How to Be Financially Fit

Money Wise Women

Gwen Thompson Miller ’81, executive vice president of Private Client Services for City National Bank in the Greater Los Angeles area, and Linda Davis Taylor P’11, CEO and chair of Clifford Swan Investment Counsel, spoke on “Financial Fitness for Women” in the Malott Commons last fall, presented by the Money Wise Women Financial Literacy Program.

Maddie Ripley ’14, an economics major and music minor, is involved in the Student Investment Fund and the Money Wise Women program at Scripps. Last summer, Ripley had the opportunity to intern at City National Bank with Miller, where they worked on updating the Financial Fitness presentation.

A roomful of Scripps students, staff, and faculty were at the event to learn more about handling their own personal finances.

Miller and Taylor urged the audience to do their financial homework and handed out plenty of good advice. Highlights include:

  • Understand your assets. What do you actually own? What are they worth? How is this likely to change over time?
  • Know what your needs are, as opposed to your wants. Ask yourself, “What can I really afford?”
  • Start the habit of saving early. Pay yourself first. Have a safety net.
  • Sign up for a 401K with your first job.
  • Have a yearly checkup on your finances, wherever you are in the financial scenario. Your needs will change during different times of your life. This checkup helps take away the fear of the unknown.
  • Prepare for your meeting with a financial planner: understand your situation, share your expenses and charges, ask questions, demand a dialogue, and don’t be passive. Be “intentional” with your finances.
  • Don’t fall prey to financial “lingo” often used in the field. Understand exactly what you need to know.
  • Know what your “risk appetite” is when you invest, i.e., your emotional response to the highs and lows of market activity.
  • Discover that it can be really fun understanding how the financial market works. Finance is an important part of a liberal arts education.

Taylor said research shows women are excellent at predicting market trends. “We do our research. We’re patient. We have good instincts,” she said.

Miller added: “Women pick their plan and stay with it. They are not as easily sidetracked by outside influences.”

Miller said she believes in “putting your money in buckets.” This means allocating your liquidity: one bucket for emergencies (perhaps 6-9 months of your expenses), one for retirement, and then one for specific goals (a car, a home or perhaps college education). This helps you prioritize your savings as well as set the appropriate asset allocation, based on the goal and ultimate time frame.

Taylor closed with a telling scenario to emphasize the importance of investing early in life: “Suppose you invested $5,000 in a 401K and added $200 each month. Forty years later, how much do you think you would have?” she asked the audience.

A student guessed $250,000; a staff member, $500,000.

“You would have $2 million,” Taylor said.

Lesson learned: it’s never too early to start investing.

Gwen Thompson Miller ’81 has worked in the banking industry for 26 years. Her illustrious career began as a management trainee and commercial lender with First Interstate Bank. She later served as a commercial lender with Union Bank and worked as a vice president and commercial and private banking relationship manager in the entertainment division at Bank of California.

Miller joined City National in 1999 at its Beverly Hills-based Entertainment Division. Since 2005, she has led a team of wealth management, banking, and credit professionals in the coordinated delivery of the bank’s financial products and services to high-net-worth individuals and families, professional firms, and nonprofit organizations. In addition to her core work around Private Client Services, she focuses her attention on the bank’s overall Los Angeles strategy as the regional executive for Los Angeles. She also is executive sponsor of the bank’s Legal Segment Strategy and Multicultural Initiative. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the bank.

Linda Davis Taylor P’11* sets the strategic direction of Clifford Swan Investment Counsel and oversees 32 employees; five of the firm’s 16 investment advisors are women.

Taylor’s particular interest is working with families, often bringing three generations together to discuss family core values and generational financial planning. She holds “Women and Money” sessions, and now runs a separate financial education program for teens.

Taylor has a degree in psychology from Emory University and worked in the field of education before leaving to head Philip V. Swan Associates in 1999. Through a merger, the company became Clifford Swan Investment Counsel in 2007, and Taylor serves as chair and CEO. Previously, she was at Amherst College, Claremont McKenna College, and Scripps College, where she was vice president for development in the 1990s. She is presently chair of the Scripps College Board of Trustees.

* indicates parent of a Class of 2011 alumna


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