We spoke with Roxana McKinney, founder of Women, Wealth, & Worth. As a financial coach, Roxana is passionate about empowering women to take control of their salaries, savings, and financial wellbeing. As detailed below, we had an awesome conversation with Roxana about what financial wellness means, what inspired her to develop Women, Wealth, & Worth, and the importance of understanding and taking charge of one’s financial wellbeing.
Where are you from? Growing up, were you always interested in financial wellness?
I’m originally from Houston. The idea of financial wellness came to me while watching my mom work really hard to invent herself and succeed. I saw how much she struggled with meeting life’s basic needs. Prior to becoming a single mom, she really hadn’t worked—and seeing her struggle is what really motivated me to want to become independent financially.
When I got to college, I knew I wanted to study business but was unsure which major I wanted to pursue. I ended up choosing finance, which subconsciously I believe I chose in order to achieve financial independence, not knowing what type of jobs that major would bring to the table.
Can you talk a little bit about your career journey, and what ultimately led you to start your own company?
During my junior year of college, I landed an internship on Wall Street in New York City. That’s ultimately what brought me to NYC from Texas.
It’s funny because, even though I worked on Wall Street as a trader at a major investment bank, I suddenly became the go-to person among my friends for financial advice. I’d get random calls from friends asking about how to allocate money in a 401k, and what types of stocks to invest in—even though I was working in the bond market which had little to do with stocks. I just don’t think my friends realized that working in investment banking didn’t mean I had all the answers on personal finance! Personal finance is so much more than just the stock market: it really is about knowing the basic fundamentals of budgeting, and understanding the flow of money in and out of your personal balance sheet.
Having the opportunity to work in investment banking, however, took me around the world. I lived in London for a year, returned to New York, and then lived in Hong Kong for four and a half years. Upon returning to the US after Hong Kong, I was grateful for the travel and professional opportunities—but also realized I wanted to do something different and more meaningful with my career. I wasn’t sure what it was going to be, but I had a strong sense of wanting to be an entrepreneur, so I decided it was time to take the leap of faith. It was actually my own financial coach who motivated me to get into the personal finance and financial wellness space. This all happened nine years ago now!
How would you describe financial wellbeing? Does financial wellness tie into your overall concept of ‘wellness’?
Financial Wellbeing can be described as being free of any fears or anxieties related to money. The way to achieve that freedom is to actually have a plan for your financial goals. That’s part of what I help people create. Hope is not a strategy, so having a plan to get you to where you’re trying to go alleviates the stress and fear that comes along with the word “money.”
Money is actually just a tool, and we have the control to release negative emotions and reframe financial narratives that may have existed previously—and ultimately reframe money in a more positive light. Achieving financial confidence and knowing you have a plan thus creates more positive emotions around money.
When we think of wellness, people gravitate toward mental health and physical health. However, it’s incredibly important not to lose sight of financial health, as it can have such an adverse effect on other areas of wellness.
What inspired you to start Women, Wealth, & Worth?
As a trader on Wall Street, I began noticing the increasing number of women who were coming to me with deep fears around money. There was an uncertainty, along with a desire to seek confidence financially—but they didn’t know how to gain that confidence.
I wanted more women to lose the fear and become financially confident and secure, so I created Women, Wealth, & Worth to provide a judgment-free, shame-free space for women to talk about money and step into their money power mindset. We help women acquire the confidence they yearned for and hadn’t found prior to meeting me.
What is the mission behind Women, Wealth, & Worth?
Our mission is to inspire women to make smart strategic money decisions, and to step into a money power mindset. Knowledge is power and we share this power with women to help them transform their financial lives. We are also on a mission to eliminate the gender wage gap. Our salary negotiation services have helped hundreds of women eliminate their gap and build more wealth as a result.
Can you describe the services that you provide?
Firstly, we offer one-on-one financial coaching. It’s important to note that a financial coach is different from a financial advisor in that we don’t sell any products (such as investments or insurance). Instead, we create a shame-free and judgment-free environment for women to gain financial confidence and knowledge. Our main areas of focus include education on budgeting, debt elimination, the credit score, investing (both stocks and real estate), and retirement.
Secondly, we provide one-on-one salary negotiation consulting for women who are mid-career level seeking to either make a complete career change, or advance from a managerial position to the C-suite. Understanding the negotiation strategy alone is super powerful, as today women only make 81 cents on the dollar, and it’s even worse for women of color.
We also conduct speaking engagements at various Fortune 100 companies and organizations to discuss the gender wage gap, financial wellness, and salary negotiation.
How do you envision the gender wage gap to improve?
I think the first hurdle is just raising awareness and making sure women know that a significant gap still exists, especially in male-dominated industries. Once you’re informed, the second step is to create a strategy where you can tackle this issue. I think things are shifting and there is more awareness of the gender wage gap (much thanks to the USA Women’s soccer league’s fight for equal pay this past year) and people are really beginning to see the importance of taking a stand and speaking out for all women. There’s also sea change occurring in the tech industry, where CEOs are committed to equalizing pay all the way from the C-suite to junior levels throughout organizations.
What advice do you have to offer for women regarding negotiating?
The negotiation process begins with assessing where you stand and asking yourself if you are properly compensated. Have you asked others in your position what they make? You will be surprised how many people are willing to share (especially men!). How do opportunities that you’re receiving align or misalign with your priorities?
After your initial assessment, you must map out a negotiation strategy. Get the data points first, and then identify your unique points of leverage. Assess what your bargaining chips are: For example, are you negotiating salary? A promotion? Working from home a few days a week? Personal time off (PTO)? Benefits? Travel? Other components of the “total package” for your employment offer or promotion?
What financial advice would you give to college students and recent graduates?
A few important tips that come to mind for everyone—but especially young people:
- “Hope is not a strategy” is my motto. The importance of having a plan cannot be reiterated enough. Starting with a budget is crucial because it will allow you to understand that money only comes onto your personal balance sheet in one way (income!) but it can go off your balance sheet in many different ways. Unless you have control around the ways money leaves your balance sheet—ie. where you are spending—it will be challenging to save, pay off debt, and increase that savings rate over time.
- Start building an emergency fund of at least 3 to 6 months of living expenses, so you’ll be protected should you ever get sick/injured or lose your job.
- Have a strategy to get rid of debt (especially student loan debt). I recommend starting with the highest interest rate first and then working your way down. Know that student loan debt is actually good debt because you’ve used that debt to invest in yourself, which will allow you to make more money over time. Don’t allow the word “debt” to be a weight on your shoulders. You invested in yourself and that investment will provide return over time in the form of more income—and thus more wealth!
What makes you feel powerful?
To me, power is the ability to influence others to do good, while being true to myself and really grounded and in tune with myself. I feel powerful when I feel that my energies are aligned and harmonized, and when I am speaking my own truth, expressing my own thoughts without any fear.
I truly believe that knowledge is power, and I feel humbled to be in the business of sharing financial power. I use my power every day to improve the financial confidence and quality of life for women across the country.
Also, I am extremely passionate about the fight for equal pay, and that fight—along with using my power to give people opportunities to achieve financial confidence and equality—is why I love my work.