EP: 160 Face Your Money Fear And Get Your Finances In Order With Dr. Barbara Provost And Maggie Nielsen

Brave Women At Work | Dr. Barbara Provost | Maggie Nielsen | Money Fear


Women will be in charge of their financial future, but not many are equipped with the knowledge to control their money. Today, let’s talk about money and women. Barbara Provost and Maggie Nielsen, the hosts of Women and Money: The Shit We Don’t Talk About, talk about money and how to face your money fear. They explain why women don’t take control of their finances and how society and relationships contribute to that. Barbara and Maggie share insights and concrete steps to get your money together. So, get started today by tuning in to this episode. Be brave and financially fearless today!

During my chat with Barb and Maggie, we discussed:

  1. The story behind their company, Purse Strings.
  2. Their thoughts on why women don’t take control of their finances.
  3. How society and our relationships contribute to that fact.
  4. Life changes that make us face our money fears.
  5. More about their podcast Women and Money: The Shit We Don’t Talk About.
  6. Concrete steps we can take today to get our money stuff together.
  7. And how we can pass these learnings to our kiddos.


Face Your Money Fear And Get Your Finances In Order With Dr. Barbara Provost And Maggie Nielsen

Happy 2024. I hope you’ve had a wonderful holiday season with your family and friends. My holiday in 2023 was super low-key, which was nice. In 2022, I hosted the entire Pestikas side of the family. There were large Greek families, everybody. There were between 15, 17 people at my house throughout the holiday, which was a little anxiety-provoking. It was so much fun, but it was also so busy.

This holiday season in 2023 was calmer. It was less chaotic, and it was so much quieter. With how busy my family was in 2023, it was a nice gift that we gave ourselves. Peace cannot be overrated. What about you? How was your holiday season? Was it full of hosting, of family, of friends, of baking, all of that hustle and bustle, or was it more on the quiet side or somewhere in between?

Here we are at the start of another new year, and so many people, as I’ve said before, they made resolutions. They put the resolutions list in on New Year’s or right before New Year’s, and they are ready for the New Year. I do not do resolutions. I have found that they do not work for me, but I do an annual and I break it down into an annual plan, and then quarterly plans for the year. If you have any interest in learning more about that, let me know. Send me a DM, maybe we’ll talk about that in a future show.

I am also a word-of-the-year person. It is a guiding light for the year. If you missed one of my social posts on that, my word for 2024 is “commit.” Why commit? It is because I want to commit to myself, my self-care, my healing to this business, to this movement, Brave Women at Work, to put my needs first, which as a working woman, and a mother, sounds a little scandalous to me. It sounds like, “Am I being selfish?” No, I want to commit to my dreams. I want to commit to myself because by doing so, I will be a better mother, wife, partner, friend, employee, and leader, and all of the roles that all of us women play, so my word for the year is “commit.”

If you are a word of the year person, what is your word? I love hearing these. Again, send me a DM. You can do it on LinkedIn, I’m active there, or Instagram. I would love to hear your rationale behind your word of the year. In addition to Words of the Year, I mentioned that I do an annual plan and break it down. One of the goals within my annual plan for 2024 is finances. Savings goals, getting my finances in order around Brave Women at Work for my family in total.

I was super excited that I have my guests on today, Dr. Barbara Provost and Maggie Nielsen owners of Purse Strings, which is a company that provides women the resources and education they need to take control of their money. Those money stories that we all tell each other in our heads as women or maybe we grew up believing, they’re there to shadow stories that aren’t helpful and give you all of the resources you need to get that money handled, get it in order.

During my chat with Barb and Maggie, we discussed the story behind their company, Purse Strings, and their thoughts on why women don’t take control of their finances. Like what holds us back. In addition to how we hold ourselves back, how does society and maybe even our relationships contribute to us holding ourselves back? What life changes or pivots make us say, “They slap us across the face, they make us face our money fears.” Think about a death in the family, the death of a spouse, divorce, some of those things we go into. We do chat about their podcast and I love their podcast title, Women & Money: The Shit We Don’t Talk About. How fun is that?

I’m going to welcome you and encourage you to go listen to their podcast, which is wherever you can find your podcast. I was a guest in 2023. It hit in 2023 on negotiation. We’ve done a little bit of a podcast share there. Finally, we talk about some concrete steps we can take now to get our money business together and how we can pass these learnings onto our kiddos. I have two daughters, it doesn’t matter, daughters or sons. We need our kids to understand how to manage their money.

Before we get started, here is more about our guests. Dr. Barb Provost created Purse Strings so all women could live a life free from financial stress in full of choices. As a consultant in the financial industry for over twenty-plus years, it was apparent to Barb that the needs of the female market were not being addressed. When Barb went through her divorce and navigated in a women-led divorce group, she heard these intelligent, bright, talented women with so many financial concerns.

In her everyday life, Barb could see women of retirement age working at the stores where she would run her errands and it stopped her dead in her tracks. Barb sat out and started investigating. She commissioned a researcher to dive deeply into the literature and had hundreds of conversations with women, and the problem was apparent. I’m quoting from her site. It says, “The insurance and financial industry wins the award as being the least sympathetic to women and women are not prepared for their financial future.”

That overwhelming theme came from hundreds of women and what the undertone was, they don’t even look at me. What we mean by that is you’re in a financial advisor’s office, a bank, at a financial institution, and they don’t even look at you as a decision-maker. That stopped with Barb’s Company Purse Strings. She has a doctorate in adult learning and higher education. Barb has also brought the power of the female market to other countries like Nigeria, India, Cameroon, and Vietnam, working with the World Bank. Now she wants to help and do the same here in the US.

I want to share a little bit more about our other guest, Maggie Nielsen. While pursuing an MBA and working alongside Barb, who’s also her mom, Maggie saw firsthand how women were often overlooked and underserved in the world of finance with their voices intentionally left out of the conversation. She knew that women held immense power and was determined to expose the system and show them how to make it work to their advantage.

As the engine behind Purse Strings, Maggie has facilitated over 300 live sessions with financial professionals covering everything from financial foundations to real-life stories and top tips. Her mission is simple. She wants to equip women with the knowledge they need to make smart financial decisions for themselves, their families, and their businesses, and an amazing team on their side. With this knowledge, our mothers, daughters, and BFFs, she says, can confidently navigate the world of finance and live a life full of choice. Maggie is incredibly proud of the work done at Purse Strings and the impact it will have on generations of women to come with the dedication of empowering women to take control of their finances and live life on their terms.

Before we get started, if you’re enjoying this show, please make sure to leave a rating and review in any platform you use. As I said, if you’ve already left a rating or review, I thank you so much. I want to get this show and the Brave Women at Work Resources, just like Purse Strings we want to get it in the hands of more women. Your support of the show means so much to me. Thank you.

Also, as a reminder, as we’re starting the year, if you haven’t yet downloaded 1 of my freebies or even all of them, there are 3 out there, visit my website at BraveWomenAtWork.com. The freebies that I’ve created for you include 24 Career & Leadership Affirmations to work on that mindset. Five ways to Manage Your Imposter Syndrome and get Paid 10 Negotiation tips. You can use these freebies at your leisure. I want to highlight that getting paid 10 negotiation tips is a great one to use, especially if you’re still talking with your manager or other superior for your year-end 2023 review. Or if you’re like, “This is the year, I’m going to negotiate more pay or benefits in 2024.” Check that resource out. Again, they can be found at BraveWomenAtWork.com. Without further ado, let’s welcome Dr. Barb and Maggie to the show.

Brave Women At Work | Dr. Barbara Provost | Maggie Nielsen | Money Fear

Hello, Barb and Maggie, welcome to the show. How are you?

Doing great. Thanks for having us, Jen.

I don’t know if I’ve had a joint show, so you guys are our first, so bear with me, both of you and give me your patience. Thank you guys again for being here. I love women’s background stories. Barb, I’ll start with you. Why don’t you tell us what led you to Purse Strings? You can start anywhere you’d like. I know that some people like to go a little bit more lengthy. Some people like to cut right to it, so you decide where you want to start.

I was a consultant in the financial industry for over twenty years as an adult educator. I came in and built a lot of education, training, training strategies, and performance management-type work. During that time, I could see where women weren’t overlooked market because I was dealing so much with the financial professionals who were learning to open their businesses with the product, the process, and the procedures they were using. Every step of the way I thought, “I wouldn’t buy this way. Or these marketing materials don’t speak to me, are they even for me?” I questioned a lot of it and saw where they were overlooking the market. I’d bring it up to management time and time again, but there was no listening to it.

In my personal life, Jen, I could see women struggling with their finances, asking very fundamental questions. I’d run errands with Maggie and I would find out that there are these women of retirement age working these retail jobs. I would always say to her, “Maggie, do you think these women want to work these jobs for maybe little additional income, but more so for the comradery, getting out, meeting people?” She said, “Mom, I don’t know. Let’s go.”

For the most part, it sent me to do some deep research on two things. How are women prepared for their financial future and how are the financial institutions helping support women? The scads of data came back that the insurance and financial industry won the award as being the least sympathetic to women and women are not prepared at all for their financial future. It was everything I saw, I knew it. It wasn’t just Barb says, but scads of data said that.

When Maggie was in high school, I said, “Be my scribe. Grab your computer and let’s go check this out and go to the source.” We held lots of different focus groups, different ages, different cultures of women, groups in homes and libraries, different places, and just said, “This is what the data is saying around women and their finances. What’s your experience?” Maggie, I’ll let you jump in here.

Maggie, you were the scribe, but now you’re knee-deep in this. Tell us a little bit about your experience.

It was eye-opening, going to some of these focus groups as the most common thing women would say to us is that their financial professional never even looked at them. As someone at the time who didn’t have a financial professional, I was very confused that they were handing over all their money and all their life earnings and savings to someone who wouldn’t even look at them. I knew from this point on that it was quite a problem. After learning some of this research and going to school and meeting some other women of my age, I can tell that money was not a thing that women talked about. It opened my eyes up to a problem, to something that I could not look away from once having all the information. Jumped in with Barb to help build up Purse Strings and help these women be financially fearless.

Barb, back to you. How long did you guys research before deciding to start Purse Strings? I’ve never heard the inception story of the company Purse Strings.

I was still working full-time on my consulting practice, and I was building Purse Strings, the model, getting the data. I hired a researcher to do a deep dive. The researchers kept coming in validating everything that I saw. Based on what women wanted, we asked them what would help them. Jen, women are going to be in charge of their financial future at some point in time in their life, whether they like it or not. That’s because women outlive their male spouses. Women will age alone. The grade of divorce is at three times the rate. We’re seeing a lot of women living alone and living longer.

Women will be in charge of their financial future at some point in life, whether they like it or not. Click To Tweet

These women said, “Barb, if we could have somewhere we could go and just ask questions, be treated with respect and dignity, can you believe it? Get our questions answered and learn something so that when we go have these meetings with financial professionals, we feel well equipped.” I said, “I’m an educator. I’m a doctor of adult and higher learning. I’ve got you right. I’ve had twenty-plus years’ experience in the industry, no problem.” They’d say, “Can you also find us financial professionals who understand the female market, know what we’re up against, we’ll be our partners along the way that we can reach out to when we have questions, so on and so forth.” I’m like, “That might be a little bit trickier, but let me see what I can do.

I knew what was in the industry. There’s not a lot of women. Only now there’s between 17% to 20% are women. It’s still a very male, pale, stale type of environment out there. It doesn’t resonate with what women want and need. I did this part-time while running my consulting business. Fun fact, the World Bank called me during this time and said to me, “We found you on the internet under Provo Consulting. We’re looking for a financial professional who can help us build education for AXA international advisors in India and Nigeria to help them learn how to serve the female market.

You knew right then and there you’re like, “There’s something here. I have people calling me.”

I did take a hiatus from Purse Strings and went to Washington DC and worked with them on building out education for India and Nigeria. They then used it in Cameroon and a few other countries. They implemented it. They did a super duper job of implementing the education and the training. There was one organization that came back after three years of following the organization and the training, and they increased their profits by 52%. It’s crazy because they were overlooking this market and we always say women are not in a niche market. They are your market. They’re 51% of your market.

It just made sense that if you do it right, you’re engaging this whole untapped market. The other thing is they came back to me and said, “Barb, can you help us with banking on women?” It was in Sri Lanka and Vietnam because the World Bank would give money to these banks over there for small women-owned businesses. The banks would say no one came in and asked for the money. At the World Bank, they’re like, “No one’s going to come to ask for the money, probably because it’s too intimidating for women to walk in and do that.” What you need to do is build a relationship partner, find these women, and so on. We worked with them on building education to do that. It proved to me, Jen, that this is a worldwide issue.

I love that story and I’ve never heard it. We’ve talked for many months now. It’s switching gears. I love the name of your podcast, Women & Money, The Shit We Don’t Talk About. Isn’t that such a fun name? I love how honest you guys are. You guys are not varnishing it. We’re talking about money. Yes, it’s the shit we don’t talk about, but we need to talk about it. Maggie, I want to talk to you because I’ve been a guest. Thank you guys again for being guests on my show and that I was a guest on yours.

What are some of the other themes that you guys talk about on the show? Anyone tuning in, if I can give you anything, there’s so many great resources on Purse Strings. I’ve explored them myself with my family members. We were talking about that right before we were starting the show plus you guys have the podcast. I want everyone to go listen to the podcast. Maggie, give us an overview of some of the topics that are covered.

Just like the podcast title says, we wanted to touch on some of these topics that are not normally talked about. We have different things first day at home moms, making sure they have spousal IRAs and life insurance and why that’s so important. We also have stories about how you can buy an already-running and profitable business and how to make that happen then different real-life stories of different women out there who all of a sudden became a caregiver in their early twenties or had wanted to get divorced and didn’t know how to afford it. Ended up finding these unique ways to pay for their divorce.

We cover all these different topics that affect women either from professionals about how we can get some expert advice and take some action about it or from some other women and their real-life stories, the journey that it was, the success, the gaps, and those things that you didn’t know, you didn’t know until you started building your business or whatever it was. We have a whole array of topics because we know women live such dynamic lives. There are so many different topics to talk about in one’s lifespan. A lot is going on in the world that we bring in as well.

I want to share a brief snippet of the story, so a teaser for your podcast before we move on. It was the story, Barb, and I know you’ll know what I’m talking about. You had a guest who was on vacation with her husband, and her husband passed away during the vacation in Mexico. Can you share a little bit about that story and also maybe some of the learnings that came out from that show or from that person?

It’s just a harrowing story. She went to celebrate her 50th birthday with her husband. She woke up the next day and he had died in his sleep. She was at a resort. She said the good thing about that was she could call downstairs and say, “I think my husband’s dead.” She panicked. Of course, they came up with a doctor and some people, and then the police came in and they had to make sure no one else went in the room. They ransacked the room to see if there were any drugs in there, which there were not, but they had to investigate to make sure it was a natural death.

Horrible things happened to her in Mexico that you’ll have to listen in and hear about. Once she got home, she realized that although she knew her husband was taking some withdrawals from their 401(k), she didn’t realize that there was no money left in their 401(k). She had $60,000 to her name and she had three boys to raise still, the youngest was in high school. She didn’t even know how they were paying their mortgage, like the actual act of paying their mortgage. Where do you get the money? Who does it go to? Is it a check? How is this working?

She learned about Purse Strings and just said, “I’m like the poster child for Purse Strings because I didn’t take part in all of these financial decisions. I was a deer in the headlights. I had no idea what was going on with the money. I didn’t even know who to call.” There was a code to some safe where he kept some documents, thank God one of her sons knew it so she could get in there. She’s now writing a book that shares her story and is going to promote Purse Strings, and it’s sad.

Maggie and I hear these stories every day of women who are stuck in these situations because they put it off and we hear people go, “My husband takes care of that,” and they’ll just walk away or not want to talk about it, where that’s a bad situation because it’s going to happen that she’s going to be in charge of her financials and all of the financial decisions made will impact her more than they will impact him. Typically women outlive their male spouses.

Thank you so much for sharing that. I usually share on the show how I’ve met my guests and usually, it’s via LinkedIn or it’s a public relations firm, but we met most interestingly. I stumbled on Purse Strings online, and then I cold-called you, Barb to say hello and to introduce myself and then we ended up living in the same town. I’m so thankful that we’ve met because your story, Maggie, your story and what you’re doing hits so hard to me. I’m not happy to talk about this on your podcast, but my dad died when I was 18 and he was 48. I saw my mom struggle.

We were always a middle-class family but she had two jobs. Why did she have to have two jobs? Why couldn’t she have taken a mental, physical emotional break? She was the primary caregiver for him for many years and then eventually brought in respite care and then he went to hospice very briefly, but he was sick with terminal cancer for six years. That takes a toll. She was not able to take a break and had 2 jobs until I had my first child, her first grandchild, and she was a little over 60. This is why I’m just so thankful that we’ve gotten to know each other.

Hooray to your mom. What a hard worker. There are so many women out there doing whatever they can to hold families together when they’re in these situations. Especially the whole caregiving aspect. We talk tons about caregiving, it falls on women and the oldest daughter. There’s a lot of caregiving coming our way, if not already people are caring for children and sometimes their aging parents or relatives, it’s a money concern, it’s a financial issue. Women are so strong, they take on whatever they need to do and make it happen, but that’s why we’re here at Purse Strings because we want women to get in front of these financial discussions and learn how to make the best financial decisions for themselves, their families, and their businesses.

We’re talking about how women may not have this knowledge or they’re not taking control of their finances. I want to understand with the research, did you guys all find out why aren’t women taking control? Why aren’t we getting the knowledge of what’s happening monetarily in their household? Maggie, do you want to comment on that?

I would say there are a lot of different ways to go about this. It starts in school. Women are told that they’re not great with money. Now we’re having bigger STEM pushes to get women in STEM. Back in the day, it would be a lot of shame there. For men or women financial education is not taught in grade school. It wasn’t that long ago that women could even get access to their bank accounts without a co-signer. I’m going blank on the year right now. It wasn’t that long ago. Some of these women were already married and then were able to get access to a credit card. It was like, “Why am I going to jump in now when somebody else is already taking care of it? I have a thousand other plates to spin, it’s been fine. Why am I going to jump into the conversation now?”

A lot of times I hear from men that they find this to be their role, that’s their job and they need to be in control of that. We find that it’s not just out of like, you’re doing a bad job, or you’re stealing money, but it’s like if you do pass away if you get hit by a bus, I need to know what to do with the finances in the household. Just because we want to make sure everything stays running. It’s a lot of different aspects coming at us. We’ve always been told, don’t talk about money. It’s rude, we don’t discuss our salary, all those different things. It’s rude. Most of those conversations about sex, politics, and money, are all coming to the surface right now. This is one that we need to be talking about as it affects all of us as we know so many women think about money or that’s the top-of-mind concern for them.

One other question, Maggie. Since you’re of a younger generation, do you think that your generation putting a lot of pressure on you? I’m Gen X, I know you’re not Gen X, I know you’re younger than that, but what I’m wondering is, are you guys going to fix it? Meaning that, you just have a different work style, you’re demanding more from partnerships in life and work environments and things like that. Do you think that your generation, even younger are going to start to turn the tide on that behavior of not understanding what’s going on with money?

I’d love to give you a yes and that’s going to be that. We’re going to try but there are so many different barriers in the way in if we do step out the workforce to be caregivers for all these boomers, that’s going to affect us and our salaries and the way we get paid and our long-term retirement. We also have a wage gap, which for a White woman is $0.82 on the dollar for any woman of color, it’s even more drastic. That’s not something I can change myself or our generation can change but we’ve got to close that gap.

Women carry the most student loans because we have to get overeducated to get that same position to still be underpaid. As much as we’re going to try and take control of these things and take control of the Purse Strings, there are some societal foundations out there that we have to solve that bigger problem before we can make some of these other changes.

That’s very well stated. Barb, one thing I’m thinking about, and I’m not trying to make light of this, but I’ll give a funny example in my next question. Most families have a grill. We have a grill in our backyard. I have tried to learn how to grill, I don’t know, no less than three times. One time the fires were so high, that I felt like I almost burnt the house down. Now I’m afraid to use the grill and it’s almost like I don’t want to touch the hot stove or the grill. Now it’s my husband’s work or it’s my partner’s work.

I almost feel like I have to go back and learn how to grill. It’s a similar situation with money. Whether our emotions and fears, we’re afraid we’re going to mess it up or whatever. Barb, what would you say are those underlying emotions or fears? I know this is an ocean, this could be a show in itself, but what are some of those fears that surround women’s lack of knowledge about money?

You nailed it. It’s that whole thing around shame, first of all. I don’t make as much money maybe, so maybe a financial professional doesn’t want to talk to me, I made some mistakes, I’m coming in with $30,000 in credit card debt, or nobody taught me about this so I don’t know how to get out of it. People always told me I shouldn’t make more than my husband I should give more to my church. A lot of shame comes with these money conversations and so people are afraid to talk about it. Sometimes when people try to put things in place, just like we all do. It’s like walking, baby steps, and then you’re going to fall.

You tried it Jen. maybe the flames went high. Maybe you need a grilling coach like we have financial coaches. That helps you cajole you along the way and tell you this is when you should turn the burner down or this is where you should put the meat on the grill. Now try it yourself. We think financial coaches are awesome. They help people get their affairs in order and straightened out so that they know how to pay bills regularly and stop all those darn fees that are coming our way. If you’re beyond that, we have great financial professionals who are ready to get you investing or helping you learn how to invest wherever you are. Maybe you’re not a grilling master, but you want to learn salmon. You’re up there and now you’re onto the next step.

We have professionals at all levels. Women come at all levels. Some business owners are really smart, savvy business owners, but they’re like, “My books are cooked because I didn’t realize I mixed some of my personal with my business.” We have people that can help you unpack that and get it straightened out. It happens. No shame, no guilt here at Purse Strings. We’re here to help you wherever you are in your financial journey to move forward. That whole guilt, shame, there’s so much coming at us that way, but at Purse Strings, that all stops.

No shame. No guilt. Here at Purse Strings, we're here to help you wherever you are in your financial journey to move forward. Click To Tweet

One other question, Barb, on that is you had mentioned at the beginning some of those pivot points or those life changes or maybe it doesn’t, maybe you don’t have to experience a life change to get your finances in order. What are some of those key points where you need to talk to Purse Strings, you need to talk to a professional, you need to get your stuff in order and start talking about the things we don’t talk about so you feel confident and comfortable?

We’d love for women who are launching their first career to talk to us. That’s where you can set yourself up for success. Take advantage of any benefits that you have going with your career job or setting up your pay structure and your bill structure. Sometimes people are like, “God darn, I have so much credit card debt. I’m paying all these fees. I don’t know how to get out from under.” Come see us. Or you’re thinking about getting married and you and your husband need to get on the same page. We have people who can help you with that because you spend so much time planning the marriage, you need to start spending some time planning the monies for the rest of your life.

Brave Women At Work | Dr. Barbara Provost | Maggie Nielsen | Money Fear
Money Fear: You should start spending some time planning the money for the rest of your life.

People who are going to leave the workforce, women leaving the workforce to have children, great, good for you, hurrah. You need to do that but let’s set you up financially so that you have your retirement plan, your life insurance, and your own savings account, you have access to credit for all the things that you need independently, even though you are still in a partnership. Let’s say you are going through a divorce, you just don’t know where to start. It’s a very emotional time. We have all sorts of financial professionals from certified divorce financial analysts to certified divorce lending professionals so you can decide whether to keep the house or not, which is an emotional decision to make. Attorneys, mediators, and are a little bit less expensive. We can help you work through what’s the best game plan for yourself, who are people that you can meet with and discuss with, and then hire and work with you as part of your divorce team.

People who are, “I need life insurance. I’m having children.” No better time than to adult when you start having children and start doing the life insurance thing. There are a lot of things along the way. Let’s not forget the sweet spot of transitions is typically between 40 and 55. It’s either divorce or widowhood. The average age of a widow is 59, much younger than people think. Or people who are constantly struggling and don’t know how to get out from under. We can help all those people.

What about these women who are going to come into these huge windfalls, these inheritances? Women are coming into the largest transference of wealth in history to the tune of $30 trillion. We don’t want them to get taken advantage of. We want them to learn how to use this nest egg for themselves and the rest of their life, not give it away to people who suddenly know they have money. “Woe is Johnny Joe, he needs money for this or that,” know how to set up yourself for success in the long term.

Let’s boil this down, Maggie. I’ve told this on the show, my mother, my father, everybody in my family’s education. I feel like we speak a common language. I’m not an educator, I guess I’m an educator through the show. I want to give women 1 to 2 concrete steps. I know there’s a lot more, but Maggie, if we were giving some advice or someone’s tuning in and they’re like, “I have no idea where to start.” What would be one or two steps that women can take now to start building up that money awareness and that confidence and maybe eliminating some of that shame or understanding how to manage it moving forward?

To clear all the shame, the biggest thing to do is just get started. That’s always what we say. Usually, that’s knowing where your money is going. Some people call it a budget, other people call it a spending plan. It’s just to look back over the next couple of months and see where your cash is going in the future. Sometimes it’s surprising we do make enough money, we’re just not allocating it in the right spots. Start looking at where you’re spending your money and if that’s something you value.

Buying the coffee, if that’s what makes your day awesome, buy that coffee. If you’re spending money on a gym membership every month that you don’t go to or you hate every time you go, that’s not part of your values right now. We’re going to need to remove that from our spending. Always knowing where your money is going is essential. The other thing I would jump on that as well is to make sure you’re using all your work benefits if you have them. Make sure that a health savings account is being built up and that 401(k) match is being fully funded, if you can do that as well. Things like that are just free money. We don’t want left on the table.

Brave Women At Work | Dr. Barbara Provost | Maggie Nielsen | Money Fear
Money Fear: Always knowing where your money is going is essential.

I know when you start a job, they give you 1,000 pieces of paper and it could be overwhelming, but now that you’ve had that job, go back and look and make sure you’re maximizing those benefits. You’re working 40 hours a week, I want to make sure you’re getting all the benefits you can out of that money that might not just be in your paycheck but might be in your overall salary.

I love those examples and advice. I would add on to the 401(k) piece. When I started I delayed a little because I was like, “I can’t get to the match, so I’m not going to do it at all.” It goes back to getting started. For anyone, if you have to start at 1% and then every year, what I always call this concept, pay yourself first. If you get an annual increase, we’re going into annual performance review time as we’re recording this. When we post this, you might be knee-deep or just past that time.

When you get your increase, let’s say it’s a couple percent, 2%, or 3%, then you can give 1% back to yourself. Increase your 401(k) before you start spending that extra increase because you don’t even know it’s like forgotten money. You don’t know that you’re putting more into your retirement. I always tell people to try to get inching closer to whatever your match is. If it’s dollar for dollar up to 3% or dollar for dollar, I’ve seen 5% which is a very rich plan, but it depends on your employer. Try to inch up so you can get that free money, like you said, Maggie.

One percent is great if you’re starting there, Awesome. As long as you’re starting, that’s all we’re looking for is just to get started.

Exactly. The other thing, which I know is not sexy, but the life insurance thing is really important, to everybody. Go to someone on the benefits team, and make sure you’ve got at least that group insurance for the life insurance side. If it’s not portable, then look at some other options that you have that insurance to protect those loved ones. I love those tips very much, so thank you, Maggie. Barb, back to you. How do you think we can pass this money knowledge to our kiddos, especially our daughters?

I’m sensitive to this because I’m always talking about my two kiddos, Charlotte, who’s 11, and Olivia who’s 5. I didn’t ever talk about money when I was growing up. I don’t know if this is common, you didn’t have that. Maggie, you’re an anomaly and I love this. I love the fact that you were interviewing people and doing research. What an amazing experience and gift that Barb has given you. How can we pass this money knowledge to our kids, Barb?

It’s around showing good behaviors and talking about it, but it’s all about learning, maybe learning together about it because who taught us? I will say when I was growing up, my parents had a franchise, and a store, so we always had to balance the cash at the end of the day. My hand was always in money from fourth grade on and then I worked in a bank. It was a natural progression because it was in my family and my father always watched the stock market, so I was very familiar with those terms and things like that. It’s what’s in their day to day.

You can start with little books when children are young to talk about money and the value and things like that. There are money games out there to start when children are young. It’s about having financial conversations, opening up savings accounts with your children, going to the bank, making deposits, and how that works. Just teaching them like anything else we’re taught how to cook, we’re taught how to do our clothes. This is just another fundamental life skill that we need to learn along the way in our everyday.

Start with little books when children are young to talk about money. There are money games to start when children are young to have financial conversations. Click To Tweet

One story that I want to jump in and share is, that one professional was explaining how his family had a conversation of, “We can fly there, which is cool, we get to go on the planes but when we get there, there’s one activity that we can’t do because we spent more money flying, but if we drove the car, it’s going to take longer. We’re all going to have to sit in the car together. We’re all going to be here for a long period, but when we get there, we can do these extra activities because we save the money from not flying. What would you guys prefer to do?” To them saying, “I’m going to have to sit in the car, or I’m going to get to do this extra activity.”

How do kids weigh those benefits and understand that the pie is only so big sometimes and so how do you take one or the other? Just bringing children into those conversations is super helpful. That way you understand more of why you flew, why you drove, and why we could or could not do this activity. Not to create anxiety around money, but to start understanding how it’s used and the trade-offs that you have in each scenario.

This is funny and I haven’t had a chance to mention this to you both, but my little one, Olivia, who’s five, we were on a play date and we went out to lunch. We were blessed enough to go to Disney World with our girls. The other mom who was at the play date asked Olivia what happened at Disney World. She said, “I wore this magic band.” There are these magic bands like watches where you buzz into rides when you go through the fast pass and you go through quickly. She equated that to getting in for free. She’s like, “I got in for free. I just buzzed right in.” You guys have given me some homework to do where I’ll have to age-appropriate, “Olivia, we were blessed.” I’m not going to tell her chapter and verse and what this costs and things like that, but just that age-appropriate because kids can engage in those conversations. I thought you guys would find that comical.

That is pretty funny.

I love it because sometimes if you don’t see the cash being transacted, you don’t understand how it works. We always love the movie Confessions of a Shopaholic. She’s always like, “They use these magic cards.” They don’t pay for anything, they just use these magic cards, No credit card, you get that bill later, which she learned in that movie, but you don’t always see it if you don’t see the cash being exchanged.

One other thing, I was at Target when my older one was probably about 8, she’s going to be 12 in a few weeks. I was talking to her about credit card usage, and trying to explain it to her. It was funny, I don’t know if I was talking too loud or if someone was listening, but a college kid turned around an aisle over when I was talking to her, “You got to pay off your bill every month. You got to be responsible debt,” and things like that. He goes, “Listen to your mom. I learned the hard way.”

There are little lessons to learn along the way and they’re life skills is what I’m saying. These are life skills that we have not been taught.

I knew we needed to touch on kids. Thank you guys for sharing that wisdom. Maggie, we’ve talked about the Purse Strings platform, but I want to dive into it a little bit on how you support women. I want to highlight that and what resources you have available on your site.

We have a lot of free education on our sites. We have some different life and money guides, but we also have some resources if you want to figure out where your money is going or your budget we have a worksheet for that. We have a worksheet for a family emergency binder which is more than just a worksheet. It’s a whole binder to fill all your information in of where your policies are, who your people are, your passcodes, and everything like that, just in case something happens your family has all that information. A lot of that foundational information to get the wheels turning.

We also have our podcast that has a lot of education on it, and then we have our directory on our website of all of our Purse Strings-approved professionals. Those are all professionals vetted and approved by us who love to serve women. These can be people who can help you as a financial coach, help you get investing for your retirement, or help you buy a business, and anything else that has to do with you or your family’s finances or your business finances. All there on our site, all our resources there are free for women to use.

That’s so awesome. Barb, I want to throw this question to you and Maggie, if you want to weigh in, I would love to hear. Barb, what do you believe are 1 to 2 ways that women can be braver at work now?

Speaking with you Jen, we do know that women need to be able to negotiate. You’ve taught us that and you’re the expert on that. We need to negotiate on a lot of things. The first answer is not always the answer. Whether it’s increasing our monies, our paycheck, and benefits or asking for other things, maybe leaving early on Wednesdays because your child has a certain appointment or play date that you want to be at negotiating everything. You have to make sure that with all the value added that you’re giving to your employer, you in turn are getting what you need as well. I would say first of all, be brave enough to know everything is negotiable and negotiate for what it is that you want and need to work so that you can work in a healthy way that supports you and your family.

The other thing is I see so often and I did it myself, we’d like to throw everything out the door and put our employer first. “I got to be there at 7:00, I got to be there for this. I got to be there for that.” Make a plan around, “Do you need to be there for that?” Yes, you need to work in partnership with your employer around the value add that you give and the benefits you give and not be stuck by these old inflexible schedules that can cause a lot of angst and stress in our lives.

I remember white-knuckling it down Milwaukee Avenue to get Maggie from daycare at 5:00 to 6:00 and at 6:00 they close or they start charging you $1 a minute. Being very anxious and thinking, “I had to get through this light.” It was so stressful. I should’ve negotiated my hard stop as 4:00 because I need to get my children and if I need to do something later, I’ll do it later. Negotiating for what’s going to make your daily routine as easy as possible.

I love that one, Barb. They’re both great. Maggie, do you have any tips on women being brave or braver at work you’d like to add?

My one is if you are a leader or have a higher-up position at the company always see how you can bring another woman to a meeting with you or to a different collaboration with you to help bring more women up. If you’re a woman who’s lower on the totem pole see if you could have a female mentor who can help you bring you up in the ranks as it was so long there was only one seat at the table for women. I want to make sure we know that there’s more than one seat for women. We don’t have to all claw for the same seat, but bring each other up together. If you can always bring a plus one to the table, try to bring them and help them move up the ranks.

We don't have to all claw for the same seat, but bring each other up together. So, if you can always bring a plus one to the table, try to bring someone and help move up. Click To Tweet

Love that too. Speaking from someone from experience, I was the first female executive in my leadership team. It is a big responsibility to bring others with you and try to advocate. Since then it’s been more balanced. It was lonely for a long time. It was lonely out there for a while. Maggie, where can we find you Purse Strings, and all of your great work online?

Our website is PurseStrings.co and all of our social media is PurseStringsco. You can check out our podcast, Women & Money: The Shit We Don’t Talk About on any of your streaming platforms. Apple, Spotify, or wherever else you like to listen to your podcast. You can find us there.

Barb and Maggie, thank you so much for doing such powerful work. I feel so privileged and grateful that I’ve met you both and then I get the opportunity to interact with you regularly. Thank you.

Thank you for having us, Jen. This has been a lot of fun.

That’s a wrap-up of my conversation with Barb and Maggie. I hope you found our discussion both valuable and inspiring. Until next time. Take a moment, ask yourself the following questions, or journal on them. How do you feel about your money situation? You don’t have to tell me this is more for you. Just ask yourself and be honest. Do you feel good about your money situation or does it worry you or cause you anxiety?

If you need education concerning your finances, check out Purse Strings. There are so many free resources on Barb and Maggie’s site. Finally, don’t forget to check out their podcast, Women & Money: The Shit We Don’t Talk About on your favorite podcast platform. As a reminder, please rate, review, and subscribe to the show, Apple, and Spotify. The show is also available on Google Podcasts or any other podcast platform you enjoy. Until next time, show up, be financially fearless, and be brave.

Important Links

About Dr. Barbara Provost

Brave Women At Work | Dr. Barbara Provost | Maggie Nielsen | Money FearDr. Barb Provost created Purse Strings so all women could live a life free from financial stress and full of choices. As a consultant in the financial industry for over 20+ years, it was apparent to Barb that the needs of the female market were not being addressed. When Barb went through her divorce and navigated it in a women-led divorce group, she heard these intelligent, bright, talented women voice so many financial concerns. And, in her everyday life, Barb could see women of retirement age working at the stores as she would run her errands. That stopped her dead in her tracks.

So, Barb set out on her investigation. She commissioned a researcher to dive deeply into the literature and had hundreds of conversations with women. The problem was apparent. The overwhelming theme that came from hundreds of women was – they don’t even look at me. That all stops with Barb’s company, Purse Strings.

As a Doctor in Adult learning and higher education, Barb has helped bring the power of the female market to other countries like Nigeria, India, Cameroon, and Vietnam working with the World Bank and now she wants to help and do the same here.

About Maggie Nielsen

Brave Women At Work | Dr. Barbara Provost | Maggie Nielsen | Money FearWhile pursuing an MBA and working alongside Barb, Maggie saw firsthand how women were often overlooked and underserved in the world of finance, with their voices intentionally left out of the conversation. She knew that women held immense power and was determined to expose the system and show them how to make it work to their advantage.

As the engine behind Purse Strings, Maggie has facilitated over 300 live sessions with financial professionals, covering everything from financial foundations to real-life stories and top tips. Her mission is simple: Equip women with the knowledge they need to make smart financial decisions for themselves, their families, and their businesses (and an amazing team on their side!) With this knowledge, our mothers, daughters, and BFFs can confidently navigate the world of finance and live a life full of choice.

Maggie is incredibly proud of the work done at Purse Strings and the impact it will have on generations of women to come, with the dedication to empowering women to take control of their finances and live life on their own terms.

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