Q&A with Amanda Steinberg, CEO of WorthFM
Amanda Steinberg is the founder & CEO of DailyWorth and WorthFM. DailyWorth is the leading digital financial media company for women with one million subscribers. WorthFM is a digital investment platform for women. As women in the U.S. are on track to inherit the majority of the country’s wealth by 2030, Steinberg is changing how women think about and manage their personal investments. In 2015, Forbes Magazine named Steinberg one of the “new money masters and financial luminaries,” shaping the future of investing. She has also appeared on AndersonCooper360, Good Morning America, TODAY, CNN, and MSNBC. Prior to DailyWorth, Steinberg was a computer programmer and CEO of Soapbxx, a Web engineering company serving many of the U.S.’s largest social and cultural institutions. She’s a graduate of Columbia University where she studied urban planning and computer science. Q. What are your goals and aspirations for yourself and for WorthFM? My mission in life is to help women become confident financial stewards poised to make wise decisions for themselves, their families and the world. Seven years ago I founded DailyWorth, a short, daily email newsletter, to speak to women about personal finance. At the time financial advice for women was limited to advice on consumer spending decisions like budgeting and couponing. No one was speaking to women in a relatable way about building net worth. DailyWorth has grown to a subscriber base of over one million women because women are hungry to learn about finance in a way that makes sense for the lives they are living today. Unfortunately, when DailyWorth’s readers tried to put their newfound knowledge into action, they kept running into the same problems over and over again. They would tell me they left conversations with brokers and financial planners feeling confused, frustrated, or worst of all, condescended to, and would give up. I knew that these smart, ambitious women needed a financial services partner they could trust if they were going to make greater progress toward financial security, so I started WorthFM. WorthFM has been designed to answer women’s top five questions about money management and investing right from the start. We give each client a bundle of three accounts - Saving, Investment and Retirement - along with step-by-step guidance on how to create the best balance across all three while managing debt, so that her knowledge about money management and investing grows along with her net worth. Women have only 33 cents of net worth for every dollar a man has. We’re working to close the worth gap. Q. Tell me about your background and how that inspired your work focused on women’s issues. The youngest of three girls, I spent my early years watching my mother in crisis in the wake of her divorce. Vowing never to be so dependent on a man as to lose faith and control of my life, I promised myself I’d become high-earning and independent. I became a successful serial entrepreneur, leading multiple software engineering companies, yet in 2009 I found myself in the midst of my own divorce and $90,000 in debt. While married—and later, getting divorced—I was shocked to realize how ensnared I’d become in the very mess I’d sworn to avoid, financially and psychologically. I vowed to rescue myself from crisis and re-engage in the process of making, saving and investing money, this time from a place of self-awareness. I created DailyWorth to champion women’s connection between self-worth and net worth, including my own. Q. What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the FinTech and/or financial services industry? Frankly, the financial services industry is stuck in the Mad Men era. It’s a profession that has been male-dominated, and male-oriented, for so long that it has yet to erase the deeply ingrained patterns that make women, as clients and professionals, feel external to the process. It’s hard to take advice from an industry that makes you feel like just another wallet to excavate, and not a particularly bright one, at that. Q. Which other female leaders do you admire and why?Shonda Rhimes creates the kind of powerful, complex, independent female characters that reflect women in all their reality and diversity. Zoe Wild, a 32-year-old woman working to create schools and orphanages for Syrian refugees in Greece through her organization, One Light Global. Meighan Stone, President of the Malala Fund, whose dedication to leadership while also being a single mom is astounding. Q. What is the most difficult leadership lesson you’ve learned? Over and over again, I’ve experienced that the hardest decisions and most challenging crises happen almost simultaneously with the greatest growth and creativity. It can be tempting in those situations to assume you must be doing something wrong and need to change everything. I’ve seen this pattern enough now to know that when things seem impossibly dark I just need to stay on track and keep working the problem with integrity and imagination. A breakthrough is always just around the corner. Q. What are the top three insights you would share with women who want to “have it all”? First, make sure that your dreams are truly your dreams and not dreams you’ve inherited from previous generations. For example, having children is something that women are often expected to desire, but is this something that you want? These days it’s becoming more common for women to design their lives in previously unacceptable ways. Even if what you end up choosing is deeply traditional, having taken the time to examine the ‘why’ behind what you want will help you to prioritize, not agonize, when you have to make the trade-offs that are inevitably part of a full life. Second, don’t just focus on your income and your spending when it comes to money management. Focus on growing your net worth to ensure your future financial security. Income is ephemeral, while assets provide stability. Finally, make it a habit to attend at least one networking event per month. My professional network of thousands has been critical to always getting to where I want to go. Q. Do you have a favorite time management tool, hack, or other strategy that you would recommend to others? I often combine professional networking or brainstorming with other people who have children by suggesting a “power playdate”. Laura Vanderkam, a friend and a thought-leader on how successful women make the most of their time, wrote about this in her book “I Know How She Does It” and in an article for Fast Company. As long as everyone has reasonable expectations and the kids are relatively the same age, it’s a great way to get to know someone in a relaxed social setting. And you’ll find out if they have a good sense of humor! Also, I’m mostly asleep by 10 pm, which means I’m just a lot more effective because I’m fully rested. Q. Knowing what you know now, if you were starting over today, what would you do differently? I wouldn’t be so concerned with what others think of me. I now realize that others’ judgments are typically more reflective of themselves than deeply thoughtful observations about my performance and abilities. Q. Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying? Revenue solves all problems. Courtney Dankworth is a partner and Lilya Tessler is an associate in Debevoise’s New York office. Comments? 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