Financial Literacy Produces Both Capital and Courage

Financial Literacy Produces Both Capital and Courage

During this month’s Leading Voices panel, Cassandra Cummings, founder of Stocks & Stilettos Society, and Pam Krueger, founder of Wealthramp, joined Laura Nix Gerson to discuss the importance of financial literacy.

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This month, on Worth’s monthly Leading Voices series, Cassandra Cummings and Pam Krueger, two female financial advisors, shared a sliver of their expertise in the industry and the importance of women’s investments. Laura Nix Gerson, Director of Women & Worth, introduced Krueger and Cummings as Money, Money, Money by ABBA played in the background—a fitting song to set the episode’s tone.

Cassandra Cummings is a fearless investor and advisor. Starting her career at Merrill Lynch, Cummings harnessed the high salary to support her family as a single parent. Later, she realized that she could make a significant impact by helping people reach their financial goals. So, she transitioned into the advising sector and ultimately founded the Stocks & Stilettos Society in 2016. Since then, the group has grown into a community of over 100,000 women and inspired 50,000 women to invest $10 million in two years. She has also developed financial strategies for members of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Black Wealth Expo, and the Women’s Investment Conference, to name just a few. In addition to amplifying empowering financial communities, Cummings is the author of Fearless Finances, which details the path to building generational wealth

Like Cummings, Krueger began her career at a finance giant. However, in the late nineties, no longer wanting to work for a “machine company,” Krueger shifted to the financial education of women through her “MoneyTrack” show on PBS. While working in corporate finance, Krueger saw that clients repeatedly asked her the same investment questions. So, she sought to answer those questions and increase financial literacy to empower women on their road to retirement. 

Today, Krueger is the co-host of “Friends Talk Money,” a podcast focused on retirement planning. When not on television or recording podcasts, Krueger channels her financial knowledge to help investors through her company, Wealthramp. Born during the 2008 financial crisis, Wealthramp is a platform of 200 advisors helping clients to develop effective financial strategies. Throughout her career, Krueger’s chief motivation has been her desire to break barriers for female investors, and her lofty accomplishments and financial literacy plans are a testament to that. 

Helping women to improve their investing habits is a mission that Cummings and Krueger share. While outlining the typical career trajectory of a woman (figuring out her strengths in her 20s, building a family in her 30s, and reaching the height of her career in her 40s and 50s), Cummings and Krueger highlighted that many women wait until their 40s when they are nearing peak earnings to invest. Often, women feel guilty about putting money aside for non-family investments and begin investing once they satisfy domestic obligations. Krueger noted that as the retirement clock ticks faster, panicked questions such as “are we saving enough and investing in our free time? Will that money, like an ice cube, melt in my hand once I retire, or will that ice cube stay solid for the rest of my life?” arise. The pair suggested that women start investing in their twenties to capitalize on the magic of compound interest and mitigate this frenzy. Prioritizing financial management from a younger age and investing only a sliver of income, or “one bite at a time,” as Kreuger puts it, leads to higher gains closer to retirement. 

Even though most women primarily spend their earnings on their household, recent data from a 2021 Fidelity Investments study shows optimistic changes in female investing patterns. Since the pandemic in 2020, two-thirds of women have begun investing outside of their retirement savings, up 44 percent from 2018. However, a mere 19 percent of women say they’re confident they’re on track to retire with enough money, showing that women are unsure about their long-term investing habits. Stocks & Stilettos and Wealthramp aim to raise these numbers by encouraging women to invest in Roth IRAs, 401Ks, or 403Bs. Their goal is to help women seize control of their money and avoid needing drastic catch-up provisions as they near retirement. 

These somewhat bleak statistics are paradoxical, considering that women investors generally outperform their male counterparts. As a rule of thumb, the higher the risk is, the higher the reward, but this motto is deceptive. Women tend to err on the side of caution, unlike their male counterparts. This tendency has allowed women to surpass men in trading. As vigilant investors, Kreuger remarked, “​​we tend to look at things more holistically; we tend to stop and evaluate and do our research.” This approach eliminates some of the risk factors men battle. While women are often more risk-averse, they lean towards being patient investors. In the long run, this patience pays off for them, increasing gains and profits. Knowing patience and caution are beneficial to investing habits, Cummings and Krueger have made it their mission to teach women how to employ these traits to turn a profit.

When it comes to investing, financial literacy is the clear path to achieving monetary goals. Cummings and Krueger demonstrated their commitment to increasing financial literacy by spending part of the episode fielding investing questions from the audience. Cummings shared that many people, particularly women, are deficient in this skill. Consequently, women tend to be more skeptical investors. In her book, Fearless Finances, Cummings tells her readers, “at the end of the day, you are the best thing that will ever happen to your money.” Her book underscores that no one will take care of your money as well as you, and caring for your savings from a young age is the key to letting your money take care of you once you retire. Women can only profit when they take control of their finances. And the most effective way of taking ownership of your money is by building a foundation of financial knowledge and creating rewarding investment strategies. 

Over the past couple of decades, with the rise of alternative investments like cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin, investors beg the question, “is this a worthwhile investment?” And the answers vary, but Cummings and Krueger advised that rounding out your portfolio is the route to success because “diversification wins all battles.” With their combined advising experience of over 50 years, the two advisors recommended building a broad portfolio with money in real estate, precious metals, stocks, and bonds. They suggested tax diversification with taxed and tax-free accounts such as 401Ks and Roth IRAs for additional layers of diversity. Then, if you want to invest in alternative ventures, or “fun money,” as Cummings and Krueger say, like Cryptocurrency or angel investing, you can because you have a balanced portfolio to dampen potential risks. In terms of allocating funds to different types of investments, Cummings and Krueger agreed that there is no one-size-fits-all in this industry. People have varying needs, but both women noted that alternative investments should only be a fraction of your portfolio. 

Cummings and Krueger have uplifted women by sharing their extensive investing knowledge through their platforms and communities: Stocks & Stilettos, Wealthramp, and “Friends talk Money.” Their careers have surrounded the central idea of encouraging women to take control of their finances from a young age in order to prepare for retirement and build wealth. During economic downturns, the two agreed that women must give themselves some grace and continue to stay resilient in the face of financial losses and mistakes. Financial literacy is the bedrock of successful investing, and experts like Cummings and Krueger are working to empower women of all ages to be more confident in their own knowledge and decision-making. 

Watch the full episode below.