Things That Matter

We Earn Less Than Men, We Lose Income As Caregivers And That’s Why This Latina Gives Financial Advice To WOC

For a long time, finance was considered a boys’ club that only allowed old, grey-haired men in. But for women who largely head households and outlive men, monetary savvy is a necessity we can no longer afford to pass over. In Los Angeles, financial planner Brittney Castro, CFP®, is ensuring that women of all walks of life have the money wits they need and deserve.

At Financially Wise, Inc., the boutique financial planning firm Castro founded in 2013, the biracial Mexican-American offers holistic and comprehensive financial and investment planning for individuals, couples and businesses, with a special aim for women to get their money right. 

“A big thing for me, in the beginning, was to make [financial advice] more accessible, not just for high-network clients. Everyone needs a financial plan to pay for life and goals,” Castro, who says she speaks with clients as if they were friends, in a “fun, personal, compassionate, relatable and nonjudgmental way,” told FIERCE.

In addition to her fee-only financial planning, the 35-year-old CEO also provides online money courses, financial wellness workshops, speaking engagements and brand partnerships. 

Unlike many others in her field, Castro wasn’t raised by entrepreneurial parents, so she understands firsthand how intimidating finances can be. In fact, she entered the industry because she wanted to help communities like her own, everyday people with finance fears, all while being her own boss and making a lofty income herself.

Starting in the corporate world, she loved the change she was making in people’s lives: educating them, helping build confidence in themselves and their pursuits as well as co-creating futures where clients weren’t just secure but thriving.

Still, the long workdays and benevolent sexism of the industry took its toll on the young career woman.

“I stuck out like a sore thumb, which used to bother me a lot,” she said. “There have been so many times in my career when I was talked down to or judged.”

After five years working for a large company, Castro decided to quit and enter independent financial planning, where she’d have more control over her hours and less interaction with condescending bros. 

At the time, blogs were in bloom and social media was on the come-up, and Castro, knowing the troubles of being a woman in money, saw a niche that wasn’t being targeted: women. She started writing and speaking publicly about gender and capital, quickly seeing the benefits of the identities she was previously made to feel insecure about.

“I now think it’s an advantage that I’m a woman, Latina, young and in finance,” said Castro, whose insight on the topic can be found in outlets like Entrepreneur, CNN, CNBC, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Glamour, Elle, Marie Claire and more. “People need me. This is America. I’m the new face, the new generation, so now I see it as a strength.”

Her biggest goal is to demystify finance so that it’s approachable for everyday people who fear all things dinero, and that typically comprises women, especially women of color. This demographic, Castro says, often feels unseen and unheard, and she doesn’t want to perpetuate those feelings and experiences in her office. Knowing the fears, insecurities and emotions that come with money talk, she creates a space where women feel safe to open up.

Courtesy of Brittney Castro

“It’s never just money — it’s our lives, our fears, our wants. So it’s important for me to give women another place to come to where they can feel heard and get the help they want and deserve,” she said.

Once she and her client work through the sentimental blockages, she then breaks down why it’s totally essential for women, especially, to be financially literate and in control of their coins: We live longer than men. Nine of 10 women will be in charge of their finances at some point in their lives. We still earn less than men. We lose income when taking care of children and elders. And the list, she says, goes on.

“There are a lot of challenges, which makes learning about money more necessary,” Castro contends. “While current women’s movements are helping, by making it easier for us or creating more awareness around issues we experience, we, as individuals, still need to decide to dive in and make decisions on our finances.”

For those who are interested but don’t know where to begin or feel like they don’t have the time or cash flow to get started, Castro urges to be abandon self-doubt and just embark on the journey.

To start, Castro offers a few beginner steps.

Know your budget.

This includes all the money coming in and going out of your bank accounts.

Consider how your current budget is working. This will help you spot if you are running short and allow you to identify areas where you might be wasting money that you could actually be saving. “Maybe you need to make more or cut back, but you have to find a way to save money. We all do. But you have to start with your budget,” she said.

Set up automatic systems that will save you money.

There are a few ways to do this. Paychecks that are made via direct deposit, for instance, can automatically go into different accounts, including savings, 401(k)s, investments, employee stock purchase plans and health savings. Automating recurring bills as well as putting credit cards on autopay could also help.

“It’s almost impossible to save money if you have no automatic system that is taking money out of your account. It’s torture to do it any other way. If you see it, you will spend it. Just to be safe, set up an automatic savings plan,” she says.

Learn how to invest.

Learn the language, don’t take risks that will lose you money and expect it to be a lifelong, ever-changing journey.

Whether through a class or a book, educate yourself on investment, in the stock market and in real estate.

“I’ve been doing this for 13 years, and I still learn something new all the time,” she said. “Things change. Technology changes. Products change. There are investments that are right for you and then something comes that’s better, so you have to be willing to make a change.”

Be gentle, yet assertive with your financial goals.

Castro emphasizes that it takes courage, willpower and commitment to follow through on your strategy, which isn’t always easy to maintain.

To help, Castro recommends finding a trusted partner who can help you stay accountable and on track. “Stay motivated and hang in there,” she says. “You’re never alone. We all have the same money goals and challenges, so it’s nice to find somebody you trust that can go through this financial journey with you.”

Once we start paying closer attention to our money and making healthier financial decisions, Castro affirms that we will begin seeing benefits in other aspects of our lives. Think about it: when we aren’t stressing about money, we can think more clearly and spend more of our time enjoying life and those around us. It’s a win all around, and it’s one that is in our hands.

“People fear finances, but it’s actually so empowering when you have it in order,” she says.

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