Get ready, ladies, Sara Grillo has some words of wisdom for you – and you probably want to listen up. Grillo, a former Lehman Brothers equity research associate who was laid off when the firm collapsed in 2008, says women need to stop wasting their time and money on new shoes and Mr. Wrong, and instead invest in themselves, by saving money and advancing their careers.
Grillo, a chartered financial analyst with an MBA, recently self-published the ebook, "Queen Bitchionnaire: How to Rule Your Money and Your Man," in which she dishes out financial as well as romantic advice. "The best relationship you'll ever have is with guys named Ben Franklin, George Washington or Abe Lincoln," she writes. "The guys that are green, wrinkled and fold up in the palm of your hand." (The term "bitchionnaire," she says, is intended as an empowering term that suggests a woman who is in charge.)
Why write about men when talking money? "A lot of women feel like, 'I can't be a woman and be successful. I can't be earning money and be tough in the business world, and then come home and be a smoking hot mama dating a really fun guy – making dinner with him, dancing with him and enjoying that part of my life, too,'" Grillo says in an interview with U.S. News. She wants women to know that, "Yes, you can have it all." (For the record, after a string of "horrible" boyfriends, she now has a fabulous one.)
Grillo, 35 and a resident of Queens. N.Y., didn't always have it so good. In fact, the advice she doles out is largely informed by her own challenges, starting with her layoff from Lehman Brothers. After a period of unemployment, she attempted to launch her own investment management business, but she made the mistake of first trying to target older, wealthy people.
"The problem was that I simply didn't look the part. See, I'm adorable … For 70-year-olds to entrust their life savings to someone who looks young enough to be in college was too much of a stretch," she writes in her book. She found success once she shifted to targeting what she calls the "emerging wealthy" – Gen Xers who are making six figures but haven't amassed $2 million yet.
Grillo has discovered that her female clients want to understand what's happening with their money, and they want to know it's safe. "Women don't like the formulaic, ego-touting, pounding-on-chest, 'I made 80 percent returns,'" she says. "I don't manage money differently for women, but the approach is different. I am an educator."
She also teaches economics at the City College of New York, where she wakes students up in Saturday morning classes with quizzes about current events and the economy. "Her own experiences with money impacted me," says Neelam Prashad, a senior at the college. "I'm more aware and more careful of what I'm spending money on. Inflation is always at the back of my mind because of her class, and I always think about the future now."
Here are five more of Grillo's best money tips:
1. Don't wait for someone else to take care of you.
The biggest mistake women make, Grillo says, is that they wait for someone else to take care of them. "One thing I learned when I was laid off … is that no one is there to protect you. Once you have that mindset, it means you're going to cover the bases by yourself. ... For women, in the back of our minds, we have the princess thing, and expect the man to be the higher earner, and it's not true. Look at the unemployment rate – you never know," she adds. That's why she always tells women to plan on supporting themselves, and possibly their partners, too.
2. Avoid men who drag you down financially.
High-earning women need to steer clear of male gold diggers, Grillo warns. "It's defeminizing to admit that a man likes you for your money. It's pretty horrifying," she says. Yet according to Grillo, "male mooching" is on the rise, and she tells women to protect themselves by avoiding men who constantly ask for loans or to borrow money.