Many women tend to shy away from talking about their finances. Not Lauren Simmons.
Simmons, who made history in 2017, at age 22, as the youngest female trader on the New York Stock Exchange (and only the second Black woman to be on the floor in history), insisted if other women are going to thrive financially, they have to open up about money, too.
“People can talk about sex, politics and so many taboo subjects, but people are so hesitant to talk about money,” Simmons told Know Your Value. “You need to know, ‘what is your relationship with money?’ It’s one of the most instrumental things if you want to change your financial circumstances.”
A survey from Fidelity found that eight in 10 women hold back from discussing their finances with those they are close to. Confidence is a leading factor holding women back, with 60 percent worrying they won’t have enough money to last through retirement. Many women cited a lack of financial knowledge and not knowing where to turn for guidance.
“Women are conditioned to look at our flaws,” Simmons said. “For me people would say ‘but you’re a woman, you’re from the south, you’re African-American,’— I am all those things, but those are not reasons why I can’t do something, they are reasons I can.”
Simmons arrived in New York from Georgia after studying genetics. With no finance degree, she studied hard and passed the notoriously difficult Series 6 investment exam and landed a trading job at the Exchange for Rosenblatt Securities. She left the position in December 2018. Her remarkable story and drive inspired a biopic that is currently in development, starring actress Kiersey Clemons.
On her new podcast “Mind Body Wealth,” debuting on Spotify this week, Simmons, now 27, openly discussed her personal financial journey while offering advice to listeners and guests. She spoke about her decision to decline several offers at major financial institutions.
“I felt it was more rewarding for me to empower the next generation when it came to finances than for me to become a product of a company,” said Simmons. “And here I am. We are 100 percent going to change the narrative.”
After all, the pandemic has been a huge source of financial stress for women — many of whom left the workforce or lost their jobs in disproportionate numbers. Simmons offered her best financial advice for young women coming out of the pandemic:
1. Put yourself out there — more than is comfortable.
Simmons said that the pandemic has emphasized the importance of technology in networking.
“The pandemic has shown us just how accessible people are,” Simmons said. “Use your different outlets. Use your LinkedIn. Network. And realize that networking doesn’t have to be intimidating. When I came to New York, I reached out to any and everyone who was in a C-suite in an organization.”
Simmons also encouraged women to aim high and to rise above insecurities about their personal qualifications. She cited her own ambitious career journey as an example.
“I got a lot of bad advice from people telling me that I was reaching too high. I was specifically picking high-paying jobs and essentially more advanced managing jobs. I was comfortable doing that. I would see 18-to-21-year-old men have jobs created for them, or they’d instantly become VP. Why can’t I apply?” she said. “We have to realize our power and greatness, and to accept that we are absolutely capable of applying for these positions.”
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2. Talk about money.
When women don’t talk about money, they become less empowered, said Simmons. The more they talk about it, the more they learn — and the more they can help others.
“Let’s not make money a taboo subject. Let’s be open about compensation and what we’re currently getting paid. That is what moves the needle,” Simmons said. “This hush-hush society that we live in when talking about personal finances is weird to me. I have very open conversations with everyone about salary and how much I’m making and the deals that haven’t gone well, and hopefully that can inspire people to do better.”
3. Take your time with purchasing decisions.
To avoid excessive spending, Simmons advises women to take a lot of time—more time than is comfortable—before buying non-essential items.
“Women are very emotional about how we spend. We get up in the middle of the night and stress spend,” said Simmons. “Let something marinate in your mind. Most people say to wait a week, but I will wait three months before I make a purchase. Don’t make impulsive decisions based on wanting something instantaneously, or making other people happy.”
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4. Have a wealth mindset, not a get-rich-quick scheme.
Getting rich overnight is not a realistic goal, said Simmons. Having a “wealth mindset,” or a healthy relationship with money and growth, is far more important.
“I’ve had clients who are high-income earners but living paycheck to paycheck because they didn’t have a healthy relationship with money. It’s about connecting the mind, body, and wealth all together, and getting into this wealth mindset,” said Simmons. “That’s going to take holistic work. Meditating, journaling or maybe even going to therapy. Understanding yourself and relationship with money is a big step toward having a wealth mindset.”
5. Educate yourself in financial literacy.
Simmons is a completely self-taught trader. She told Know Your Value that anyone can become one, but they have to commit to financial literacy.
“Pick up a book, listen to my podcast, read, Google. Everything is accessible. You don’t have to spend a lot of money,” said Simmons. “Do your due diligence. Take the time to understand. the earlier you do that the better. If you want to be good at finances and the stock market, it’s a marathon not a sprint, but it’s achievable in less than a year. And your version of achievable is dependent on you.”
6. Know your power.
Though many women have lost or left their jobs during the pandemic, there is also an empowered surge of people happily quitting jobs they didn’t like, or pivoting careers. For Simmons, this is a good omen.
“This signals that one, we have the power to negotiate. And two, we have the power to do what makes us happy,” said Simmons. “Always have a smart exit strategy, but embrace that power. Life is too short to do anything less. It’ll be really interesting to see how this pans out in a couple of years.”