Founder & CEO, MoneyZen Wealth Management, LLC
Since she was first introduced to an IRA account at 11 years old, Manisha has found herself at the intersection of women and money, knowing that women need to own their finances to fully express themselves. As the founder and CEO of MoneyZen Wealth Management, personal finance speaker and co-author of On My Own Two READ MORE »
Q: Please share with us the story of how your professional journey began and has brought you to where you are today.
A: For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with issues relating to women and money. I have my mom to thank for the former. She had me playing with gender-neutral toys and was reading me books like Free To Be You And Me – where women were routinely portrayed as leaders – as a young girl. My most powerful money memory is around age 11 when my dad showed me how to use his HP12c calculator to figure out how much money I’d have in retirement if I contributed my babysitting and lawn mowing money to an IRA account and it grew at 6%, 8%, 10%, etc.
For me the two interests came together during my junior year of college, which I spent at Oxford University – and where I read Virginia Woolf’s book A Room of One’s Own. Her argument that women must have some space and money of their own if they are to fully express themselves has been the driving mantra of everything I’ve done professionally since college.
Today, after spending 15 years in the corporate world as an analyst, portfolio manager, and client relations executive and another 3 years as a personal finance author and speaker, I now run MoneyZen Wealth Management – a boutique financial advisory firm focused on the needs of women & families.
Q: What are 3 characteristics that you believe define great leadership?
A: Passion, compassion, and honesty
Q: A great negotiation can be game changing for one’s business or life. Studies have shown that men are much more comfortable negotiating and asking for what they want compared to women. What’s your advice to women who are uncomfortable negotiating?
A: When I was doing my MBA at Harvard, the class I liked least was the one on negotiation. It felt to me like I was going to war (despite the fact that one of our core texts was the classic book Getting to Yes). Even at the peak of my corporate career when I was running a $6 billion separately managed account business, I dreaded negotiating. So I think the first thing to know is that if you dislike it – you are so not alone!
For me, the big shift came after reading Ask For by Linda Babcock & Sara Laschever. When I was finally able to grasp how much I was leaving on the table by avoiding negotiating AND was given some tools and tactics that resonated with my feminine side, I found slowly but surely that I started getting better at it. I’ve come to view this skill as being like a muscle. It takes regular and repetitive use to build it up. As simplistic as it might sound, my best advice is to just try it. As my wise grandfather always said, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
Q: If you had a young sister or a daughter who was a senior in college, anxious about landing her first job or unsure of what she wanted to do, what would your advice be to her?
A: You don’t have to get it perfect right out of the gate. There is so much pressure on women – and especially professionally ambitious women – to have it all figured out. The two best career moves of my life came after taking (and subsequently leaving) jobs that were not right for me. With every job you take I think your goal should be to help your organization as much as you can, to build your own skills up as much as you can, and if the net result of those two isn’t joy – know that at some point down the road your next step, ideally, will be to move to another environment where you feel in the flow on both of those fronts. Some people find it in their first few jobs… for me at age 42, I feel like I’m only now for the very first time in running MoneyZen Wealth Management having all the pieces really fall into place.
Q: Life is full of setbacks. Can you share an experience of one, and how you were able to bounce back?
A: A while back my mom gave me a “weeble wobble.” For anyone born after 1970, they are egg-shaped toys that bounce back and forth on a table-top. Their tagline was “weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.” That’s how I like to think about dealing with setback. You get knocked down and you roll back up again.
Over the years I’ve had many failures– big and small, professional and personal. (And I’m skeptical of any business- person who says otherwise!)
On the professional side, I’ve made big mistakes like leaving a job when the politics got unpleasant rather than standing up for myself and negotiating a better situation, and I’ve had smaller set backs resulting from a “ready, fire, aim” urge that my “type A” action-oriented personality has long struggled with. What I’ve learned (after years of beating myself up about the nuances of each mistake) is that all that really matters when it comes to setbacks is… what can I learn from this? Mistakes will always happen – but only you can decide how you will mine them for nuggets of gold to prevent or eliminate those same situations from repeating in the future.
Q: How do you overcome feelings of insecurity, fear or discomfort when deciding to take a risk?
A: As someone who loves order and control – the anxiety that would arise from taking risk kept me from thinking I could ever be an entrepreneur for years. I used to think I had to eliminate ALL fear in order to move forward. My husband gave me a great visual a while back that totally changed my thinking. He suggested I think about fear as something that lives in potholes in the street. Rather than refuse to drive until all potholes are gone – I just mentally chuck my fear into a metaphorical pothole and keep moving forward. This notion that I didn’t have to “solve, fix, or eliminate” ALL fear in order to move forward and take a risk was life altering.
I also find meditation (I’m a big fan of Transcendental Meditation) and exercising (especially Zumba and swimming) to be two huge helps when an extra large wave of discomfort comes over me and I needs something else besides the pothole metaphor to have the courage to act in the face of fear.
ON Giving Back
Q: What cause(s) have you chosen to support and why does it resonate with you?
A: To be honest, I spent my 20s and 30s working like a crazy drunk chicken – I was in finance and it was 24/7/364 around the clock. So my giving was done in a hap-hazard way and usually re-actively. Now that I’m in my 40s and my goal is to work to live not live to work – I’m really trying to be more conscious, deliberate, and proactive about my giving. My two passions are women and money, so I love supporting organizations that help women become financially self-sufficient. So at present I serve on the National Board of the Girl Scouts of the USA and the Advisory Boards of The OpEd Project and Feminist.com. I’m also very involved with my undergraduate alma mater, Wellesley College. In addition, I set up an annual “random acts of kindness” fund so that I have funds set aside and ready to support causes that may be important to people I care about (walkathons, marathons, etc.) during the year.
ON Self Care
Q: What do you believe is the secret to finding the right person and maintaining a long term, good relationship?
A: I married “late” in life (for a woman of Indian heritage at least!). I was 36 when I married my husband, and he is 19 year older than me. He’s my best friend and greatest supporter – but I now know why they say “marriage is work.” It’s so easy when you are driven and ambitious to put the people you love the most at the end of your daily “to do list” because you know they will be there for you. Because of our age difference, I’m really working to remind myself how precious time is and how truly, all there is… is love. Our best moments are when we are really present with each other – it doesn’t matter what it is that we are doing, it’s the being conscious and considerate of each other’s wants and needs that creates the magic. But stay tuned. I’m on year 6 of marriage, and I’ll be the first to say, this is an area of my life that I’d like to be better at!
ON Self Care
Q: What are your top 3 personal finance tips for women?
A: (1) Live within your means – if you are not saving at least 10% of your income, you are spending more that you should. (Please forgive the tough love…. but it’s true).
(2) When you live within your means – your life will look different than your friends and what you see in the media. Most people (as evidenced by our paltry national savings rate) are not living financially balanced lives.
(3) Commit to your financial well-being – we think about our physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual well-being as facets of our lives that we’d never expect someone else to sort out for us. But for some reason we are not encouraged to take ownership of our finances in the same way. I like to say, “own your finances & own your life.” By committing to life-long learning about your personal finance, you put yourself in the financial driver’s seat of your life.