Simmons Leadership Blog

Personal Finance Advice from Terry Savage

Personal finance expert Terry Savage will be sharing her background and experiences helping women manage their personal finances.  She is an author and radio host and we look forward to her frank style at this year's conference.

Our Q&A interview with personal finance expert Terry Savage, who will do two sessions on personal finance at this year's Leadership Conference, provides some basic truths about money management:

What woman in business - current or former - do you most admire? What has she taught you?  

Honestly, I've been around for a while now -- and so I blazed the trail most of the time.  I hope I have inspired and taught other women.  But when I started out, they wouldn't let me train to be a stockbroker -- only a "registered secretary"!  I wouldn't stand for that and became the first woman stockbroker in my firm.  Similarly, I was the first woman (and founding member) of the Chicago Board Options Exchange.  There was no precedent for that either.  I could just never take "no" for an answer.

How did you get started in your career? 

On my way to graduate school (I had won a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship) I took a job to earn more money for school.  I answered an ad for a secretary in a brokerage firm -- and that got me so interested in the markets that I never turned back.

What do you like most about your job? 

My "job" today is writing and speaking about personal finance.  I love it because I know that I am helping people -- some people, since not everyone is willing to listen, learn and change.  But I know I make a small difference in the lives of some people. And nothing is more thrilling than having someone come up to me and say something like "I listened to you xx years ago and I was in debt, and now I'm out of debt and building my own business" -- Believe me, that is a real high for me!

Were there any turning points in your career where you had to make a pivotal decision that changed the course of your career? What did you learn from that experience? 

There was a time when I was offered a very big job in New York -- But I was so established in Chicago, and my son could walk to school, and I couldn't imagine walking my dog in NY (honestly those things crossed my mind) that I turned it down.  Or I would have been the first business anchor at the fledgling CNN!  But I never regret past decisions; I'm too busy looking forward.

What was the last book you read? 

I'm constantly reading, because I sit on planes with my iPad.  If only they didn't require you to shut down before takeoff and landing!  I guess the book I would most recommend is Gone Girl -- but I read all sorts of things from Connelly (Harry Bosch detective) and Baldacci to Janet Evanovich.  And if you haven't read Mitch Albom's "Timekeeper" and JoJo Moyes "Me Before Your" please put them on your list.   Since I read all kinds of financial news all day long, my book reading is sort of escapist!

How do you think women can support other women on their path to success?   

Make sure that every step you move ahead, you also reach out and hold the door open for the woman who is coming up behind you!

Any tips for work/life balance?

Many, many years ago, when everyone was seeking balance, I gave a speech to a group of executive women.  I called it "two out of three."  The idea is that there are three aspects to your life if you are married and have children and are seeking balance.  There is work, and there is motherhood, and there is your relationship with your spouse or significant other.  And on any one day, you can only do well in two out of three!  On days when you've done a great job at work, and helped your kids with homework, you will never feel like putting on the sexy underwear for your husband!  So be realistic and accept that you can't do everything all the time.  And if one aspect of your life is constantly getting short thrift, you need to make some changes.  Either eliminate it -- you can't get rid of kids, but maybe a spouse has to go, or maybe a job.  Or else accept it and stop letting your inability to do everything all the time create stress that keeps you from enjoying what you can do and are doing on any given day.

Do you have a favorite quote?  

My Dad always had a little note taped to his car dash -- It said "Success is not in doing what you like, but in liking what you do!"   I think that meant that you have to put your all into everything you do, and that's what really defines success. It's all about attitude. 
My grandmother's motto helps me most, though:  She always used to say: "In my service to others, I find a cure for my own ills."   And on the days when things are upsetting in my life, I always take time out to help a reader with a problem.  As I get involved in that, I find my own concerns diminishing -- and if I can be of help to others it really makes my day!  My grandmother was right.  Try it sometime!

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