How to be a financial grownup

Reuters' Bobbi Rebell talks about her new book: Financial Grownup

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Why is everyone such a financial mess? Why do successful, highly educated women have zero idea what is going on in their finances — and abandon their financial power to men? What do really successful people have to say about money and success?

Bobbi Rebell, Reuters anchor and author of the new How to Be a Financial Grownup: Proven Advice from High Achievers on How to Live Your Dreams and Have Financial Freedom answers these questions and more.

In this tidy book, and on this episode, Rebell, who is divorced, and remarried with a stepson, shares:

  • What Ivana Trump taught her daughter Ivanka Trump about hard work and entitlement.
  • Why ‘fake it till you make it' is the brilliance behind Cynthia Rowley's fashion empire.
  • How the heck she got Tony Robbins to write the book's forward.
  • Can you attract a great man if you earn more than most men have a successful, high-profile career (asking for a friend)?
  • Moreover, can you sustain a successful marriage if the wife earns more than the husband?

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Full transcript of Like A Mother episode with guest Bobbi Rebell

Emma Johnson: Super excited to welcome today's guest. Now, Bobbi Rebell is anchor at Reuters. You know Reuters, and she has a nationally syndicated column about Millennials and money.

Emma Johnson: Today, we're talking about her brand new book, How to Be a Financial Grownup. Love the title because I think there is a financial child in all of us. Bobbi, thank you for being here.

Bobbi Rebell: Thank you so much for having me. I love your podcast. I am so excited to be here.

Emma Johnson: Okay. Talk to me about this. Financial grownup. Why did you go with that title? First of all, let me just give people a quick snapshot.

Emma Johnson: You interview several dozen extremely successful people, including Tony Robbins, who wrote your foreword, which I want to know how you got him to do that, by the way. We'll get into that. Ivanka Trump. The fashion designer, Cynthia Rowley, who by the way, I am proud to own one of her dresses. The CEOs and founders of brands like Zillow. Who else is there? There's just some big, successful, major people, and you take their little nuggets from earlier in their lives, things that really had a big impact on how they think and act about money. And then, you extrapolate and give us these really powerful but very easy-to-digest lessons about money, finance, budgeting, planning.

What is a financial grownup?

Emma Johnson: Talk to me about the title, because that grabs me, right away. How to Be a Financial Grownup.

Bobbi Rebell: First of all, I had the idea for this book, before the title. And the title came to me because of my own issues. People think this book was written for Millennials, but it was really written for anyone. I am a Gen X-er, and I was having a lot of issues growing up, especially in my career. I had turned down a promotion. I know, people get really mad at me. A couple of times because I just didn't want to be in charge. I didn't want to be the grownup in the newsroom, and I was facing yet another offer to move higher. My boss was being promoted, and I was trying to turn it down. And he looked at me, and he said, “Bobbi, you're the grownup. Get over it. You can read a teleprompter, and that's great, and you're a really good writer, and you've covered every topic under the sun. But it's time to be in charge and it's time to take ownership of it, and you're done. You're the grownup. You're taking the promotion, end of story.” That really resonated, and I had this book in the works already, and it just kinda came together.

Emma Johnson: Okay. Let's just start, right there. What was your apprehension about being a grown up? And why did it take a senior man to tell you to grow up?

Bobbi Rebell: I wanted someone to tell me what to do.

Emma Johnson: To take care of you.

Emma Johnson: Was that what it was?

Bobbi Rebell: Yeah, yeah.

Emma Johnson: To be cared for?

Resisting personal financial accountability

Bobbi Rebell: Right. I wanted someone. Even you want someone else to be editing your script to say it's good enough. You don't want to be the one in charge. You don't want to be the one, who has to be the bad guy, and tell someone, no, they can't have vacation when they want because your other coworkers are off. You just don't want to be the grownup, basically. I had this resistance, and it was really hurting my career.

Emma Johnson: That is so interesting. And is that a female thing, do you think?

Bobbi Rebell: I think it can be. I don't want to overly stereotype, but I do think in general, so let's stereotype. I do think women have trouble sometimes taking leadership roles, but I do think that's evolving. And I think part of that is that we are getting as a society, more women at the top. We're gradually moving forward with that, and you do see more women in leadership positions.

Bobbi Rebell: My boss right now is a woman, and she's terrific, and I think that is improving. But I think that this attitude can pervade people's lives in every aspect, especially when it comes to managing their money. That we always want somebody else to take care of us, and tell us it'll be okay, and tell us exactly wat to do all the time. But in fact, we do have to grow up and take ownership of things. And one thing I focus on in the book is not necessarily telling people what investment to make, but telling people, here's what you need to be paying attention to, and here is how you can make that decision, but it's on you to make that decision.

Emma Johnson: It's so interesting. You said that about not participating. You interview Sallie Krawcheck, who is arguably the most successful and powerful woman on Wall Street, and she's always advocating for women, and she tells us a really fascinating personal anecdote. Do you want to share it with us?

Being inspired by Sallie Krawcheck’s story

Bobbi Rebell: Yes. So Emma, this is probably the first R-rated personal finance book, thanks to Ms. Sallie Krawcheck. She tells a story. I'm just going to give a little bit of it. But effectively, her marriage ended. She is very graphic about how it ended.

Emma Johnson: Yeah. She had an affair. She found a woman's hair in the bed. Yeah. Go for it.

Bobbi Rebell: Oh, yeah. She gets a little graphic, yes. She found a hair in the bed, and there's a confrontation and he denies it, and back and forth, and there's drama. A long story short, the marriage implodes, and she, who was already incredibly successful on Wall Street had to come to terms with the fact that she was not a financial grownup and that she had no idea what was going on in her own family's finances. She didn't know their money situation. She was letting her husband handle all their money.

Emma Johnson: You say that with such … You're so aghast. And in the anecdote, she's like she woke up and she realized the errors of her ways, and she says … The quote is something like, “I felt like a 1952 housewife.” But that was probably 30 years ago that happened because that was a first and early marriage.

Bobbi Rebell: Right.

Emma Johnson: Yeah, 30 years ago. And first forward it to two months ago, and I was at a luncheon at Bernstein, here in New York City. It's a major wealth management fund, and they had this luncheon for women and it was the topic was women in transition, which was just code for women going through a divorce. And so, they had this small panel of there was a couple of divorce professionals, an attorney, and a coach, and there was an accountant. And then, a wealth manager and somebody else. And they all went around and introduced themselves, and the very, very first thing that they said, the advice to women. They very first thing they said was so many of my clients are these highly highly-educated women, multiple degrees from the best universities in the country. Many of them are working extremely professionally successful, and they are completely clueless about their family finances.

Bobbi Rebell: I am not at all surprised.

Emma Johnson: I am sickened by that. I am going to start writing about that, and this is where it gets crazy, and their advice. They're speaking to this group of women, who are potentially clients. These women came there, let's face the facts, because they're interested in getting divorced, and they want to know what to do. And their advice is start poking around in closets. You're probably not going to find a full statement, but you might find a page, here and there. And if there's anything in Switzerland, the red flags should go up.

Bobbi Rebell: Oh my. Oh my goodness.

Emma Johnson: Right?

Bobbi Rebell: That's terrible.

Why are women giving up so much of their financial power?

Emma Johnson: It's good advice, but though it's terrible is that these women need it. The fact that you were writing this book for everybody, How to Be a Financial Grownup. What is going on with women that we are not … I really appreciate your vulnerability in sharing your professional story, but what is going on that we are just giving up so much of our power by giving up our financial power?

Bobbi Rebell: I think, first of all, we tend to compartmentalize things. We can be all-powerful at work and focus on go-go-go in our careers. And yet, when we come home, we're sort of told to switch roles and be maybe the doting wife and switch sort of our identity to be … I don't want to say subservient to the man, but we're deferring to our husbands very often with the money is what's happening with a lot of these women it sounds like, and they need to grow up, quite simply. Or they'll find themselves in a situation, where they will be alone and poor, if they should get divorced, and that is certainly not a situation that we want to have. I think the most important thing with paying attention to your money, and I mentioned to you this before, before we were recording, that I was divorced at 30 and it really shaped my own financial being for my perspective for myself is that you want to be married because you want to be married, not because you have to stay in a marriage for financial reasons. You never want to be in that situation.

Bobbi Rebell: I was divorced and I got remarried, and I know that I could leave if I wanted to. I choose to stay because I love my husband.

Emma Johnson: That's right.

Bobbi Rebell: Not because I'm financially dependent, and it's very sad to see a woman have to stay in a marriage for money.

Emma Johnson: Right.

Bobbi Rebell: I don't like that.

Money is the number one reason women stay in abusive situations

Emma Johnson: People don't even realize that if you dig into it, when we're talking about abusive situations, money is the number one reason stay in abusive situations. And what I hear women say is, “Well, my situation is not abusive.” Okay. I believe you, but you still don't have power. You are constantly deferring power about whether you go out for lunch with your girlfriends and spend because it's not, or whether who goes on vacation. If you don't have financial power in that relationship, you don't have equal power. And people want to say, “That's not true. We have an agreement. It's joint account. It's our family money.” Well, you know what? That's a fantasy. It's not real.

Bobbi Rebell: Right. I remember growing up, my mother went back to law school. She seemed old at the time. She was probably 40 years old, but she said to me, she said, “I want my own spending money,” and she became a lawyer. My father earned tremendously more money than she did, but she had her money and she was very proud of it, and I'm very proud of her for doing that. And I think she was a great role model to me, and to my sister for doing that. At that time, that was pretty radical to go to law school in the 1980s as a woman, who had three kids at home, and to go full-time. And she did it, and she succeeded, and she had her own income.

Emma Johnson: What's remarkable to me is that she saw that she wanted that, right?

Bobbi Rebell: Yes.

Emma Johnson: She was able to see that she felt disempowered, and then she was in a situation, where thankfully, she could do it. Because so many women at different times and places in history, didn't have the option to run off to law school and do that. I find that remarkable.

Bobbi Rebell: And she stayed married. There was no divorce. She stayed married. It's not necessarily about that, but I think that she really was very happy to have that, and to know that she had that, that was hers. That law degree was hers.

When women earn more than men, their relationships rarely survive

Emma Johnson: Well, but here's the thing, where I think women, and I know women hold themselves back is because when women earn more than men, their relationships rarely survive. We both know Farnoosh Torabi, she wrote the fantastic book, When She Makes More, and there were some of the most compelling statistics. When men are financially dependent on women, they are five times more likely to cheat, and the couples are 50% more likely to divorce.

Bobbi Rebell: It's very interesting you say that because in my first marriage, which did end in divorce, that was the situation. It happens. It's real. It's real.

Emma Johnson: I understand it is real, and it is also understandable why women hold themselves back, whether in their career, in their earning, initiating themselves when it comes to money management because they sense, either explicitly or implicitly, that will compromise the relationship.

Bobbi Rebell: I think it is something to be cognizant of. But at the same time, if you have a good partner, I think that's something that you can both be proud of. I know my husband is so proud of me. I have a speaking engagement, later this week. He is taking the day off to go there, just to cheer me on.

Emma Johnson: That's beautiful.

Bobbi Rebell: He is so proud of me, and I really appreciate that. He is a wonderful cheerleader. He jokes that he does earn more than me now, but he jokes, he would love to be the house husband and just cheer me on and watch me go out and earn all the money. By the way, this is a guy that's incredibly successful. He earns plenty of money, himself. He doesn't need me to be supporting him, but he is that much of a supporter.

Emma Johnson: Yeah. That's really wonderful. And I know a lot of guys say that, but it's very interesting, and I believe … I'm not challenging your personal marriage, but it's a very complicated time. I always honor that complication. My personal story, I've shared this many times is that I was always successful, while I was with my husband. We dated for a long time, and then married, but I always earned at least a little bit less. My income never eclipsed his. And what always happens, and I know from my own experience and from the bazillions of women that I am in contact with, when people divorce, they let all their shit hang out. All those things that you were too nice to say during the marriage, you just say it because everything's imploding, so it just all comes out.

Bobbi Rebell: Pretty much.

Emma Johnson: Yes. It just, like whatever mean thing that you were thinking, it's popping out of your mouth, whether you like it or not. And one thing that came out in my divorce was he was very … Well, he kept saying, “You are so angry because you hardly earn any money.” And at the time, I had cracked six figures, like after two years of working for myself. He wasn't making millions of dollars. We both work in media, but he did earn more. Anyways, he was just very basically threatened by me, my success, and it came out. In hindsight, I know I held myself back because I knew my marriage couldn't handle it.

Bobbi Rebell: Right.

Not living up to your financial potential as a woman is self-sabotage

Emma Johnson: I chose my marriage over my potential, and I was doing very well. It wasn't like I was grossly under-earning or underperforming, but I always muted my success for the sake of my marriage, and that's what I see. It's like these fine points of feminism that we're ironing out, and it's often happening on this very unconscious level.

Bobbi Rebell: I would agree with that, and I think it's interesting that you point that out. I think that's a very common thing that many women find themselves doing, and I would just urge them to really think carefully about that. Because ultimately, you really hurt both of you. Because if you're not living up to your potential, that's going to weigh on your marriage. It's going to come out, and it's better for it to come out in a more healthy way than at the point of divorce. Hopefully, you choose well, and you can work it out with your husband. But if not, you're going to be really happy that you lived up to your potential because you are going to have to really own your financial future, and be that grownup if the marriage does fall apart. And it's sad when it does, but you know what? There are so many great things that come after you've moved past that sadness.

Bobbi Rebell: I can tell you it's tricky when you get divorced because people don't know what to say. But if it's the right decision for you, there are amazing, wonderful things to come in your future, and I am a testament to that. I never would have my husband, now. I never would have my career because I was not that into my career, when I was married. I was really, as you say, kind of keeping it as a little bit lower than it needed to be because I was already so much more successful than he was at the time. He was starting a business that really just wasn't going anywhere, and I was on television in my twenties.

Bobbi Rebell: I regret as much I did hold it back, but at least I didn't hold it too much. But once I got divorced, I really hit my stride and was able to hit my career potential. And I think that's part of what attracted my new husband to me is he saw how much I loved my career, how much I loved my work life, and he bought into that. He really enjoys being my husband, and cheering me on when I do various appearances and all the media that I do.

Cynthia Rowley’s incredible story of “Fake it ‘til you make it”

Emma Johnson: I love it. Let's talk about some of the people that you interview for this book. Cynthia Rowley's story, I love her story.

Bobbi Rebell: Such a great story. So inspiring for entrepreneurs, right?

Emma Johnson: It is. And especially, I think for anybody, but the takeaway was “fake it 'til you make it,” which I love.

Bobbi Rebell: Totally.

Emma Johnson: Tell us really briefly what her story was.

Bobbi Rebell: Basically, she was approached to do … She met somebody by chance, and she was approached to do … They kind of assumed that she had a clothing line and that she could deliver it, and she had to get it together very quickly. She didn't even know the basic lingo, but she pretended. She faked it, and she got it together, and that was the start of her career, and we all know where …

Emma Johnson: Yeah, she was a student.

Bobbi Rebell: Yeah. She wasn't up and running as a designer. They just liked what she had. I think she was [inaudible 00:16:54] something that they liked, and she grabbed her moment and she made it happen. I think we have to always sort of be hyper-aware of who we're meeting and what's going on, and grab that moment, when it presents itself.

Emma Johnson: Right. Yeah. She was on the train, and somebody stopped her and said, “Hey, where did you get your jacket?” And she said, “I sewed it, myself.” The next thing she knows, she's in the buyer's office, and she's just mumbling because like you said, she didn't know the lingo. She didn't even know how to have a conversation, but she ended up … Well, she cranked all weekend to make five garments, so she had something to show. And then, she took some giant order, and just figured it out. She just figured it out, and then fast forward to today, she's one of the top designers, arguably in the world.

Emma Johnson: I see that happening a lot. People are presented, like the cosmos lines up for them, offers them this incredibly opportunity, but they're just intimidated. They don't feel ready yet. Yeah, I think your message was so spot on. It's say yes. Just say yes, and figure out the details, later.

Bobbi Rebell: And that's true for so many things, so many opportunities in life, and that's one thing a lot of women don't often … There's some stat that women will only apply for a job if they have nine out of 10 characteristics or traits or accomplishments that they need, qualifications, and men will apply if they have even a couple of them, like two out of 10. I'm making it up, but it's some stat like that, where basically men will apply for anything and kinda sell themselves. Women, we want to check every box before we take that chance and apply. We've got to just go for it, and it's really true. Just fake it 'til you make it. I had to get …

Bobbi Rebell: Tony Robbins is in my book, Emma. I mean, come on.

Emma Johnson: Yeah. How'd you do that?

What was it like interviewing Tony Robbins for the book?

Bobbi Rebell: There is no faking it 'til you make it with Tony Robbins. I mean he's the real deal. But with Tony, I had the opportunity to interview him a number of times, here at Reuters, and I just took him aside. I said, “Look, I've got a side project. It's not Reuters related.” I was very clear about that, and I described the project. I said, “I'm trying to raise awareness about financial literacy, and really reach especially young people, but truly everyone, and this is the format. It's two quick questions, how do you feel about it?” Emma, his face lit up, and he was like, “I love this, Bobbi. How can I help?”

Emma Johnson: Okay.

Bobbi Rebell: He said, “Well, let's just do it now,” and we just recorded it right then into my little iPhone recorder, and I transcribed it. I sent it back. I made sure everyone liked it. Which I talk about in the book, that I went back and forth with everybody. Some of the stories needed some editing. Tony's didn't, of course, but they all liked their stories, and were happy with them.

Bobbi Rebell: And then, when it came to the forward, I just reached out to his people, again. I said, “Look, I was in part inspired to have the guts to write this book,” because Tony always says in his teachings, he's like, “Just decide.” And I remember … I listen to audiobooks a lot, Emma, and I remember hearing that. I think it was Unleash The Power Within. Yeah. I've listened to all of his books, so I mix them up a little bit.

Bobbi Rebell: He talks about being in this 400-square-foot studio and being overweight, and going nowhere with his life, and he just decided to do something different with his life. I felt like with this book, I just decided I was going to write this book that seemed impossible. I was going to get incredibly famous people, most of whom I didn't know, frankly, to reveal these personal stories in a way that would inspire and motivate readers. He was the perfect person, and he agreed to do it.

Emma Johnson: You asked. The bottom line is that you just asked.

Bobbi Rebell: I asked.

Emma Johnson: You just ask.

Emma Johnson: Because, I mean, it's so old and cliché, and our moms have been saying to us since we were babies, but the worst is they can say no.

Why A-Listers say ‘yes’ to being interviewed more than others

Bobbi Rebell: Yes. And let me tell you something else that was a very interesting sort of an experiment to journalism, you have A-listers that you want. You have B, and then you have C, people that might fill out the book a little bit. The A-listers are the ones that said yes. The A-listers said yes. The B and C-listers wanted to know who else is in it? Somebody asked me, is it paid? I'm a journalist. It's not paid. Nobody was paid to be in this book, and I didn't pay anyone to be in the book, I say that, by the way.

Emma Johnson: What's the takeaway from that? What's the takeaway that the A-listers say yes?

Bobbi Rebell: Go for the A-listers.

Emma Johnson: Right. But I feel like it says something about A-listers.

Bobbi Rebell: They're more secure.

Emma Johnson: Yes.

Bobbi Rebell: I think they're more secure. They're not looking for who else is in the book? Who's going to be the peer group? They just say, “I like the project. Let's do it.” Tony Robbins didn't say, “Who else is in the book?” He said, “Bobbi, I love this. This is amazing. What can I do to help?” I think that's an A-list thing to do. I think A-listers don't look for that sort of reinforcement, that they have stronger self-esteem. They know who they are, and they're going to decide independently, whether they want to be part of a project versus somebody who may not be at that level, is still insecure.

Women who are focused on achieving don’t want a superficial image

Emma Johnson: What else? In writing this book and interviewing all these fabulous people, what was some of the stories that stood out to you, or touched you, personally?

Bobbi Rebell: One thing that touched me personally was I love what Amanda Steinberg says because she was doing a photo shoot early in her career, and she didn't put the time and effort into looking the way that in retrospect, she wished she had looked. She didn't take the time to focus on her image.

Bobbi Rebell: I think, as women, when we're focused on achieving, we say we don't want to be superficial. We don't want to get all gussied up. We don't want people to judge us by our looks. But the reality is people judge you by your looks, and the way, not so much your looks per se, but the way that you put yourself together. And you should always think about dressing not only for yourself, but also out of respect and in consideration for the people that you're representing and the people that you're maybe meeting with because you're not an island unto yourself.

Bobbi Rebell: I think it's really important to always dress appropriately, whatever that may be and whatever situation. I know in one of your podcasts, you joke about you spoke with a sociologist and you talked about pickup and the whole drama at school pickups. There is, but there is a … I'm a realist, Emma. Even though I'm happily remarried and all that, I love your podcasts, and I get so much out of it. But that was a really good topic because we are always dressing for someone else, for ourselves, for the situation, and there is a lot that we communicate with how we dress. And the care that we take in creating that image, and it's just like not paying attention to your money, it's going to go away. If you don't pay attention to your image, you're still presenting an image. It's just not the one that you did on purpose, right?

The importance of image in the personal and professional world

Emma Johnson: Right, I've been on both sides of that. Where I've gone on a date, or I've been in a professional situation and somebody shows up dressed slovenly, I'm like who do you think you are, that you don't have to put your best foot forward for me, you know? I totally agree, and I teach my kids that all the time, when we fight about what they need to wear. It is not about what you feel like wearing that day. It is about being respectful to the other person.

Bobbi Rebell: Exactly. It's about putting in the effort, and I do that. I have a nine-year-old son, Harry, and I let him wear what he wants to school on an everyday basis. But I tell him in advance, because he's a structured kid and he likes his schedule, “There is an event coming up. You're going to be going to lunch with Grandma and Grandpa, and I am going to choose your outfit. And that's going to be that, and we're going to wear the kind of outfit. We can negotiate which button-down shirt, but you're going to be wearing a button-down shirt, and you're going to be wearing khakis,” and he understands that and that's fine.

Emma Johnson: Yeah.

Bobbi Rebell: But I let him have choice. When it doesn't matter, he can wear what he wants. But it is important, I think, to teach children that you are dressing out of respect for other people, and appropriately for the event, and that's okay. That doesn't take away from your own identity, and your own self-expression.

Emma Johnson: But this is speaking to being a financial grownup, or a grownup, period. It's not all about what you want to wear. It's not about just because it's comfortable, or expression of your style. It's about being a grown up in the real world, where people will … And it's not even judging you, they just [crosstalk 00:24:18]

Bobbi Rebell: People judge you.

Emma Johnson: They do judge.

Bobbi Rebell: They size you up.

Emma Johnson: They judge you. They size you up. But just as a … Okay. Let's even take that, that's true. But take that out of it, it's a human thing. They have a human visceral reaction to what is going in their eyeballs.

Bobbi Rebell: Yeah.

Emma Johnson: It's just human. It's a sensory thing. You know what story I really liked, which apropos of political events is Ivanka Trump's story. And I've heard her, I actually interviewed her once, and I've heard her tell the same story, which is when she was a teenager and she was flying somewhere with her fabulous mother and her brothers. And her mom got herself a first-class seat, and the kids were in the back in coach, right?

Bobbi Rebell: I know. That never happened to me, somehow. But, I guess, that's Ivanka Trump's life, but yeah.

Emma Johnson: That's her life [crosstalk 00:25:02]

Bobbi Rebell: We never flew first-class growing up, but okay.

Which money fears and limiting beliefs are holding you back from your full earning potential?

Emma Johnson: But I think that is fantastic. Okay. Here is just my own little personal anecdote. I was doing this very fluffy self-help manifesting book, and it had all these exercises in it that was all about money, and manifesting professional success, and financial success in my life. It was one of the exercises was writing down all of my fears about making money. The essence of it was that there is some fear that's holding me back.

Bobbi Rebell: I like that.

Emma Johnson: It was very revealing. It was a really powerful exercise, and I recommend it. But one thing that came out of that was that I am afraid that if I were to be very financially successful, that my children would become spoiled. I came from very modest means, and I think I have a lot of my identity and pride wrapped up in the fact that anything I have, I've made myself. I want to teach my children that sort of Protestant Midwestern work ethic that I really identify with, and I see that can hold me back. I very much appreciated what Ivanka said that her parents … Well, we don't know exactly how much money they have, but they live a very glamorous lifestyle, but they to their children that they were not automatically entitled to it. It's that entitlement element. I just really respected that.

Bobbi Rebell: I did, too. I thought that was a really great story to share. It was important to me also, to be economically diverse in this book. Because the reality is that we all have financial struggles, especially psychological struggles. Which to some degree, this book is about that psychological struggle of coming to grips with the fact that you are the grownup, and you have to be a financial grownup, but we all start with different starting lines. That's something Tony Robbins actually talks about, and you have to kinda get over yourself. And if you're rich, that's great. Your parents were rich, not you. Your parents, and you need to realize that, and figure out your own path, and how you're going to identify, and how you're going to create your own identity, I should say, like Ivanka has.

What does a financial headstart do for kids?

Bobbi Rebell: She really absolutely had a headstart. But at the same time, we know who she is as an individual. She has her own businesses. We don't know the financing of what came from what. But at the end of the day, she's pull it off, where many people, who've had similar head-starts, have not. Let's be real, right? Including celebrities. A lot of people have not had her success with shoes, with clothing. She's got a book coming out that sounds great, called Women Who Work, and she's held her own. She was pulled into a political process, I think unexpectedly, and held her own. I think that she is a good role model, and I am very happy that she is in this book.

Bobbi Rebell: There were other people. I think Sir Martin Sorrell is also in this book. He started out with a headstart, financially. We all start in different places, and it's also important that if you start out very modest means, get over it. Move forward. Someone always is going to have more money than you, and get going.

Emma Johnson: Yeah.

Bobbi Rebell: You can't have a pity party. No. I mean, it's true.

Emma Johnson: And there's studies.

Bobbi Rebell: I really believe that you can do anything in this country.

Emma Johnson: I really believe that too. I so believe that. There was a study out recently that found that kids that were raised in wealth actually fared worse by many metrics.

Bobbi Rebell: That does not surprise me. I think that points to why I am happy that I did include Ivanka because it was controversial, actually. She was introduced through a mutual friend, early in the process. She was one of the A-listers that just said, “How can I help?” And this was, by the way, well before we had any inkling that her father would run for President, let alone win the Republican primary, let alone become the next President-elect. No idea. She was just a mom in New York City that we had a mutual friend, and that was the approach. It was a friendly introduction, and she just said, like Tony did, “How can I help?” I think that we can learn a lot from her because so many people that start out with so much, fail so miserably.

Emma Johnson: Right.

Bobbi Rebell: There are so many things you could do wrong as a rich kid.

Emma Johnson: Yeah, or as a rich parent.

Bobbi Rebell: I think as a [crosstalk 00:28:45] modest means, you can just be laser-focused. I'm going to bring myself up. I'm going to bring up my family. I'm going to do it. When you're rich, it's not always as easy. And not feeling sorry for them at all, but there are challenges.

Emma Johnson: It's so interesting that you said if your parents are rich, that's their money.

Bobbi Rebell: It is.

Emma Johnson: I dated this guy a couple years ago, and his parents … It was like the classic immigrant story. His dad came here from India with like $500 in his pocket and some technical drawing degree. Fast forward, today. He's somehow worked his way up and ended up owning this giant construction company that's worth like … It's like $10 million-a-year business. And so, but this guy I was dating pretty seriously for awhile, he just kinda floundered. He was very bright, highly educated, had some professional success, but he just could not get his shit together. Which, honestly, was one of the big deal-breakers for me, but it was very interesting because when he talked about his family and family money, he always used “We”.

Bobbi Rebell: Interesting.

Kids don’t grow up wealthy; that money is their parents’

Emma Johnson: Like we're so fortunate, or we believe this politically because we, we, we. And I was like, oh, rich people see family money as collective money, whereas poor people, it's definitely them, you, and me. Parents, you can keep your poverty. I'm going to stay over here with my money.

Bobbi Rebell: Yeah. No, it's true. I think when you're dating, and this is for the moms that are dating, it's a minefield out there. I think that people present in all different ways that you really have to have your guard up. I think that's an interesting story. I remember sometimes people put on airs, that they have so much money, and they're very insecure in my mind. And they'll be driving the rented car, and they've got the rental apartment, all this flashy stuff, especially if they maybe … Sometimes it happens in reaction to coming out of a bad marriage themselves. They get very superficial, but I think it's very important to be able to hone in on what's real. This guy that you're talking about, it doesn't sound like he had a lot of real stuff going on.

Emma Johnson: He had a lot of real anxiety, and a lot of real unemployment.

Bobbi Rebell: Yeah. Yeah. No, it's true. It goes to the parents.

Emma Johnson: Yeah.

Bobbi Rebell: [crosstalk 00:30:56] no reason to be a financial grownup.

Emma Johnson: Yes. Okay. If you want to leave people with three themes, like three just one-line takeaway messages about being a financial grownup, what are they?

Own your decision to be a financial grownup and pay attention to your money

Bobbi Rebell: The first thing is to own it. Just make the decision, as Tony Robbins says, to be a financial grownup and start paying attention to your money. Because until you take ownership, which is something, for example, we talked about Sallie Krawcheck wasn't doing in her first marriage, it's just there's no discussion. You have nowhere to go from there.

Bobbi Rebell: The second thing, let me think about this. I like what we talked about, about fake it 'til you make it because that's true with so many things in life. Even if you're going through a tough time, when you're out in public, just put on that face. My mom used to always tell me, always put on your lipstick and put on a smile, and you will. I think there's something almost medical about that, where when you physically force yourself to smile, you'll actually feel better, and people will relate to you better, and that makes everything better.

Emma Johnson: Yeah. There's like the Buddha's meditations, like the smiling meditation. That it doesn't really matter what's going on inside, that physical smile actually somehow turns the internal frown upside down. I don't know how that works, but I think there's something to it. Like you said, medical.

Bobbi Rebell: Yeah. The final thing I would say is to listen to yourself, and what's right for you. And that goes to being a financial grownup, making whatever decisions makes sense for you.

Bobbi Rebell: I remember when I was getting divorced, everyone told me I had to go to therapy, and I had to go talk to somebody about it. I did that a little bit, but the truth is all I could think about in that time was how much money it was costing me. It was ridiculous, and I was quite happy to have been divorced. I was happier than I'd been in years because I had extracted myself from this terrible situation, and I just repositioned that money to things that made me happy, like going to yoga classes, and dance classes. Which, frankly, the endorphins from dancing and that kinda thing, and the yoga, made me happier than just wallowing in the past.

Bobbi Rebell: I would really focus on using your money or your financial resources for doing what's right for you, and not what other people tell you is right for you. We didn't talk about Alexia Brue from Well+Good, but she talks about she battled cancer, and how that informed her financial perspective. She talks about the idea of maybe instead of buying an expensive item, whatever that may be, whether it's fancy shoes or a fancy handbag, invest in your health. Depending on what your listeners enjoy, but it could be buy yourself the nice outfit to motivate you to go the gym. Or it's okay to have an expensive juice drink, if that's going to keep you healthier and feeling better, and being a better mom, a better date to whoever you're dating, a better girlfriend, whatever it may be. But it's okay to invest in yourself, and give yourself permission to do that.

Bobbi Rebell: Of course, be a financial grownup. Be financially responsible. Think of the future. Plan for yourself. Plan for your children and your family, but always be true to yourself, and don't be afraid to spend wisely on yourself.

Emma Johnson: Invest. I love it. Bobbi Rebell. You can find her at Reuters, where she's an anchor, but check out her book, How to Be a Financial Grownup, on Amazon, bookstores. It's a fantastic book. Thank you so much.

Bobbi Rebell: Thank you, Emma.


About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour,, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.


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