AN INTERVIEW WITH KATIE & KATHERINE, FOUNDERS OF THE 411K.
Please describe The 411k in 1-2 sentences.
The 411k is a podcast empowering professional women by promoting financial wellness and literacy. We are a community for women, by women, where we share learnings from all-gendered experts along the way.
How and why did you two come together to create this community of financially literate women?
Co-hosts Katie Williams and Katherine Rozakis met at work and quickly bonded over a shared frustration with the many financial barriers women face in adulthood, as well as the striking lack of financial literacy in the formal education system. We were always talking about money and careers, and we started The 411k in 2019 to see if more women could benefit from the questions we were asking. We wanted to normalize talking money with our girlfriends, partners, colleagues, and family because not talking about money costs us women more in the long run.
What has been the single best piece of financial advice you've received?
For Katie, the best advice I’ve received was to be intentional with my money. I knew I wanted to get married, buy a house, and one day have a family but I didn’t understand how people afford these things. I didn’t want to wake up to find that I couldn’t achieve these goals because I wasn’t prepared. And despite being told to “make sure you save” - this goes beyond saving! Living with intention is forward looking. By being intentional with my paycheck, I know where my money is going and toward which goals - travel, graduate school, retirement, a future mortgage, etc.
For Katherine, it was “don’t go to law school for the sake of it.” My college career counsellor gave me this advice in my senior year of college when I was applying to law school. I’m not knocking law school or lawyers, but in my situation: 1) I only had a peripheral interest in legal theory based on a handful of classes, 2) I had been told I could earn a lot of money and 3) I believed a JD would serve me wherever I worked. What I didn’t have was a real plan or goal for what I wanted to do with that pricey law degree and my career counsellor called my bluff! He told me the chances were very high I would be paying off my $150,000+ in law school loans until age 40-50. I did the math and talked to some recent law school graduates to validate this, and he was right! His advice forced me to take pause and think more thoughtfully and purposefully about how I invested in myself and my education. When I eventually did pursue graduate school (at age 27 while working full time), I did it in a cost-effective way.
What has been the biggest financial challenge you've had to overcome, and how did you overcome it?
For Katherine, it was paying off $42,000 in student loan debt in 11 months. I did this by making significant life changes and with the support of my spouse. We moved to a less expensive apartment, got laser-focused on our spending by setting mini-spending challenges (how low we could go with our grocery bill and 30-day no spend contests). Though it may sound like I deprived myself of fun or experiences, it was a short-term commitment in the scheme of my life overall and I look back on that time fondly as it further strengthened my bond with my husband.
For Katie, the biggest financial challenge I had was not an uncommon one. I was aimless with my money. My family had put everything into my education to make sure I was debt-free coming out of undergrad, however, I had no idea what to do from there. I was an educated woman who scored a great job out of college - then after a year of going through the "adulting" motions, I realized I had no savings, no goals, and no one to talk to about what I should be doing. The same way I would ask my friends for relationship advice, I started asking successful women I worked with for advice. Once I started hearing stories from my friends and mentors about what worked and what didn’t work for them, I started to figure out what I wanted and what I needed to do to get there.
How has financial wellness positively impacted other areas of wellness in your lives?
We often overlook how financial wellness fits into our total wellness picture. Research shows money is a significant source of stress in our lives; it affects our mental and physical health and impacts our relationships with our family and romantic partners. Managing our money is a high-priority form of self-care. Our own personal financial wellness has positively impacted our lives in the options it has afforded us. For example, during COVID, Katherine’s low cost of living and emergency fund allowed her the opportunity to participate in her company’s summer leave program for parents and caregivers (she took 3 months off work at 25% pay). By keeping her cost of living low, and not having a car, Katie was able to escape her small apartment in the city this summer for a long-term rental and lots of fresh air in Vermont.
Do you have a favorite podcast episode that you'd direct new listeners to first?
Our episodes can be segmented into a few different types:
1: Women in Leadership
2: Career & Finance Tips from Experts
3: Money Stories
Our favorite Women in Leadership episode is “Women at the Top with Jamila Abston.” Jamila is a partner at EY, where Katherine and Katie met and where Katherine still works. We got to hear about Jamila’s journey to partner and also ask our burning questions like, “what is it really like?” and “are you held to a different set of standards as a woman, and a woman of color?”, and “was it worth it?”
Our favorite Career & Finance Tips episode is “Career Power Moves” with founder of Career Contessa and author, Lauren McGoodwin. We chatted with Lauren about her book “Power Moves: How Women Can Pivot, Reboot, and Build a Career of Purpose,” what a good salary negotiation looks like, and how a career with purpose is so much more than a “dream job.”
Our favorite Money Stories episode is “Poor Little Rich Girl Money Missteps.” Through the podcast, Katie re-connected with a college friend, AJ Wolbrum, who shares with us her wild money story through her 20s; avoiding her debt, running from the IRS, and not only putting herself back together, - but thriving!
What is the first attainable step readers could take today to start their journey toward financial wellness?
Based on personal experience and advice from the experts we’ve interviewed on the podcast, the first steps that most of us can agree on are asking:
1: What are your values?
2: What are your goals?
We like to say, personal finance is unique to you, so the answers to these two questions will be different for everyone - but they are also the minimum baseline for us all. You can’t start budgeting or investing without understanding what is important to you and what you are working towards.
What's still crazy to me is that women couldn't get their own credit cards until the 1970s. What do you hope for the financial future of women everywhere?
Stability. Equality. Independence. Transparency. Freedom. Options. Leadership. Wealth. All of the above!
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