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Michelle Smith dedicates her career to empowering women in matters of money. Through her firm, Source Financial Advisors, she guides women to think creatively about their money and what they want from it, to set up financial structures and investment strategies that will fund the things that matter to them in life. With the speed and ease that each dream deserves. Michelle is dynamic, engaging and hilariously funny and when we had the chance to see her speak we knew we wanted more. Here we talk to her about the highlights, the most prominent takeaways from her brilliant career.

What inspired you to create your firm, Source?

After close to 3 decades of experience advising thousands of women over the years on their finances, I decided I needed a dedicated specialty boutique firm that I could have my thumbprint on. I needed to create a space, both physically and emotionally, because money is HIGHLY emotional for many people, where you could walk in and find my (truly) unique financial process and the space itself, a big exhale. As I always say, you won’t find pictures of dead white Presidents and pictures of The Hunt on my walls. You will see very distinct seating areas, one with couches and pillows specifically designed for people to chill, exhale and take away one impediment to becoming engaged and clear with their money. No mansplaining ‘round here.

You must see certain patterns and behaviors again and again, ways that women sabotage themselves around money. If you could wave a magic wand and eradicate these patterns, where would you begin? What are our most damaging habits? 

Procrastinating. JUST START. WHEREVER YOU ARE. Find someone who will meet you exactly where you are, who understands how you learn. Regardless of how much money you do or don’t have. Eliminate the shoulds: I should know more about this. I should understand this more than I do. I should like it. I should be saving more. I should be skinnier. I should be in a better financial position for my age. Stop being ashamed. It’s a waste of energy. We all do what we do for as long as we do it until we are ready to change it and sometimes it takes meeting the right person in the financial services world to make you want to become engaged and who will offer you a living, breathing plan that is designed exactly for YOU.

Are splurges ever healthy? How should we find the balance between saving and living well? By understanding how much money you truly have available to spend each month and each year and by doing what I call Conscious Splurges. Also, if you have a year like we just did in 2017 where investment returns helped your cash flow, you sit with your advisor and do that math on maybe taking a small percentage of a good year’s gains for a splurge. If the splurge isn’t constant, if the splurge does NOTHING to the long term sustainability of your money... (Most people don’t want to run out of money! Call me crazy, but most people would like to die with something!)... then go for it. BUT, Conscious Splurges only, with the math and planning behind them! 

Money and food are so similar in that we tend to think of ourselves as being “good” or “bad.” Like an indulgent meal, an extravagant purchase can deliver us to a place of shame. Is this an unhealthy approach? Do men do this too?  

Sometimes feeling ashamed of splurging is actually informative. If you can’t afford it, or if you are splurging constantly without knowing the trade offs and what it does to your money on a longer term basis, then it’s healthy to feel nervous after doing it. I have no idea if men do this too but since they tend to be better at compartmentalizing they likely don’t. After two divorces I am still trying to figure men out. 

Let’s talk about the wage gap. Is this, at least in part, a matter of women not asking for what they deserve? How do you advise your clients to approach the ask. By showing them the Million Dollar Mistake if they don’t or didn’t start asking in their 20’s. And this doesn’t mean you can’t correct it in your 40’s or 50’s.

What are the most important steps a woman, married or single, can take to empower herself financially? 

Commit to more clarity and finding an advisor who is willing to invest the time in YOU. Commit to stop procrastinating. Commit to Just Start Doing Money Differently. 

Who are you heroes?

My mom, who raised my brother and I as a single mother when I was 3 and he was 6 months old, working 4 jobs to make ends meet, and being a living breathing example of love, tenacity, focus and optimism no matter what.

What do you splurge on? And where do you save?

Shoes, Shoes, Shoes. And I save for my son who has special needs and I maximize every penny for myself and for him for Later in Life. I don’t say 'retirement' because the word sounds too old and dreadful. I prefer Later in Life.

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