Make Money Moves With The Fiscal Femme Founder Ashley Feinstein Gerstley
Ashley Feinstein Gerstley is the founder and CEO of the Fiscal Femme and creator of the 30-Day Money Cleanse. Her work is dedicated to providing resources, education, coaching and programs designed to help women develop a healthier and smarter relationship with money. As a trusted money coach, she has been a featured expert on media outlets including Forbes, NBC, Glamour, and Business Insider. Ashley’s book, The 30 Day Money Cleanse, is an extension of the Fiscal Femme program she created to demystify the world of money and enables her to serve as an unbiased advocate for women who want to take control of their financial future. Ultimately, her mission is to empower women on a global scale by tackling the widespread issue of financial inequality.
Company: The Fiscal Femme
Job Title: Founder & Money Coach
Current home base: Hoboken, New Jersey
Originally from: I was born in Miami, Florida, and grew up in Naples, Florida.
My superpower is making managing and understanding money fun and easy. A big part of this is transforming our money mindset because that really impacts our behavior. I get to do this every day via my work at the Fiscal Femme. I get to see the transformative results in the women I work with through coaching and my courses, as well as for those who purchase my book, The 30-Day Money Cleanse.
One thing on your bucket list:
This is such a great question! I recently created and starred in my own music video [Sa-Vings: an Ariana Grande “7 Rings” parody] which was definitely a bucket list item I never thought would actually happen. I’m so excited about the project because combining the message of financial empowerment with entertainment has the potential to reach a lot of people. I hope it’ll contribute to changing the narrative around money and acquisition culture. Maybe this money-themed music video parody will be the first of many for me!
Quote/piece of advice that you live by:
On a podcast interview with Tim Ferriss, Graham Duncan shared a question he uses as an everyday tool that has been a complete game-changer for me: “When I’m old, how much would I pay to relive this moment?”
My husband Justin and I have a toddler named Eli, so things are often crazy for us. Even in the not-so-great moments (maybe we’re sleep-deprived and drowning in work, eating a frozen dinner in silence while Eli flings pasta sauce on the walls) if we consider that question and usually get a bit teary-eyed knowing we’d pay a lot of money someday to relive these moments. Asking myself this question always gets me into a place of gratitude quickly and helps me really enjoy the moment.
I mentioned this above, but I created a music video parody of Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings” called “Sa-Vings” that is all about the badass-ness and power of saving money. It’s definitely become my anthem, and I may or may not dance around the house to it all the time.
A book or article you read in the past year that you would recommend:
I’m all riled up about U.S. national champion runner Alysia Montano’s recent piece for the New York Times where she calls out Nike’s latest ad campaign telling girls to “dream crazy”. She shares that Nike stopped paying her when she was pregnant, provided no maternity leave, and the U.S. Olympic Committee pulled her health insurance despite the fact that she came back and won a championship six months postpartum. I am blown away by her strength and appalled by the discrimination she faced, especially given what these brands are purporting to stand for.
A woman in history you admire & why:
Looking back, it’s really sad how few women we learn about in our history books. I hope this is changing because there are so many fierce and incredible stories to learn from and be inspired by. The first person who comes to mind for me is Gloria Steinem (even though she’s still making history!) There are so many things about her that I admire about her as a pioneer of feminism. Given the rhetoric and norms at the time (although, sadly, we still have a long way to go), her views were revolutionary and dubbed “radical.” She was passionate and articulate and inspired people to rally around her mission. That’s so inspiring!
A present-day woman you admire & why:
My Mom. She is truly the most incredible human. One thing she taught me through example is how to continue to get outside of my comfort zone and challenge myself. It’s where the real magic happens.
What inspired you to start or join your current company/line of work?
I needed it myself! Despite my finance background (I was a finance major in college and then worked as an investment banker), I knew nothing about my own money. I wish the Fiscal Femme was around at the time to help me work through my money struggles.
How do you feel yourself making an impact and generating positive change through your work?
My professional mission is to get women wealthy. To me, wealth means equality. When we are financially well we can negotiate harder to be paid fairly at work, take more risks in our careers, and leave people and jobs when we want to. This is what we are out to accomplish at the Fiscal Femme. We do this through my book, courses, one-on-one coaching, and workshops. I believe that if women had more wealth, we’d tackle so many of the world’s problems!
What is one thing you have accomplished through your work that you are most proud of?
I am proud of writing my first book, The 30-Day Money Cleanse. It was two-and-a-half years between starting the process and actually holding the book in my hands, and I’m really proud of how it turned out. It’s been amazing to see it out in the world doing its job.
What is one major work milestone that you would like to accomplish in the next year?
More and more companies are realizing the impact that financial stress has on the well-being and productivity of their employees. I work with companies on their financial wellness programming. To date, this has included workshops, lunch & learns, and office hours. The Fiscal Femme is rolling out a new benefit this month that gives companies the ability to offer my courses to their employees as an additional resource.
What is one new project/endeavor you are currently working on that you are most excited about?
I’m partnering with an incredible organization called Lawyers for Children on a financial wellness program for their young leaders. Lawyers for Children advocates for children in foster care in New York City. As children transition out of their foster living situation to living independently, financial literacy is critical.
What do you see as one of the biggest challenges facing your industry today?
As you can probably tell, I’m really passionate about the work we do at the Fiscal Femme. I know that what we offer makes a tremendous difference. For my company specifically, the biggest challenge is trying to be patient as we grow and as awareness about the Fiscal Femme continues to spread!
For the financial services industry in general, I think the biggest challenge (which is good!) is that consumers aren’t standing for the way things are. Consumers are requiring more transparency, [and they are looking for] companies that align with their values and for products and services designed with their needs in mind.
What is a trend in your industry that you foresee becoming popular in the future?
Accessibility! Traditionally, the financial services industry has catered to the wealthy. Education, products, and services were not created for or accessible to people who do not meet an asset minimum. This is changing. I see new companies, apps, and programs popping up everyday that target people of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.
My Fiscal Femme community, and the younger generation in general, truly cares to invest in and support companies that align with their values. This applies to the brands they support, the investments they choose, and the causes they give to. Companies that choose to align with a strong mission, treat people fairly, and invest in sustainable practices will win out with us.
What is one of the greatest challenges you have personally faced in your current line of work?
For me, patience has been one of the most challenging parts of founding and growing a business. It takes time, it takes humility, and it demands tremendous personal and professional growth. It takes lots of iterations and failed attempts at things you were hoping would make a big difference.
So far, there’s not one challenge that stands out amongst the others, but with each failed launch or unmet target, I give myself time to mourn and then get excited about the next milestone. My mission keeps me going. I think my irrational optimism is a big asset. Also — my view of the current state of the world for women is “hopeful with a side of anger”, and that’s really mobilizing.
What were you doing before your current role?
I studied finance in college at Wharton and then went on to work in investment banking. I did a two-year analyst program and left to work in corporate finance at an insurance company. I worked as a generalist for two years and then was promoted into a CFO-type role for one of their business units.
At the same time, I was embarking on my own money journey and started a blog called the Fiscal Femme. I started writing about and helping other people with their money and realized that the emotional and behavioral sides of money were really important. I decided to get certified as a coach and did a one-year program through iPEC. I started building the Fiscal Femme while working at the insurance company. I left in March 2014 to run the Fiscal Femme full-time.
What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve ever received & why?
One of the things my Mom modeled for me my whole life is to get out of my comfort zone. This has served me so well and I continue to push myself to do the things that I’m most afraid to do.
In 2012, the thing I was most afraid to do was to share my voice, so I worked with a coach and started a blog called the Fiscal Femme. Next on the list? Public speaking. I was terrified to even speak in front a small group. So, of course, I started doing workshops and giving talks. Then, it was being on video that I was most afraid of. I even shied away from doing stories on Instagram. I worked with another amazing coach and have really upped my video and media presence. I took this to the extreme when I sang and danced in my own music video!
Another amazing piece of advice I learned from my Dad is to always ask. It continues to serve me every single day. Even just yesterday, while I was travelling, I thought of him as I asked for help with getting on an earlier flight. I got four no’s before someone was able to help me. Asking applies to negotiating — whether that’s how much we earn, or even how much something costs. You’d be surprised how many things are negotiable, or even [how far you can get by] just asking for something you want! You can read one of my favorite “always ask” memories in a story I wrote for Huffington Post.
What is one of the worst pieces of advice you have ever received & why?
I think one of the worst pieces of advice that women receive while growing up is that it’s important to be nice and to have people like you. I internalized this from a very young age and to this day, I still struggle with [my tendency toward] being a people-pleaser. I always remind myself of a quote by Brene Brown: “If you are not in the arena, getting your ass kicked on occasion because you are being brave, I am not interested in or open to your feedback about my work”. This quote helps me remind myself that in many cases, if you aren’t offending someone, then you’re probably just not saying anything too important.
Can you tell us about a time when you took a huge risk/did something you were scared to do, and it totally paid off?
One of the biggest professional risks I’ve taken was leaving my corporate finance job to run the Fiscal Femme full-time. Initially, I was working in my full-time corporate finance job and building the Fiscal Femme on the side. While this was a lot of work, it gave me the space, time, and money to grow my business. I was very grateful for that.
Then, I received another promotion that would have involved a very intensive training period. I knew that if I accepted the promotion, I wouldn’t have time for the Fiscal Femme anymore. That’s when I decided to leave. I remember sitting in my boss’s office, shaking as I shared the news. Most people I knew told me that I was crazy to leave such a great job, but I have truly never looked back! (…except sometimes, when I think about how nice that salary was!)
Are there any great personal or professional resources you love that you would like to share?
Here are some of my favorites:
Dreamers & Doers: This is a fabulous network of women entrepreneurs that have been an incredible support system, an amazing resource, and many have become wonderful friends.
Headspace: I use Headspace to meditate every single morning. It’s been an absolute game-changer for me to start the day off this way.
Rent the Runway: Since my book came out in January, I’ve been doing a lot of media appearances and talks. It’s been so convenient and fun to use Rent the Runway so I’m not wearing the same two dresses for every event. It’s fun to get to shop for what I want to wear next without worrying about dry cleaning, and I love being able to support sustainable fashion at the same time.
Tribe: A friend and I started a group called Tribe which is a group of 8-10 fellow founders who get together once a month (over wine!) to discuss personal and professional things they are going through. We’ve been meeting monthly for almost five years and I truly don’t know where I’d be without them!
Is there a charity or cause you care about that you would like to share?
I’m passionate about causes that support women, children, and animals. My son was born with a cleft lip and palate, so I’m also passionate about organizations like NextGenFace that are dedicated to helping children get the medical care they need.
Fun fact about yourself:
I was a competitive dressage horseback rider in middle school and high school.
For more on Ashley Feinstein Gerstley and the Fiscal Femme: