We were honored to have a guest post from Ashley Feinstein Gerstley, the Founder of The Fiscal Femme, and are even more excited to share her career profile interview with you! We love Ashley’s story and how she supports women who want to become financially savvy.
If there is one thing that I know for sure from my own experience, it is that having your finances in order is a huge step toward independence and the ability to, if needed, leave people, places, and things that aren’t serving you. Read her full interview below—thank you, Ashley!
Name: Ashley Feinstein Gerstley
Location: Hoboken, NJ
Education: Tulane / Penn Undergrad (Finance); IPEC coaching program
How did you determine what you wanted to study in college?
My Mom is a therapist and I grew up reading all of her psychology books. I loved them! I was also inspired by my Dad’s entrepreneurial spirit and caught the entrepreneurship bug early. Going into college I planned on doing a dual major in business and psychology. When I transferred to Penn after Katrina, I was really inspired by my business school classes. I didn’t have enough credits to complete a double major in four years so I chose to study finance.
Walk me through your initial job search strategy and how you landed your first full-time role.
I think I wanted to become an investment banker to prove to myself I could do it. I knew it was a very competitive recruiting process for a job where I’d learn a lot and work really hard. I didn’t have the highest GPA of my classmates (by any means) so I decided to network for it. I attended recruiting events and stayed after to speak with people in the industry and share why I was interested in working at their companies. It worked! I ended up getting many interviews this way.
When did you realize you wanted to make a career change, and what led you to found The Fiscal Femme?
I started the Fiscal Femme because I needed it myself. After two years in banking, I moved to a corporate finance job where I had more free time but was making less money. I was living way beyond my means, making up for lost time. I was going out to eat, getting drinks with friends, taking classes, attending workshops, and going to concerts. I looked at my bank account and saw that I had spent most of my savings. I realized if I wanted to keep this new and improved lifestyle I was going to have to figure out the finance part of it. Despite having studied finance and worked in finance, I had no idea how to manage my own money. I thought: “if I don’t know about this and I have all this finance background who does?” So I started sharing what I was learning on a blog called the Fiscal Femme. That’s where it all started! I left my corporate finance job in March 2014 to work on the Fiscal Femme full time.
What was the hardest part of getting The Fiscal Femme up and running? Any failures or doubts along the way and if so, what did you learn from them?
There were so many failures and doubts along the way. The hardest part of getting the Fiscal Femme up and running was that I had no idea how to run and grow a business. As an entrepreneur – especially a solo-entrepreneur – you wear so many hats that you aren’t experienced in wearing. You have to have a lot of humility because you spend your days doing things you really don’t know how to do. You learn how to ask for help, admit to mistakes, and learn, learn, learn.
Tell me about your book. What is the 30-Day Money Cleanse?
I’m so excited about this book! The 30-Day Money Cleanse came from one of my courses and focuses on creating a spending plan that fits with your lifestyle with the goal of saving more for your goals without giving up the things you love. When we align our spending with our values, our lifestyles feel more fulfilling and more meaningful (even though we are saving more money!) It’s fun and interactive and beautifully designed (if I do say so myself).
You talk a lot about and advocate for women achieving “wealth.” What does wealth mean to you, and why is this such an important goal for women, especially today?
Yes! To us at the Fiscal Femme, wealth is a cornerstone of equality. When we are financially well we can negotiate harder, take more risks in our career, leave situations (and people) that are not serving us, and invest in the causes that are important to us. This means getting paid what we’re worth, getting women on management teams and on boards, and investing in women-owned businesses. We certainly need a lot more of that!
What tips do you have for young women who want to achieve it [wealth]?
In order to achieve wealth, we need to take action. Here are a few ideas to get started:
- Do a quick Money Cleanse. For a day or a week, let go of all frivolous spending (as defined by you). This helps us differentiate between needs and wants while also serving as a reminder that we can let go of so many expenses and still enjoy ourselves.
- Keep a money journal to reconnect with where your money is going. Write down everything you spend (no matter how small) in a notebook or in notes on your phone. Before we can make any major changes in our financial lives, we need to know what’s happening with our money. While you might initially be hesitant to face the numbers, just knowing where you stand can take a tremendous weight off your shoulders.
- Pay yourself first. When you have to pay something (such as your electricity bill), you find a way to do it. Make sure to do the same for your own savings. Set up automatic transfers from your checking to your savings account when your paycheck gets deposited (and before you even realize it’s there!).
- Start investing. There’s so much information out there about investing, it’s hard to know where to start and the idea of losing any of our hard-earned money can feel like reason enough to stay away. We lose so much more by keeping our long term savings in cash which actually loses value over time. If you feel paralyzed about where to start, ask for help and then start.
Financial planning can be hard, and time-consuming, and confusing…among other things. If there’s only one thing you suggest young women do regarding their finances, what is it, and why?
Pay yourself first. If we don’t, most of us will never get saving. Building a savings buffer gives us power. That’s why I made a music video parody all around how badass it is to save money.
Do you have a mentor? Who do you look to for inspiration and support?
I have a lot of mentors. Some that know they are my mentors and others don’t because they mentor me through their books and podcasts. I usually look for people who either have done something I’m looking to do or embody a value or trait that I wish to grow in myself. I try my best to make it a mutually beneficial relationship where I help them however I can as well!
Final words of wisdom to all the young women out there who are strategizing to reach their financial goals?
Just start. Take one of the steps above or download one of our guides, and then commit to taking one step in the next 48 hours. Action leads to more action, and this builds momentum that keeps us really motivated and excited. If these steps still seem too daunting, break them down even more until they seem manageable. For example, keep a money journal for one day (vs. an entire month). No step is too small as long as we are moving forward.