We’ve been in rocky economic waters since the pandemic first forced us to briefly dismantle society, and as inflation keeps up, it can be tempting to defer financial planning for stabler times. But, far from being a time for abdication, it’s more important than ever to look ahead and build a roadmap to the life you want. What is it the kids say on Twitter these days? Ah, yes. #Goals.
The truth is that nothing happens by accident, and even with market conditions being what they are—in everything from the value of major currencies to an increasingly tumultuous real estate sector—thinking clearly and intelligently about how to get from financial point A to financial point B is still the best way forward. With that in mind, I spoke with Galit Ben-Joseph, financial advisor with JP Morgan, about planning for our uncertain future.
Liz Elting: First of all, thank you so much for taking the time for this discussion. Can you tell our readers a little about yourself and your career?
Galit Ben-Joseph: Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak with you. A little bit about myself—I was born in Tel Aviv, Israel and moved to the U.S. with my family as a baby. I grew up all over the tri-state area and attended Rutgers University, where I majored in English. I also have two master’s degrees, an M.A. in organizational leadership from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from Baruch College, and a doctorate in management and international economics from Pace University.
I’m currently a financial advisor at J.P. Morgan Wealth Management. I had always planned on becoming an elementary school teacher growing up, but when Chase offered me an opportunity in their management training program, I decided to give it a try. After a series of operational roles at Chase, I joined Goldman Sachs and then Neuberger Berman as a financial advisor. My career came full circle eight years ago when I returned to J.P. Morgan Wealth Management.
Teaching is still a passion of mine. I’m an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University, where I most recently taught an introductory business course.
Elting: October is Financial Planning Month, so it’s time to talk about what that means exactly. Can you give readers a brief introduction to what financial planning entails and why it’s so critical?
Ben-Joseph: I would define financial planning as creating a personalized roadmap to help you work towards your short-term and long-term financial goals. Everyone’s situation is different, so it’s important that your plan is customized to your specific circumstances and priorities. Having a plan is critical. Without a sound financial plan, you could end up with less agency over how you live your life. Things such as discretionary income, what home you live in, and what age you retire could be forced on you if you have not adequately planned for your financial future.
Elting: Over the last few years, I’ve seen articles cropping up all over the place about the abdication of women from household financial responsibility, with a much higher percentage of women associating that kind of management with strong negative emotions. I’m sure quite a few of our readers are in the same position, with millennial women more likely to defer to their husbands on financial matters than boomers. What’s going on? And how do we address this?
Ben-Joseph: I can’t speak for all millennial women. But I will say this: it’s so important for both parties in a marriage to be an active participant in their financial decisions. Women should have a seat at the table and be involved in these discussions with their partner.
Elting: For the years I’ve been writing this column, I’ve hammered home on the absolute importance of our financial independence, which allows women the freedom to live their own lives on their own terms. Just as an example, having your own steady income and a firm understanding of your financials can impact whether and when someone is able to leave an abusive partner. What I find so curious about the mass abdication of millennial women is just how much it contrasts with their principles, it’s a kind of regression that troubles me. What would you say to women shying away from long-term financial decision making?
Ben-Joseph: I’d tell women who might be shying away from long-term financial decision making to think about their future self. The steps you take today toward planning and investing can impact future you. Taking action now and planning ahead for your financial future is so important in the long run.
I also want to highlight some of the positive data out there. J.P. Morgan Wealth Management recently published its Diverse Investor Study, which surveyed more than 2,000 Americans across race, gender and wealth levels. Our study found that the majority of women are optimistic about their financial situation compared to five years ago. We also found that women take a more cautious approach when it comes to their investing strategy and are more likely to have created a will than men. There is more work to do on this front, but these findings are encouraging.
Elting: Absolutely. Do you have any advice to help make jumping into investing feel less daunting for those feeling unsure of where to begin? Where should new investors start?
Ben-Joseph: First, take a step back and think about your goals. It can help to focus on what exactly you are investing toward.
For many people who feel intimidated or overwhelmed by investing, working with a financial advisor may be helpful. An advisor can sit down with you and help you outline your short-term and long-term goals, risk tolerance and investing timelines. They can take into account all of these factors and help you create a custom-tailored financial strategy that is personalized to your situation and priorities. As life priorities and financial markets change over time, an advisor can help you adjust your financial plan as needed.
When looking for an advisor, I think it’s important to consider how well you connect with that person. Money is personal, and you should work with someone you trust. Look for someone who takes the time to listen to you and gets to know who you are and the things that are important to you and your family. For me, all of these aspects impact how I support my clients.
Elting: Now, I know you’re a wealth manager, and you work with a lot of high net worth clients. How much does your experience map onto middle-class or low-income household financials, which might not have the capacity for investment or what we otherwise might call wealth building?
Ben-Joseph: I work predominantly with high net worth clients, and I recognize that not everyone has the same investment opportunities. But I think some of the fundamental principles around investing are similar for many people. Your short-term and long-term goals, risk tolerance and investing timeline—all of these factors are important to consider when it comes to investing, regardless of your wealth level.
There is a common misconception that you need a lot of money to start investing. This isn’t true, and no amount is too little to start. You can start investing a little each month and work toward increasing your contribution amount over time. A big part of the equation is creating a long-term plan and sticking to it.
Elting: What do you think the average reader needs to know about planning and protecting their financial future?
Ben-Joseph: The importance of having a plan. Everyone’s financial situation is different. If you have a financial destination you want to get to, you can create a plan to help you get there. That might be investing for your child’s future college costs or for your dream retirement. Whatever your goals might be, it’s important to have a long-term plan in place that is custom tailored for you.
Elting: What’s challenging about this particular issue in this particular moment in history is that the economy is in such a state of turmoil and change. Employment is doing better, but many of the while-collar jobs lost to the pandemic were replaced by much lower-paying ones in service industries, supply chains remain tenuous, and gas prices are lower, but retail goods are still inflated and growing fast. In times like these, a financial abdicator can find herself in especially stormy waters. On top of everything else, women who left their jobs or were let go during the pandemic are still struggling to make up the lost ground. It’s still the case that single women with children are more likely to work in low-paying positions. It’s still the case that single women with children are more likely to suffer a drop in their own independent income if they had any to start with. It feels like a dangerous moment to be blasé. How do we get out of this loop?
Ben-Joseph: Unfortunately, there is no clear cut answer to this. As a woman in the financial services industry, I’ve found the power of networking to be valuable in my own career.
I understand this may not be possible for everyone depending on their individual situations, but I encourage people to look forward if they can and think about what a career step they make now might do for them in 3 years, 5 years, or 10 years.
Elting: How can women get started with financial planning, especially in light of the self-reported higher incidence of extreme negative emotions surrounding it? How do we combat those feelings?
Ben-Joseph: Start slow, and it might not seem as daunting. It’s important to remember that you aren’t alone and there are professionals out there who can help make the process easier. Consider reframing how you think about your finances. Planning for your financial future can be empowering and can help you unlock some of your life goals.
Elting: What’s the most important thing for a woman to know about her financial circumstances?
Ben-Joseph: First, don’t ignore your financial situation. Take the first step and assess where you currently are and where you realistically hope to be in the future.
Once you have a long-term plan that works for you, stick to it. I’ve seen some clients who significantly deviated from their plan and then were disappointed when their financial situation was not what they hoped for. This is especially important during times of market volatility, when the ups and downs of the market might tempt you to make an impulsive reaction. Stay the course and don’t let emotions derail your plan.
Elting: Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?
Ben-Joseph: Take the first step. The best day to start investing for your future is today.
The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board) owns the CFP® certification mark, the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification mark, and the CFP® certification mark (with plaque design) logo in the United States, which it authorizes use of by individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.
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