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Women Leading The Finance Industry: ‘Alli Williams of FinanciALLI Focused’ On The 5 Things You Should Do To Increase Your Financial Literacy

Complete a Money Audit: What I mean by this is write down what is working and what isn’t. Before we can create a plan, we need to know what is happening right now. This takes time and could be intimidating but it is the only way to move forward. You need to track your expenses for at least a month (choose an average month) to see what you are actually spending on. Then reflect on what expenses do you not need? What expenses do you want to keep? Is there anything you want to add?

As a part of our series about “Women Leading The Finance Industry”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alli Williams.

Alli Williams is a money coach and the CEO of FinanciALLI Focused, a financial literacy company helping women create a flexible financial plan they can actually stick to (no deprivation here). She believes you can pay off debt, save, and spend all at the same time. She has her MBA in Finance and lives in South Carolina with her husband and son.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance field?

Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this series. When I graduated college at 21 and started my first corporate job, I bought a new car that had a $415/month payment. I quickly realized that if I did not have that car payment, I could use that $415/month to save for trips or other things I wanted.

From that moment on, I read many books on personal finance and started to create a plan to pay off debt, save for the future, while still spending on the things I enjoyed. I started a blog in 2017 to document my journey, what I’ve learned, and how others could do the same.

I went back to school to get my MBA in Finance to learn everything I could about finance and through my blog and my MBA experience, my company was officially born. So many people struggled with how to balance paying off debt, saving, and spending and I knew I needed to help. My company’s mission is to help people create a plan they can actually stick to long term without giving up the things they love.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

I had a private client who was making good money but was so overwhelmed with her finances. She was scared to check her bank account, she was not saving for any specific goal, she didn’t think she had any money to invest, and she was constantly in credit card debt.

This story is one I hear all the time but for this specific client, her results will stick with me forever. Not only was she able to get out of credit card debt (over $10k) within the 12 weeks we worked together, but she also fully funded her emergency fund, opened a Roth IRA, and had sinking funds set up for her goals.

She had amazing monetary wins but that was not even the best part. She was actually excited to budget, felt confident managing her money on her own, and she didn’t feel guilty about spending money anymore. She broke out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.

Sometimes the best wins aren’t monetary, but mindset shifts that change the way you think and feel about money.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

It is not necessary a new project, but I continually work on my signature program, Flourish FinanciALLI. This 12-week group coaching experience not only provides the strategies, tools, and spreadsheets but the accountability and support to help people finally feel confident managing their finances.

Money is still such a taboo topic, and my goal is to help people feel more comfortable sharing their money struggles and their money wins.

In my opinion, one of the hardest parts about reaching your money goals is not having someone to cheer you on, hold you accountable, and answer your questions. You can learn strategies online, but you need to implement and that is the main focus of my program. We create a plan together, test it, adjust, and make sure it is implemented.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

My company does not judge anyone based on the decisions they have made in the past or even the decisions they make now. We meet you where you are and create a plan that works for you. Just because someone else had success doing something a certain way, doesn’t mean you will.

I teach based on my own personal experience, what has helped my clients, and my educational background. What I teach works. I always tell my clients, if you want to see results you have to do the work.

Not only do I care about my clients’ financial situation, but I care about their lives. I want to know what they value, how they like spending their weekends, and what their hobbies are. Money affects every aspect of our lives, so I care about all aspects of their lives.

My clients will still check in even a year after we’ve worked together to update me. I have even met up with clients for lunch and dinner. I love being a part of their lives and seeing firsthand how our time together has allowed them to take vacations, save for their children, build their dream homes, and more.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?

Things are starting to change but we still have a long way to go.

With social media, information is way more accessible than it was before. You can follow finance influencers on Instagram and learn how to create your family’s budget, what to save for, and tips for investing. You can listen to podcasts on your daily walks or commutes. The information is way more accessible to everyone and there are no excuses not to act anymore.

Also, women are finally in positions of power and feel more comfortable talking about money. Most of my clients are women and they are the ones managing their family’s finances. Women aren’t staying in the dark anymore when it comes to their family’s finances. We are helping pave the way for future generations of women.

Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support this movement going forward?

  1. Find a Mentor: Find someone at your company or even a different company to help you throughout your career. I mentor women in corporate to help them negotiate their salaries, get promoted, and support them. The only way we can change that statistic is to help other women and teach them things we wish we knew.
  2. Get a Seat at the Table: Male leaders also need to open doors for women that they are unable to open themselves due to sexism. Women need to find a way to get a seat at the table to advocate for themselves and other women. Companies need to be held accountable and make sure women are being compensated fairly, promoted, and offer family leave benefits.
  3. Open Communication: Individuals, companies, and society need to make this topic a priority. The more we talk about it, the quicker change will happen.

Let’s now turn to a slightly new topic. According to this report in Fortune, nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t pass a basic test of financial literacy. In your opinion or experience what is the cause of these unfortunate numbers? If you had the power to make a change, what 3 things would you recommend to improve these numbers?

  1. Teach Financial Literacy in Schools: Money management should be required in elementary school, high school, and college. In elementary school you can teach the basic terms and help students save for the video game or bike they want. In high school you can teach them the basics of budgeting, the risks vs. rewards of loans and credit cards, and what is investing. In college you can make sure students understand the basics of taxes, the importance of saving for retirement ASAP, and how they can budget without cutting everything they love.
  2. Learn As Much As You Can: Not knowing enough isn’t an excuse anymore. Information is so accessible, and you need to take some accountability. Find an Instagram account you connect with and learn everything you can. We are on Instagram and post multiple times a week. Listen to 1 podcast episode a day. Invest in a program or coach to help you. You need to start today. I know it is terrifying but the sooner you start, the better.
  3. Have Conversations Often: The more you talk about money with your family and friends, the quicker we can change this statistic. I share with my 16.7k followers on Instagram all of my money struggles as well as my money wins in order to inspire them. I want everyone to be able to pay off debt, save, build wealth, and spend their time doing what they love. Be vulnerable, ask for help, and find an accountability partner to keep you on track.

You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive things one should do to become more financially literate, what would you say? Can you please give a story or example for each.

I love this question. I would start by telling them change will not happen overnight. Just like any habit, this takes time but you have to start.

  1. Complete a Money Audit: What I mean by this is write down what is working and what isn’t. Before we can create a plan, we need to know what is happening right now. This takes time and could be intimidating but it is the only way to move forward. You need to track your expenses for at least a month (choose an average month) to see what you are actually spending on. Then reflect on what expenses do you not need? What expenses do you want to keep? Is there anything you want to add?
  2. Set Specific Savings Goals: The biggest issue I see with saving money is people put it in a savings account and then pull the money back out a few weeks later. This happens because the money does not have a purpose. You need to set specific savings goals. For example, this can include your emergency fund, travel fund, repairs fund, pet fund, car insurance, etc. You need to put this money in a high-yield savings account so it is not linked to your main checking account.
  3. Debt Payoff: There are many methods for paying off debt, but my recommendation is to pay off credit card debt or any high interest debt first because interest is a killer. Once that is paid, you can choose a specific method or pay it off based on what causes you the most anxiety. What is keeping you up at night? What do you want to tackle first? I would also make sure my child understands how to stay out of debt.
  4. Invest Early: Even if you cannot invest hundreds right now, start with $25-$50 a month. The sooner you start, the better. You will start building the habit now and time is on your side. Contribute to your 401k (if applicable) at least up to the company match even when you’re paying off debt. Open a Roth IRA with Vanguard or Fidelity and set up automatic contributions. Choose a low-cost index fund or ETF.
  5. Reevaluate Goals Often: Your goals and values can change. Just because you decided on a debt payoff method or what you want to save for doesn’t mean you cannot change your mind. Check in with your goals at least once a quarter and make adjustments as needed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and ask questions.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My grandparents Hector “Chuck” Conrad and Hilda Conrad have helped get me to where I am today.

My grandfather taught me the importance of hard work and to never give up on my dreams. I am one of 6 granddaughters and he had 4 daughters. He was an advocate for women and the best motivator. He attended every single dance recital, viola concert, and awards ceremony. In his eyes, there was absolutely nothing his granddaughters could not do. If we put our mind to it, we could achieve it. He also taught me the importance of saving. I remember him telling me to save 50% of everything I made. Although I didn’t always save 50%, I did make sure to emphasize the importance of saving money.

My grandfather passed away when I was a senior in high school, and I miss him every day. I wish he could see my thriving business, be there for my MBA graduation, and see everything I have accomplished. I know he is proud of me, and I still hear his voice when I reach certain milestones or when I am trying to make a big decision. My son is named after him and I am so grateful for his unconditional love and support.

My grandmother is the most giving person I know. She not only gives generously to family and friends but to strangers without every asking for anything in return. She is the first person to offer to help. She sends me articles from the newspaper with money tips and advice to make sure I know the latest trends and information. She celebrates my wins as if they are her own. She always told me to avoid debt and to save as much as possible. She watches every time I am featured on the news, she gives me advice, and she is the strongest women I know. I strive every day to be more like her.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”

I have this quote on a post-it note above my desk. I look at it every day. I remind myself this when I have to make hard business decisions or as I scale my team. I remind myself this when I make financial decisions for my family.

I remind my clients this all the time because finally looking at your numbers for the first time can be terrifying, but you have to do it in order to create a plan you can stick to. Don’t let the fear of failure or the fear of the unknown keep you from going for what you want.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I want every woman to feel confident with her finances and to build massive wealth. That is the mission of my company. According to a 2018 Global Trends in Giving Report, women give more than men so this would lead to more charitable donations. I also believe this would lead to children being more financially literate. It starts with financial education and support.

Thank you for the time you spent on this interview. We wish you only continued success.

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