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Women: Love What You Do—Earn What You're Worth

Career tips to help you succeed—and maybe even break some glass ceilings.

Women: Love What You Do—Earn What You're Worth image

COMPANIES WITH MORE WOMEN in upper management are likely to do better, according to a global survey.1 Given that fact, it seems curious that only 22% of board seats are held by women at S&P 500 companies,2 and only 5% of Fortune 500 companies are headed by women.3 Clearly, more work needs to be done to achieve gender equality in the workplace.

Achieving better gender balance across companies, communities and economies is the theme of International Women’s Day (IWD) 2019. In honor of IWD’s #BalanceforBetter campaign, which runs through the year, the Bulletin asked four successful Merrill Lynch financial advisors—who’ve thrived in a highly competitive field—to share their best career advice. Below, private wealth advisors Alyssa Moeder and Heather Goodbody, and wealth management advisors Nadia Allaudin and Nicole Christians answer our questions.

Q: Can young women starting out afford to do what they love? Or should they focus on a profession that will pay a good salary?

Nadia Allaudin: “I don’t believe in only following your heart, or only following money. Find a happy medium. Money can’t be your No. 1 priority, but it has to be one of your top 5. You have to keep an eye on your financial independence.”

Alyssa Moeder: “I agree, Nadia. The other piece of advice I’d give women starting out is that if you’re thinking about having children, it’s helpful to focus on building your career early, so that you’re in a stronger position in terms of flexibility around your schedule when you start your family.”

“Money can’t be your Number One priority, but it has to be one of your top five. You have to keep an eye on your financial independence.” — Wealth management advisor Nadia Allaudin

These insights from noted tax specialist Andrew H. Friedman, principal and founder of The Washington Update, can help as you prepare to file your first return under the complex 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and start your tax planning for the year ahead.

“Your compensation won’t increase just because someone noticed you did a good job. Ask for more than you’re looking for, and have supportive data.” — Wealth management advisor Nicole Christians

If you used home equity line of credit proceeds during 2018 and you are claiming interest expense as an itemized deduction, Friedman advises that you consider how much of the money you borrowed went toward home improvements.

“Feel comfortable asking your network for help when you’re looking for your next opportunity.” — Private wealth advisor Allysa Moeder

Because these taxes are set to revert to their previous lower levels in 2026 (or sooner, potentially, if the balance of power in Washington shifts), taxpayers with sizeable estates may wish to transfer wealth through large lifetime gifts while the exemptions remain high, Friedman notes.

“Earning what you’re worth is important—but so is investing that money wisely.” — Private wealth advisor Heather Goodbody

As you compile your business expenses, be sure to keep receipts for meals separate from those for entertainment, Friedman advises, so that you can continue to deduct them.

Q: How can women position themselves for leadership roles?

Nicole Christians: “Raise your hand. Women tend to believe that if they do a good job, it’s going to be recognized. That’s not the case. You really have to make sure that your contribution is known, and let management know that you’re looking for new challenges.”

Alyssa Moeder: “The advice that I’ve gotten throughout my career from female role models is to take risks. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Growing your network is key to identifying and garnering support for new leadership opportunities. I’ve been amazed by the calls I’ve received from men wanting me to make connections for them. You don’t see it as often with women. Feel comfortable asking your network for help when you’re looking for your next opportunity.”

Heather Goodbody: “Networking within your organization to meet people that you can learn from, regardless of whether they work in your division, line of business or elsewhere, can be very powerful. The Merrill Lynch Women’s Exchange program, for example, has connected me with women across the country, and its mentoring program was of immense help to me, both as a mentor and a mentee. Bank of America also has some very powerful mentoring programs for women, including its Global Ambassadors Program.”

Q: Any tips for women who feel they deserve a raise?

Nicole Christians: “Your compensation won’t increase just because someone noticed you did a good job. You need to articulate what you want and be very pragmatic. Ask for more than you’re looking for, and have supportive data.”

Heather Goodbody: “Earning what you’re worth is important—but so is investing that money wisely. Talk about your goals and investments with other women—or a financial advisor who can help you create a plan that aligns with your particular life journey, both professionally and personally.”

Nadia Allaudin: “Absolutely—it’s so important to take ownership of your money.”

Q: What career advice would you give your younger self, if you could, right now?

Nicole Christians: “Speak up, have confidence and know your capabilities.”

Alyssa Moeder: “Be a little bit more assertive.”

Nadia Allaudin: “I was a little naïve. I’d probably say, it’s going to be a lot harder than you think, so buckle up.”

Heather Goodbody: “You can achieve anything in this life; just remember everyone has a different definition of success.”

And here’s one final career tip for women who dare to dream big: Dwell in the house of “yes.” Watch the video below featuring advice from cardiothoracic surgeon Kathy Magliato, who was a keynote speaker at Merrill Lynch’s first “Women, Life and Money” event.

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