves, our backgrounds, and then what you can expect from this podcast and what we hope that you get out of it. Neela, tell us a bit about you. Tell us about your career, your family, what brought you here today?
So, I’ve been an advisor here at Abacus for the last 14 years. I’ve worn a lot of different hats under the Abacus umbrella, but I think what really actually brought me into this industry was my upbringing. So I grew up in an entrepreneurial household. I’m one of eight kids, and there was obviously a lot of chaos because I have only three kids and I can only imagine what eight kids would actually be like. But my dad was a strong player in the gaming industry early on in the gaming industry and had some really big financial wins, and then also experienced some really grave financial losses. So early on in my childhood, there was a lot of excess and a lot of wealth. And as I got a little bit older, our circumstances dramatically changed. And so we went from having a lot to a little, and I saw the impact of going all in on as an entrepreneur, both the benefits and the drawbacks. And that really, you know, I guess it doesn’t take a a therapist to recognize how I found myself in financial planning , but I wanted to create this level of stability that could free entrepreneurs up to use their greatest gifts, focusing on, on creating new industries and new businesses while also making sure that they weren’t totally betting the farm. So I had a very unique upbringing in that sense. I am the daughter of an entrepreneur, and with a huge family that experienced a lot of financial wins and some really big financial losses. It brought for me the value of having a plan and having some degree of stability, and that there’s a lot of things out there in the world that you can’t control. But there are some things that you can, and with what I learned from my upbringing and really bring that into my advising work, it’s really created a really rich and rewarding career.
Mary Beth (04:09):
So in talking about being an advisor, what lights you up about doing this work? Who excites you? What excites you about it?
It’s honestly, it’s all about the people that you impact. I like to say that we’re not really in the finance business. We’re actually in the trust business. And that you can have a tremendous impact on somebody’s life by helping steer them in the right direction, hearing them out about what they wanna actually do, and then really helping them put the tools in place so that they can live their best life and focus on the things that they actually care about. And when you actually see that, when you see a person’s body language completely relax, when you get a handwritten note from a client saying, oh my gosh, we’re doing this and we’re doing it based on, on your advice and your help along the way, I honestly think we just have the best job in the world.
Mary Beth (04:59):
I agree. I actually was just talking this morning about servant leadership and what it looks like at different levels from clients to our employees to the greater industry. And just being able to see those outcomes and to celebrate with people, it’s amazing.
It’s incredible. And it’s all about them, right? Who are you able to help? How are you able to help them? Because they are our business, right? Our business is our clients. Exactly. So what about you? What were some of the money messages that you received growing up?
Mary Beth (05:26):
Ooh, that is a, a spicy one for me.
I would say diving right in.
Mary Beth (05:30):
Diving right into the heart of the issue. I’m very open about this actually. I grew up in a family that I say it was very paycheck to paycheck. Uh, we talked about money growing up, but it was often loud and sometimes heated, and there was just a lot of anxiety around money. And it, it really was this idea of there never being enough and the never enoughness came from a lack of education around finances is really what it stemmed from. Not knowing what to do with money, how to control it instead of it controlling you. And the money actually led us versus us leading where it could go. Mm-hmm. . And so I grew up in a very unsteady financial household, but lots of love along the way. So I’d say that’s really where it started. But the work ethic, my dad worked three jobs growing up. My mom would get up at 6:00 AM to hop on a train to go to downtown Los Angeles from where we worked and would come home late at night. And so the work ethic was always there in my family. And then the finances were not really there. And so it came time for me to go to college. I paid my own way through school. And I, I’ve had a job since I was 15, and since I was paying my own way through school, I was looking for jobs. And I ended up in the industry first as a secretary at a financial services firm in San Diego. And really began my career there. I saw that you could control the money, that you can create a plan for the money. And I saw these advisors working with clients doing just what you said, leading them and guiding them. And I saw back in the day of stacks of paper and the huge paper binders that clients would walk in with before they met with the advisors. And then they would come in with all of this stress and anxiety and then to see this sense of relief and the clarity and the peace that they would leave with. And I was sold. I started off as an international business major. I switched my major my sophomore year and majored specifically in financial services. And I haven’t looked back.
Oh, well, I love what you said about learning how to control money instead of letting money control you. How have you maybe done that with some of your clients and even in your own life?
Mary Beth (07:35):
I think with clients, it goes back to what you said. I was actually talking about this this morning on another podcast. This idea of the behavioral components, right? Mm-hmm. that there’s so much the idea of enough of what’s the dollar number that we need and how do we get there? But the dollar number is not it. It’s really about the kind of values that you want to embody, the kind of life that you want to lead and why you want to do those things. So Right. Really working with clients and it takes work. That’s actually the hard part I was talking about. The numbers are the easy part because numbers don’t lie. Yeah. At the end of the day, we can plug numbers in and it could spit out an answer for whatever that need, that financial need is, but the feelings and the emotional work and the staying invested when the market tanks or the staying in the job or leaving the job for a higher income job, whatever those things are, making those tough decisions along the way, that’s the control factor, right? Those are the tweaks you have to make. And, and that’s what the work is with clients, is being that partner with them along that path, either cheerleading them or letting them know they can afford to make the decision or they can afford to cut back or churn up whatever they need to do. That’s with clients, I think is the biggest part. This idea of controlling, it’s always controlled by their vision though, by a client’s vision of what do you want your life to look like? And I think we talked about this in the past, or advisors talk about it, I should say. I asked clients, if we were meeting three years from today, what would’ve had to happen personally, professionally, and financially in order for you to be happy with the progress that you’ve made? And those are the constructs that we use. You know, you’re looking three years out, five years out, 10 years out, and then you’re backing into it. But those ideas and concepts that you want for your life, that’s how you keep the control factor on it. Yeah. Because without, without having a goal, it’s like saying that you wanna lose weight without actually having a destination for, you want to go, or you wanna travel to Europe without a map or a plan. So really knowing what your destination looks like is important and the dollar figure is not what keeps people emotionally committed to it.
It’s so true. And, and even just the emphasis on your goal. It’s so often as advisors, I know we get this question of should I do X, Y, or Z? And always the answer is, well, it depends. Yes. Because what might be true for you could be very different from the guy next door. And that we all have these really bespoke financial plans because we all have really unique concerns and goals and outcomes that we wanna achieve. And that really kind of speaks to part of why we wanted to do this podcast was creating just a lot more nuance in an industry where there’s a lot of rules of thumb and tried and true things that are ostensibly intended to apply to everybody, where there’s a lot of things where there is nuance, because I don’t know what you want. And so we gotta spend some time figuring out what that is because you’re so right. The numbers, boy, those are easy.
Mary Beth (10:19):
Exactly. And that’s why I always say it’s called personal finance for a reason. Hmm. My least favorite question from the media is how much should somebody be saving at age 40 or in their fifties? How much should somebody put aside? It depends every time you’re going to make me give you a range, but it’s not accurate because I don’t know somebody’s personal financial situation. And so it doesn’t necessarily apply. I can’t tell you that it’s going to get them to where they want to be.
Mary Beth (10:43):
So with that, let’s pivot to why we’re doing this podcast, what we’re hoping to get out of it, because it’s obviously the podcast market is incredibly saturated at this point in time. So what does lending our voices and our 33 years of combined industry experience, what does that mean? What does that do?
Yeah. You know, I think about it when you and I first took over as co-CEOs and leading this incredible company that, that we call home, we started going to more of the industry events that we’ve been going to for the last many years. And we look around and we’re oftentimes the only women in the room. There’s not a whole lot of diversity in our industry. And it’s something that overall the industry just needs a lot of work on. And so being young women, being moms of young kids, managing a company that has over $3 billion under management, we’re like, maybe there is some different lens that we can bring that also helps other women down the road see themselves in different roles. And that feeling that in general, you want a broad variety of opinions from people who pull from a lot of different backgrounds. Because if you have the same person giving the advice as somebody in their exact same demographic, you’re not really getting two different opinions. You’re getting an echo chamber. So I like that idea of just being different voices. And then the other thing I would say is that you and I have gotten a lot of value from being co-CEOs. That’s not really a very common thing as as much as you, and I think it should be a lot more common than it is. But just having a trusted person where you can talk about some tricky issues. You know, everything from leadership to finance, to values, to just open up more conversation.
Mary Beth (12:30):
Yeah, I love that. And I think, you know, talking about the different perspectives, and we, I said 33 years of combined experience, I think you’re 14 years growing up the ranks of Abacus, my 18, going on 19 years of being in the industry in a variety of roles, running my own company, coming to Abacus as chief marketing officer while you were chief of advisors and then us coming together as co CEOs. I think there’s a lot of nuance and there’s a lot of variety to our backgrounds that we bring to the table. And being candid in terms of you really enjoy working with those that are transitioning into retirement or protecting their wealth. And a little bit on the older side, not older, sorry, not older, younger.
Mary Beth (13:06):
A little closer to their work optional period.
Mary Beth (13:10):
Work optional, yes. And whereas I, you know, light up really about working with, the Gen X and Gen Y, those millennials and those that are still building their wealth, I think we bring a variety of perspectives that are unique to the table. And like you said, co-leadership, five children under the age of seven combined, um, between us, , we are moms and we are the only women in the room. And so I really think that is unique in a world where, I don’t know if this happens to you, but I have clients who reach out to me will send me links to things in articles, financial tips on the news, and then they’ll send me TikTok videos sometimes of some strategies that they’ve seen of like, is this apply? And it goes back to, it depends. And so I think this is another way, uh, there’s a lot of financial gurus out there, there’s a lot of information. And between us, we have CFPs, we have the college experience, we have the decades of experience in the industry and hands-on work with the clients in these ways. And I think it’s really important to filter through that information of learning from people. We obviously do ourselves of our own financial planning, but also leaning on that, that knowledge that we have from working with clients for years.
Absolutely. And I think also just a willingness to dive deep, right? I mean, I think both of us are, are pretty open in just general sharing. And the reality is that we both came into this industry in very different ways and we both had very different upbringings. And I think both of those things really influenced the kind of advisors and the kind of leaders that we are today. That’s essentially why we opted to run as co-CEOs, is we thought we had extremely complimentary skillsets and experiences that could really benefit from each other and look forward to interviewing other interesting people with a broader lens of ways you can really create more value alignment with your money.
Mary Beth (15:03):
Yeah. And I think let’s pivot into this idea of, you know, the, the name of the podcast. Spend some time there because If Money Were Easy is a very unique title for a podcast. And it’s one of the things I will say that Neela and I pondered on for quite a bit. This idea came from another advisor at Abacus. So it’s originally their idea for the podcast. And so we’ve inherited it and we really are taking it and making it our own. And this idea of what we are up against in this country when it comes to money and why it really isn’t easy, and thinking through these problems. If money we’re easy, what would our lives look like? Or maybe childcare would be easier, or the educational system. And there’s a lot of complexities even in terms of like stock ticker symbols for goodness sakes. Everything is complex, uh, when it comes to understanding the world of finance. And our idea really is to demystify a lot of those concepts and to break it down and as Neela said, dig deep and uncover some things and make it relatable. I think that’s a big thing.
Yeah. Right. And try and make it exactly that. Make it relatable so that it can be a little easier so that it alleviates a lot of the stress that often goes with money because it has been known to be this esoteric concept, and yet we deal with money every single day with transactions and banking and rent it, everything has financial ramifications. And if money were a little easier, think about all that stress and time we could all get back.
Mary Beth (16:27):
Oh, the mental energy, yeah. Alone. What would we do?
Right. You know, the other thing is that our industry in a lot of ways have led people to believe that money has to be really, really complicated, and that we all have to be the smartest person in the room. And I don’t think either of us is really interested in being in the smartest person in the room. We want to make things a lot more accessible because great ideas come from everywhere and that everybody has a right to better financial outcomes. Because most people, they have all the tools, they just need a little bit of pointing in the right direction.
Mary Beth (17:03):
I agree. The accessibility is incredibly important. And I think if we’ve learned anything from being the only women in many of the rooms that we are the only women in now, we talk a lot about building separate tables and joining tables, and I think you and I are very much on the page of expanding the table. We’re adding seats to the table, right? We want to invite people in. We want more diverse voices, we want more diverse concepts, and we believe that we really, truly are better together.
Mary Beth (17:32):
So that’s a little bit about Neela and I and what you can expect from our unique personalities. While we’re hosting this podcast, we’re hoping to do shows each week. We’re keeping it ideally to around 30 minutes each. We will be leaning heavily on our in-house experts at Abacus. There is is a wealth of knowledge. We have over 30 advisors in the house covering everything from impact to women in transition to sending children to college, to diversity, equity, inclusion. We, we have a lot of resources internally, so you will hear from a variety of advisors as our guests on this show along the way. And we’ll also bringing in some outside resources as well for interviews and education for you all. We’re really excited about this opportunity. We do think it’s really unique and it’s a fun way for us to, uh, share a bit of ourselves and to educate as well. We’re very impact oriented and driven at Abacus. And you can always read more about the company on the website as well. But we’re looking forward to spending time with you all each week. So at this point in time, we will pivot into closing questions, which we will typically ask for those that we are interviewing. So this will be the first probably and only time that you’ll hear from Neela and I on these questions. But going forward, you will hear from our guests. So Neela, what is the best financial advice you have ever received?
So I think this was accidental financial advice, but I would say it came from my dad in that you create your own opportunities and I think that has broad financial implications, but basically grab control, manifest what you need to manifest, and the rest will take care of itself.
Mary Beth (19:10):
How about you? Best financial advice you’ve ever received?
Mary Beth (19:16):
I would say I wasn’t explicitly told, but it’s something I intuited over the years, and that is that nobody will look out for you, like you look out for you. And that was this idea of career growth. I became entrepreneurial driven when I realized that somebody else would always be in charge of my salary. That was always a, that was a very interesting shift for me that I realized somewhere early on in my career and this idea that my worth and my finances were going to be tied to somebody else’s perspective on how well I was doing my job and how well that I was performing in certain things versus being able to create and do those things as my authentic self. You and I were talking offline…
Comes back to the money controlling you versus you controlling the money!
Mary Beth (20:02):
Yep. So again, those therapy questions, the therapy conversations, but, I would say that was one of the, the best lessons, especially when it came down to finances, is looking out for myself. I never waited for anybody to take care of me. Once that kind of clicked into place, it was an idea of your own mask first, my own safety vest. I have to build my own nest egg, take care of retirement, not depend on a husband or a partner mm-hmm. or an employer to do that for me. I am responsible for myself. And it was a, a lesson that landed early on and that I’ve benefited from along the way. Yeah.
Oh, I love that.
Mary Beth (20:35):
What would you say is your favorite money mistake you’ve made? And why?
Ooh, so many. Just because we’re financial planners doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes with our own money. I’d say the thing that that jumps out for me that ended up working out, but in retrospect could have been a really big mistake, is I live in Los Angeles, very high cost of living place. And when my husband and I bought our house, we pretty much broke every financial rule in the book, right? I mean, we did all the things that I tell people not to do. Right. Low down payment, 401k loan, not a strong emergency fund after, I mean, we did it all
Mary Beth (21:13):
It ended up being okay, but it’s still, it was not sound advice. So that’s why everybody, even financial planners needs their own financial planner.
Mary Beth (21:24):
And it’s your favorite because it worked out?
It’s, it’s my favorite because it actually also shows that every financial decision is very nuanced because I had, I think a good sense of what things we could actually control, what my husbands and my career prospects were. I, I think I understood the downsides enough that I felt like I could gamble in a particular way.
Mary Beth (21:50):
Mmm. I love that.
What about you? Favorite money mistake you’ve made?
Mary Beth (21:55):
Oh gosh. All right. Well, I’m actually thinking of this one on the spot. I have a tried and true one that I typically go to, but it’s not as good as this one. Actually, I would say my favorite money mistake I’ve made, not the best. But when I decided to launch my own company, pre Abacus, Workable Wealth, when I launched that company was 2013, and my husband was deployed at the time. And he and I decided over email that I was going to make this career change. And so we were newly-ish married and we’re deciding via email that I’m gonna take this leap and, and so on, so on. So I, I put in my notice for my employer, and my husband gets back from deployment, gosh, six to eight weeks later and tells me he’s getting out of the Navy.
Oh no! [Laughs]
Mary Beth (22:42):
Which he conveniently forgot to tell me. While, we were making the… which in his defense, he can’t actually email on a work computer about the transition. And, but I continued to move forward, right? So two career changes at one time are not, not highly recommended. And two, like no income, right? Because I was going to zero and he did not know what he was transitioning into. So I, I, as an advisor would’ve been told my client to go get a job, figure it out like you’re employable, you have the skills. Now is not the best time to take the risk financially. Right? From a financial aspect, but kept on trucking along there, made it through and very happy with how it, how it all worked out. But it was a very stressful time there for a bit. That would’ve been a definitely financial No, no. If it had been a client of mine, I probably would’ve advised financially against it without, you know, really digging into some of those nuances.
Oh my god so much extra pressure, right?
Mary Beth (23:37):
Oh, much. But I mean, bill, you talk about lighting a fire there and control the what you can control. Woo. That is a one way to do it. Also, lots of outside marriage conversations. Also, my husband is editing this. If you wanna be transparent, my husband is editing the show, so thanks and is wonderful. Good job, Brian. Good job. Brian. Okay. Fill in the blank. If money were easy.
Mm. If money were easy, everything would be richer.
Mary Beth (24:05):
Ooh. Money were easy, everything would be richer.
I think about that. Like every experience would be richer, every mental process, just everything. Right. Your wallet would be richer, but your experiences would also be richer. How about you? If money were easy…
Mary Beth (24:27):
If money were easy, the world would be more peaceful.
Mary Beth (24:35):
Mary Beth (24:37):
We could just think about the idea of ease. Like we as individuals had more ease around finances, how that ripples through our families and our communities.
Mary Beth (24:49):
Into commitments in other countries. I just think, I think there’s so much that is tied into money and power, right? That’s what it’s about. This idea of power. And, uh, just a little bit easier. I wonder what that would open up.
So true. You think about when, when people are pushed to the financial brink, right? You get desperate people. And if we could keep it from getting that far, we would, it would be a more peaceful place.
Mary Beth (25:16):
Yeah. Agreed. So with that, that is the wrap up of our very first episode. Thank you for joining us today. We’re looking forward to talking with you each week. Take care.
Thank you. Bye-bye.
Mary Beth (25:32):
Thanks for tuning in to today’s episode of If Money Were Easy. If this is the year that you want to expand what’s possible with your money, and you can use some professional guidance along the way, head over to AbacusWealth.com/Get-Started and schedule your free consultation.