Nicole Lapin started her career making $20K a year — and racking up nearly the same amount in credit card debt.
"I'm the least likely person to be a money person," Lapin, who went onto become a CNBC news anchor, the New York Times best-selling author and a career coach helping women pursue their own career goals. "I grew up in an immigrant family as a first-generation American, never read The Wall Street Journal growing up, never talked about money. We learned a lot of stuff in school that may or may not be helpful later on, but we don't learn how to budget or do our taxes or make a business plan — and those are the things that would be most valuable."
Lapin realized that, in that stage of her career, much of her approach to money was based more on misinformation and toxic thought patterns than it was on fact. It was a realization that made her take stock of the other toxic thought patterns she saw holding back not only her career personally, but also the career of too many women more broadly.
Today, as the author of "Boss Bitch" and "Becoming Superwoman," she's helping women identify and correct those career-stunting patterns — like the following seven ones.
"Think of a budget not necessarily as a budget but, rather, as a spending plan like you would think about a sustainable diet as an eating plan," she says. "It allows for small indulgences so that you don't end up binging later on. It's really important to allow yourself that latte [or whatever it is that you tend to spend on!]."
Lapin breaks down a spending plan to what she calls the three E's. Essentials make up 70% of your overall spending plan: food, transportation, housing, etc. Your end-game makes up 15% of your overall spending plan: your retirement, investments, etc. And your extras make up the other 15% of your overall spending plan: your coffee, your manicures, your shopping or whatever it is that you want to spend your extra money on.
"You're going to spend it anyway," she says. "But I would recommend taking that portion out in cash and then, when the cash runs out, the party is over."
"The mindset is everything," Lapin says. "Change your mindset from desperation to aspiration, and your finances will follow."
She explains that, if you stop thinking about how to save every dollar you make and start thinking about how to earn more dollars, your whole outlook on your finances will change. You'll eventually figure out whats to earn bigger paychecks so that you're not so scrapped for money the next time you feel like spending it.
Lapin calls the various aspects of life the three F's: Finance, Family and Fun.
"It's not your fun life or your family life or your work life; it's your one life, and if you're not happy in all of that, you're not going to be happy in general," she says. "That's why I think it's really important to give yourself goals with realistic deadlines."
If you put all your eggs in one basket — say, your finance basket — you won't necessarily find fulfillment in life as money comes and goes. But if you set goals you can achieve in all aspects of your life — in finance, family and fun — then you will find fulfillment in more ways than one.
Lapin chooses to break her goals down into steps to make them feel more manageable. Whether it's a financial goal, a family-related goal or a fun goal, breaking it up into smaller sub-goals can help to keep you motivated and plugging along.
"It's always really important to stop and think for yourself," Lapin says. "Just because something has always been done a certain way doesn't mean that it needs to be that way. This goes back to finances and everything."
Lapin likens this piece advice to when she first decided to cut meat from her diet. Her family always ate meat but, one day, she asked herself if she even likes it. When the answer was no, she decided to cut it.
"That moment happens in a lot of different ways," she says. "You can say, 'Self, should I cut out the morning latte because I've been told that time and time again?' Maybe you don't want to buy the latte, and that's the right advice for you. But maybe you do, and you really have to ask yourself if this advice works for you. The answer can be yes, but the answer can also be something that's more personalized. It's a journey for all of us to get to know ourselves and be comfortable in our own skin."
You have to show up for yourself.
"Self-care is really about taking care of your health, taking care of yourself," Lapin says. "We have to put our oxygen masks on ourselves before helping others."
Part of that is learning how to say no and setting boundaries, she explains.
"No is a complete sentence," she says. "If you don't value your time, then no one else will. If you'd asked me five or 10 years ago if we could have a morning meeting, and I had a workout scheduled for that morning, I'd have said, 'Totally, I have nothing to do.' But I had a date with myself. And I would have thought a thousand times more about canceling on somebody else, but I wouldn't have even thought twice about canceling on myself. That's an issue. Ultimately, we're better at work if we take care of ourselves."
"We often think that once we get to a certain level of success or a certain salary, then we'll be happy," she says. "But, actually, studies have shown that it's the other way around. We've flipped that equation. Happiness leads to success, not the other way around."
Lapin says that we too often worry about getting "there." It's important to live in the moment — in the here and now.
"There is now," she says. "It sounds so simple, but it's not easy; once you've made a choice, be there."
Checking off what you've done for the day feels great, but there are inevitably things you won't have gotten to on some days — and that's OK. Try to focus on what you have actually achieved instead of what you've yet to do.
"I actually have a to-do list and a have-done list," Lapin says. "Again, it's flipping that mindset. At the end of the day, I can look at the things I have done instead of the things I haven't done."
Lapin tries not to worry about what she hasn't yet done because she doesn't believe the procrastination is a bad thing if you use it really intentionally.
"Not everything needs to get done that day, and if you connect the dots with your goals and your to-do lists, it's really helpful to prioritize," she says.
In other words, while it may feel cathartic to cross items off your to-do list for the sake of crossing them off, it's better to simply prioritize.
"Forgive yourself for what you're not focusing on right now," she says. "You can have it all, you just can't do it all!"
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.
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