Kelly Gushue, '11
Interviewed by Nora Peterson ‘14
Kelly Gushue, '11, is a finance coach and founder of Personal Finance Warrior. After 15 years in finance, she took the leap to entrepreneurship. Today, Kelly empowers women all over the world to take action on managing their personal finances through her online platform, courses, and coaching programs. Kelly is also a speaker and holds live workshops, including for professional groups at companies. She is a trained financial advisor and has worked in several areas of finance including wealth management, research, and portfolio construction. She holds a degree in East Asian Studies from Harvard College and an MBA in Finance from Chicago Booth.
You have spent your entire career in Finance, including working at Citi during the 2008 financial crisis. How did that shape the next steps you took in your career?
I was working at Citigroup as a trained financial advisor, focusing on women and investing and unfortunately, there I saw some of the challenges women face. For example, a financial advisor is typically a Caucasian, 50+ year old man who was likely trained as a stock broker and has been in the industry for 30 years. What I saw in wealth management and women—who, on average, live 8 years longer than men—they were coming into more money. By 2030, women will manage two-thirds of investable assets in the US, and that primarily is due to women living longer than men. We’re in this growth period of women managing assets, but the missing piece is education. When I was at Citigroup during the financial crisis, in the back of my mind I thought, “Is there way to create a platform in some way to address the education piece?"
It was during my role at Natixis Global Asset Management, advising top financial advisors across the country on the asset allocation piece, when the lightbulb went on. I saw the power of technology and this idea of using an online platform to provide videos and courses to help educate women. The reasons I decided to focus on the intersection of women and education is because women tend to live longer; the gender pay gap; and lastly, women often take time off to take care of children and to help their elderly parents. These three reasons are why women need to invest their money earlier, so that it can work for them over a longer period of time. In 2017, I launched an online platform, The Personal Finance Warrior, to address these challenges.
What has been the biggest challenge in starting your own company?
Taking the leap to launch on my own was the biggest challenge. I knew I would need to leverage the power of social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram) to share my message and I was restricted on social media in my financial services role. I needed to leave my role before I could launch this platform. The online world has been a huge learning curve and changes faster than financial markets do!
What’s the most staggering revelation you have learned about personal finance, as it relates to women?
One of the most startling revelations I found was actually from professor Marianne Bertrand at Booth. At Booth Women Connect Conference, she shared her research that female MBAs—after ten years—see a difference in annual compensation of at least $100,000 when they take more than two years off. To me, that was eye opening because I had never heard research about the financial impact of women taking time off. This is critical information for women to know. I use this information in my online courses to educate women on the financial impact of taking time off.
I recommend that both spouses consider taking time off, and that it doesn’t necessarily have to be the woman who chooses to take time off. That’s one of the most startling pieces of information that I found, thanks to Professor Bertrand.
And, what is the one thing you wish everyone did with their personal finances?
I encourage all women to not let busy-ness, time, distractions, and the pace of life stop them from investing and making their money work for them. This includes investing in 401(k)s, real estate, and funds that often sit too long in cash.
What advice do you have for women graduating from Booth now and entering the finance industry?
I think it’s an amazing time for women to enter the finance industry. Over the next decade, women will manage two-thirds of investable assets and are the fastest growing demographic in the wealth management industry. I think it’s a great opportunity for more women to come into the workforce to provide financial services and resources for this fast-growing demographic of clients.
I also anticipate that there will be a sea shift in the way the financial services industry markets to women. The finance industry historically has catered to men with a fear-based marketing strategy. This approach focuses on the potentially negative things that will happen—such as ‘you will not be able to afford to retire’—if you do not invest. Meanwhile, women want to be encouraged and motivated to take action by understanding the benefits—‘how this will help me make more money, help my family, fit in with the bigger picture?’—rather than inspired by fear. The industry is evolving to target women and will need this benefits-based approach. I think women will excel in providing services to target this demographic.
Post-MBA, which skills that you learned at Booth have been most critical to your success?
I use behavioral economics anecdotes from Professor Thaler’s class throughout my course content and videos. There’s economic theory, and then there’s behavioral economics. People’s behavior is so funny! We get to thank Professor Thaler’s research that we are defaulted into our 401k/403b retirement plans at work. Unfortunately, busy women are not doing enough with the cash accumulating in their bank account, although they could be earning more with the money invested in markets over longer time periods.
As a Boston sports fan, I will never forget Professor Thaler’s lesson about overconfidence with NFL first round draft picks. His research showed that most teams overpay for first round draft picks, with the anticipation they will be the best players in the league. Often, the top draft picks do not reach their potential. Tom Brady, arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, was draft pick #199.
What is your favorite Personal Finance book?
I love that this book talks about the emotions with money, Emotional Currency: A Woman's Guide to Building a Healthy Relationship with Money by Kate Levison.
How can people best connect with you?
You can connect with me on LinkedIn. For anyone interested in checking out my next personal finance courses, they start in January 2019. I have a course, Master Your Dollars, focused on the money management side, which is making sure you have your own customized budget, a negotiating plan and conversation skills to discuss money with your spouse. I have another course, Invest Your Dollars, dedicated to making your money work for you through financial markets and real estate. As a warning, Chicago Booth professors appear throughout my content and we have fun with the topic of money so that you take action and invest!