The Marketing Mentor Podcast: 416: Think Like a Breadwinner with Jennifer Barrett

The Marketing Mentor Podcast: 416: Think Like a Breadwinner with Jennifer Barrett

Apr 23, 2021

This episode is especially for women (although the men may learn a
little something too). My guest, Jennifer Barrett, a financial
expert and author of the new book,

Think Like a Breadwinner: a wealth-building manifesto for women who
want to earn more (and worry less)
shared some important ideas about how we can adjust our mindset to
take better care of ourselves, in business and at home. If you like
what you hear, we’d love it if you write a review,

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Here’s the transcript:

Ilise Benun
When I heard the title of Jennifer Barrett’s new book, I knew I had
to have her on the podcast and I couldn’t even wait to read the
book first. It’s called “Think Like a Breadwinner,” and it made so
much sense to me on so many levels that I am thrilled to share this
conversation with you. We talked about what that breadwinner
mindset is why women are not socialized to take responsibility for
themselves, and the role that confidence plays in all of this.
That’s a thread that is woven into almost everything I’m thinking
about and teaching these days. So listen, and learn.

Hello, Jenn, welcome to the podcast.

Jennifer Barrett
Thanks so much for having me. My pleasure. I’m Jennifer
Barrett, and I’m the chief Education Officer at Acorns, which is a
saving and investing app with about 9 million users and counting.
And I’m also the author of the new book, “Think Like a
Breadwinner,” which is a wealth building manifesto for women who
want to earn more and worry less well.

…and who wouldn’t want that? Very cool. And full disclosure. I
have not read the book yet. But I can’t wait to and I just wanted
to have you on even before I read the book, because I love the
title. And I loved your TED Talk. And I loved the conversation that
we had. And I just feel like there’s a lot we can talk about. Maybe
after I read the book, we’ll do a part two, based on what I found
there. But let’s begin by talking about the title of the book,
think like a breadwinner, what does that mean to you?

Well, thinking like a breadwinner really means making the kinds of
money choices that will ensure you can support yourself throughout
your life, and maybe others too. And one key element of that is
investing to build wealth. And you know, for most women, we have
not been taught or encouraged to invest or even really given the
message of how critically important that is. So that’s a big part
of it. And then even, if you step back, I mean, even though more
women than ever before are moving into the main earner or
breadwinner role, we are still being socialized for the most part
not to think of ourselves as breadwinners, as wealth builders.

And that is to our detriment. So even if we end up in that role,
we often feel unprepared. And either way, we’re really missing out
on reaching our full earning and wealth building potential, if we
don’t think of ourselves in those terms, and really focus on not
just earning enough to pay the bills, but building enough wealth to
support the lives that we want.

I’m inclined to kind of use myself as the example here, and maybe
tell you a little bit about my take on this from my past. Maybe you
can comment and support it with some ideas, and keeping in mind
that my listeners are for the most part, self employed creative
professionals. One of the problems I have with a lot of the money,
tips and guidance that’s out there, especially for women, is that
it’s all about having a job and negotiating salaries. And I have a
big chip on my shoulder about that. So I’m constantly trying to
translate it all for the self employed woman who actually is in a
position to do more than I think she would be able to do in a job.
Do you agree with that?

I would agree, I think that there are still some very real external
barriers within corporate America to women, you know, women
who are ambitious, and who want to move up the ranks, and
especially if we want to do that, and also have a family. So it’s
not just the socialization that we get, but it’s very real barriers
in terms of workplace bias in terms of women being paid and
promoted less and in terms of policies that really reinforce those
outdated assumptions. And I think what you see and what we’re
seeing right now is that a lot of women are leaving corporate
America and becoming solopreneurs entrepreneurs, small business
owners, because there’s more freedom there. There’s more
possibility, the sky’s sort of the limit. And not only that, but
what I saw when I interviewed a lot of them is that we then
create the kind of companies that we wish we were a part of. We
learn from our experience in corporate America, that’s where we
started. And we try to do better when we create our own

So I think a lot of these women led companies are really leading
the way in creating a more inclusive workplace culture and a better
balance between life and work and will ultimately create a model
that I hope the rest of corporate America follows in the

So I may have said this — I am totally unemployable. First, it was
because I just don’t like other people telling me what to do. Then,
eventually, after now, 33 years of being self employed, I’m to a
point where nobody can match my salary and the potential for what I
can earn, the sky’s the limit. I mean, that is the reality if I
wanted to focus on that.

And yet, here’s the interesting thing: in my opinion, after 33
years supporting myself, I’m not married, I have no kids, I have a
dog, she’s not all that expensive. I have a lot of freedom. And
yet, it wasn’t until maybe five years ago, that it occurred to me
that I really got that I can take care of myself. In other words, I
had been taking care of myself for, let’s say, 28 years. But still,
in the back of my mind, there was always this, “Oh, someone else
should take responsibility for x.” There wasn’t even a person
there. But there’s this fantasy that someone else is supposed to
take care of me.

So when I think about my past, and growing up, it was certainly
my father who taught me — I remember very clearly watching him pay
the bills, write those checks. He would let me write everything but
his signature. And so I kind of learned, and I remember getting my
first checkbook. And yet and I still did not get the message that I
will be able to take care of myself, even though I was learning
some of the practical skills.

So respond to that, if you would.

Yeah. And I’d be curious to hear more about what happened five
years ago to to shift your mindset around that. But to answer your
question, I think and I experienced this myself growing up is,
there’s a lot of research around how parents speak differently to
their girls than to their boys, and the kinds of conversations they
have tend to center more around budgeting and spending smartly. I
think you can even include paying the bills and managing a budget.
And they speak more to their boys about building credit and
building wealth.

Those are critical skills for everyone. And this is not to play
down the importance of being able to manage a budget. But managing
a budget is only one piece of it, right? What I’m talking about
with the breadwinning mindset is so much more expansive. It’s not
just about paying the bills, it’s about asking yourself, “what kind
of life do I want? And what do I need to do in order to afford

You know, if you’re in a career, it’s asking, “what kind of
income? What career path do I need in order to make the kind of
income to support the life I want?” If you’re starting a business,
it’s asking, “how am I going to bring in the revenue I want to? And
how is this business going to allow me to have the life the
lifestyle that I want? And how am I going to build wealth on the
side in order to ensure that I can cover our midterm goals,
retirement, all of these things?”

I think when you’re self employed, those are even bigger
questions, because it’s really on your shoulders, it’s all on your
shoulders, paying taxes, saving for retirement, saving for midterm
goals. All of that really rests on your shoulders. And so you need
to be that much more proactive. But I think most of us just weren’t
brought up to think about money that way, to think about wealth
building, to think about what is the career path? Or what is the
business I want to start that will generate the revenue to support
the life that I want.

And so it often takes a while before that clicks into place. And
to your point, you know, I don’t think we’re like waiting around
for Prince Charming to save us anymore, necessarily. But if you
look at the data out there on women and money: women invest
less and later and we save less than men. We have
more credit card and student loan debt. And we have lower credit
scores. I could go on, you know, the gender wage gap is 18%. The
gender wealth cap is 68%.

So you look at those numbers, and it’s hard not to think, “are
we waiting for someone to rescue us,” because we are often not
making the kinds of financial choices that will allow us to support
ourselves throughout our lives.

So there is I think there is something very deep in our
subconscious. And a lot of that comes from the cultural
conditioning that we have gotten, which has said women’s income is
less important, which has said the man will be the breadwinner,
which has said the prescription is, get a job, get a career, maybe
start a small business, get married, save a little for a rainy day,
save for retirement — but it leaves out all the decades in

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So I would say we shouldn’t blame ourselves for that, because a
lot of this really is the way that we have been socialized to think
of ourselves in relation to money. And it takes a real conscious
effort, if that is the way that you have been brought up. And it’s
been reinforced by pop culture to recognize that and then shift
your mindset to believe, “I am capable of doing this, I am a wealth
builder, I am a breadwinner, I am a successful business owner,” to
reinforce those beliefs and take some conscious reconditioning

I have so many thoughts. I’m just gonna choose one. Because I’ve
been thinking a lot about the role of confidence in all of this,
and to say, “just shift your mindset to become a wealth builder,”
easier said than done, obviously. And so what I’m thinking about is
what’s the role of confidence? And in my own personal experience,
it’s taking actions and building skills, that bring the confidence
that build the confidence. It doesn’t come from just thinking a
certain way.

And so that got me thinking, I was trying to remember when I put
my first $100, in my Fidelity SEP IRA. I couldn’t even find it on
the website. It’s been that long, but nobody told me to do that. I
only had two jobs and none of them had an IRA or any kind of
retirement plan associated with it. So I don’t even know why, at a
certain point, I decided to just start putting $100 a month into a
SEP IRA. But I do remember, I had a client, I was doing bookkeeping
for him, he was a psychiatrist. And he had Fidelity Contrafund, and
I was like, “Okay, well, he’s making money at that, I’m gonna do

And so I just started putting $100 into Contrafund, and for
years and years it’s been building.

So like, what is that action also? And where is the confidence,
like, “Yes, I can build a business and save for retirement at the
same time, not all of my money has to go to the same thing.” 100%,
I agree with you. And I think to your point, when we just start
implementing those habits, even if we’re saving a little bit,
investing a little bit at a time, it starts to build our
confidence. So one of the most important things is just to get in
the game, is just to start investing, it’s less important, what
you’re investing in.

And I always say, if you are feeling intimidated about the stock
market, and I think a lot of people, men and women, still are, but
you see that more in women than in men, then just to invest in
an S&P 500 index funds. That gives you exposure to 500 of
the biggest companies that represent more than 80% of the total
market value. So you’re basically in many ways, investing in the
market itself — one investment in one fund over time that has
returned about 10% per year on average, or seven to seven and a
half if you take inflation into account. And that is a nice rate of

So if you do nothing else, start there. And I think, to your
point, when you start investing, and you start to see that money
growing, it has a really incredible effect on your psyche and your
confidence. Because there’s something about actually seeing the
numbers and seeing your wealth grow, that will increase your
confidence, that will increase your sense of security, all of these
emotional benefits to it. And we see this in Acorns, too.

So at Acorns, people can start investing with their change
literally — we will you connect your card and you use your
card and we round up your purchases, take the change, and when it
hits $5 we invest that for you. And so people who start there, and
there are a lot of people who do start there, invest about 30 to
$35 a month on average. So we’re talking about around $400 a year
but what we find is that they start there, and then after a few
months, usually when the market is going up which it has been for
the most part for you know several months now, their confidence
builds and they start adding more. So they add $5, $10. And then
they continue to increase their contributions. I think that’s
actually the way it works for a lot of people, if we’re a little
tentative about jumping in.

So the most important thing is to just get started and get in
the habit so that every time you have a new client, for example,
you’re automatically thinking, “Okay, I need to take this amount,
from whatever payment I get to put toward taxes, and I need to take
this amount to put toward my investments.” A SEP IRA is a great
vehicle because you can deduct those contributions. So it helps you
in more than one way, you know, you’re already building your
wealth, and you’re saving money for retirement, but you’re also
saving money on your tax bill.

Excellent. I want to give you more time to tell us more about
what’s in the book in terms of the actual strategies that people
can use and implement. So what would you say? Where else would you
go with that?

So I took the the breadwinning mindset, and I used it as a
filter to look at kind of every aspect of our finances. And one
place to start is credit. I think anyone who’s ever taken a loan
out for their business is well aware of the importance of having
good credit, in order to get the best terms. But again, the way
that credit has been marketed to everyone, but really predominantly
to women, since we are tend to make most of the consumer decisions
and the household, is that credit is a way to close the gap between
the life that you can afford and the life that you want. And that
is such a dangerous message.

But what the breadwinner mindset would say is looking at credit
as a way to get the best terms on the loan that you will want to
invest in something that you think will increase in value. So for
example, looking at your credit cards as a way to build your credit
score, so that when you get a mortgage or business loan, you’ll get
the best terms.

I have some research in the book that shows that if you have the
highest range credit scores and can get the best terms, that can
save you over $42,000 over the course of a traditional 30 year
mortgage loan for an average priced home. That is significant when
you think about building wealth and the kind of money that you can
set aside $42,000 makes a huge difference, especially if you’re
able to invest that money versus paying it in interest.

Same goes for a business loan. So having a higher credit score
actually makes a huge difference. You can also leverage credit
cards to actually make money once you are comfortable paying off
your credit card bill every month, you can start using credit cards
to get cash back to get rewards points. You know, there are
fantastic deals on some of these business credit cards. But it’s a
different way of looking at credit. It’s really like you don’t want
to pay for the privilege of using the card. You want to leverage
credit to actually make money and build wealth. So that’s one

The other area, again, is looking at investing from day one as a
way to decrease your dependence if you are in a regular job, to
decrease your dependence on paycheck. And building wealth on the
side is a way to give you that cushion that could allow you to
leave a corporate job and start your own business.

In fact, last night, I did an event with Luminary and Kate, who
is the founder and CEO of Luminary, was telling me that she had
been investing for the goal of having a child. They were going
through a lot of fertility treatments and she had saved aside all
this money and they ended up not having a child. But she had
all this money, so she used the money to start Luminary.

So it’s really thinking about building wealth to support the
goals that you might have in the future and to give you the freedom
of choice. Right. And that’s a very different way of looking at it.
Same with savings. I mean, I think we often think of savings and
it’s been sort of pitched us as like saving for an upcoming
purchase like a expensive handbag or a getaway with our
girlfriends, which is not to say that those aren’t wonderful
things to save for too.

But savings is so much more than that. It’s like having savings
is having peace of mind, it’s giving you choice. It’s knowing for
example, if you have savings, if you suddenly get a tax bill, if
you underestimated what you need to pay, having that savings there
gives you that security that you’re going to be okay. If you’re
starting a business and oh my god — the pandemic. I mean,
some people lost 50 – 80% of their revenue in the pandemic. Having
savings allows you to ride those times and so your business will be
okay and you’ll be okay. So it’s so important to just think about
all those different areas of your finances as really supporting the
life you want and giving you as many choices as you can have in the


Actually the last line of your TED Talk is the one that I told
you I was going to be quoting you immediately, because it has a
corollary in my work.

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So you said, “There is nothing more empowering than being able
to bring the future you want to life. And to know you have the
savings and the wherewithal to walk away from any situation you
don’t want.”

So I translated that to, “There is nothing more empowering than
being able to bring the business you want to life. And to know that
you have the marketing in place, and the pipeline, and the
wherewithal to walk away from any client or project you don’t
want.” What do you think of that?

I love that. I love that so much. I really do. I think that’s so
important. And the book is not necessarily written for
entrepreneurs and small business owners. But I think the lessons
apply. And if you translate the breadwinning mindset to an
entrepreneurial mindset, it really is having the confidence that
you can do this, that you have the skills that you have the
pipeline, and you have the marketing capabilities to weather these

And I mean honestly, there’s nothing more powerful than being
able to say no to a client, to be able to walk away from a client
who’s toxic. I mean, I’ve talked to so many people who have
businesses and feel like when they’re starting, they have to put up
with so much. But as they start to build their business, build
their wealth, they say, “This is an amazing, this is an amazing
moment for me when I can say no to a client who’s just a pain in my
butt and I don’t want to have to deal with them.”

That’s a wonderful feeling to be in that builds confidence. That
by itself, I think, can build confidence. Yeah. Cuz think about how
you’ll show up the next time you’re negotiating with a client when
you know that you can walk away. I mean, that’s the first rule of
negotiation, right? Yep, the most effective way to negotiate is
knowing in your mind that you can walk away, and it gives you so
much leverage in a conversation and negotiation.

Alright, my last question for part one of our conversation. I think
a lot of people want to talk about talking about money, because
that’s something I teach, I have a new presentation, actually, I’m
giving a version of it tonight, called “Show Me The
Money: Learn to love the money conversation,” because I think
one of the ways people, not just women, men and women I see, get in
their own way is just by not bringing it up in the first place. So
do you have any tips from the book or from your own experience
about talking about money?

Well, number one is talk about it. To your point, I think that we
often feel shame, or embarrassment, or whatever it is, especially
when we have questions about money, how to invest or things that we
think we ought to know. But in reality, you know, very few people
in this country get a really solid financial education. It’s not
part of the curriculum in most schools. So a lot of people have a
lot of questions well into their career. And so there’s no shame in
asking questions. So that’s important.

But the other aspect of this, especially if you have your own
business, is to talk to other business owners and get a sense of
what they’re charging and have those conversations. I mean, it’s
sort of the equivalent, you know, in our careers, when I’ve talked
to other people about what they’re earning, what their income is,
and boy are those eye opening conversations.

And it’s so powerful. I was just thinking yesterday about a string
and one of my network networking groups about getting paid to
speak. I had been trying to decide what to charge and that string
was eye opening. The range was like zero to 10, on what people were
charging, and it was not necessarily a reflection of experience, or
the amount of times you’ve spoken or your platform. It was really a
lot of times about what you asked for. And having read that entire
string, now I know this, this spectrum, the range, and I know how
to have that conversation, I felt so much better equipped to
negotiate the next talk that I was asked to give. That was hugely

I’m thinking of one friend in particular and I include her in
the book. She holds these workshops to help others run strong PR
firm, to help other business owners with negotiations. But
even you know, she did some work for me and she said, “I hope you
don’t mind, but she’s like, honey, I got to get paid. Like I got
bills. I’ll give you a friend discount. But I got to get paid.”

And I thought I would never ask you to do work and not pay you.
You know, but I think you can have those conversations, even in a
case like that where you’re working with a friend, and they say, I
love you, but I got to get paid.

Well, my take on the friends and family discount is they should pay
more because they know how much you’re worth and they want to
support you.

I told her that too. I said I’m willing to pay full price,
more than willing because you’re exactly right, they know more than
anyone how talented you are and they will want to support that. I
completely agree.

But I also think it is just so important to remember, you need
to get paid, you need to get paid what you’re worth, there’s no way
around it. And there’s nothing wrong with saying, “I want to make a
lot of money,”

I definitely want to make a lot of money, I’m very open about
it, I want to make a lot of money so I can have the impact I want
to have in the world, so I can have the life I want. And, you know,
I think a lot of times, we don’t talk about that enough. There’s
this weird shame around saying, especially as a woman, that you
want to make a lot of money. And we need to get over that.

And I would say — and then I’ll get off my horse about
this — But when we talk about venture capital, I’ve talked to
so many female entrepreneurs, and they tell me that one of the
things that drives them nuts when they’re raising money is that
there’s almost this idea of like, it’s charity to put money into a
female led company right now. It’s like, “we ought to do it to help
female entrepreneurs.”

That is such BS! Invest in the company because we will make
money and we will make you money. That’s why you invest in a
company. We’re not a charity. And we have every intention of making
a lot of money. And so it’s even reshaping the conversation around
that to like, the reason you should invest in a female led business
is because we have a higher rate of success. And we are just as
ambitious and talented as male founders. Not because there’s some
quota to fill, or because you feel like oh, I need to support
female founders, but because you actually see the value in what
we’re doing.

All right, that would be the perfect place to put the bookmark. But
I did think of one other question that I want to ask you
is: Do you have a favorite female personal finance “guru” that
you recommend people listen to or read?

Well, it’s hard to read her, but she does have a blog, but my mom
is my, she really is my hero. We talk all the time about money
and investments. She will call me when she makes a good investment
and makes money. So we have that kind of relationship where she
says, I’m so glad I can call you and tell you about this money I
made today with Baidu or Amazon or whatever. 

She has a background and a PhD in accounting. And she
actually takes the time to read all these reports that companies
put out and look for opportunities. That is not something that most
people have the time to do, but I admire her for more than that.
She is self taught and really started managing the finances after
my parents were divorced. And she got remarried. And has didn’t
start quite from scratch, but almost and has built a really
impressive portfolio in stocks and bonds and in real estate. So I
have so much admiration for what she’s been able to do. And she
also gives just incredibly solid advice. She is the person who
takes the time to research everything. And she’s at

She has a blog, and she writes mostly for people who
are near or in retirement. That’s her focus right now because she
is retired. She was an accounting professor for many years.

So interesting. And just funnily my mother also spends what sounds
like all of her spare time reading all those reports and watching
the stock market. She doesn’t have an accounting degree, actually,
so she is also self taught, and I think has been doing it probably
for the last 10 years. But that’s what she seems to have devoted
her life to — is teaching herself how to take care of herself —
she’s now in her 80s.

That is amazing. That’s so inspiring. And I think they would get
along very well.

Yes. All right. So tell the people where they can find you online,
also in your book.

Sure. Well, I’m at I’m on all the social
platforms and feel free to reach out. And the book is “Think
like a breadwinner” and it’s available anywhere you buy books.

Awesome. I can’t wait to get mine. Okay, so thank you, Jenn. And we
will definitely have to have a part two. That sounds great.

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