Certified Financial Planner and author Cary Carbonaro talks with Opportunist’s Managing Editor Leslie Stone about her new book, the one piece of advice she would give women today and whether she thinks the country is ready for a female president.
Cary Carbonaro knew from an early age that she wanted to work in the financial services industry. Her father, a banker, would frequently invite her to spend time with him at the office and take her along to foreclosure auctions on weekends when she was still a child. “He took me to work before there was a Take Your Daughter to Work Day,” she says. “I was totally drawn into it. I loved everything about making money and making money work.”
Fast-forward to today, and Carbonaro is a Certified Financial Planner with an MBA in finance. Her 25 years of experience within the financial arena includes commercial banking, mutual funds and wealth management. She is also an entrepreneur, having founded her own financial services firm, Family Financial, which merged with United Capital—where she currently serves as a managing director. In 2014, she was named an Ambassador for the CFP® Board. There are only 50 such ambassadors in the United States, chosen for their leadership skills, passion for the financial planning profession and commitment to the board’s mission to serve the public.
Frequently sought out for her expertise, Carbonaro has appeared as a guest on NBC’s “Today” show, CBS, Fox News, ABC, WPIX and PBS Nightly News, and she has been quoted in dozens of magazines and newspapers. She is also an Orlando Sentinel Money Matters Hotline expert, co-author of the book TIPS from the TOP: Targeted Advice from America’s Top Money Minds and a contributor to Save Now or Die Trying and The Wealth Management Manual. Her new book, The Money Queen’s Guide for Women Who Want to Build Wealth and Banish Fear, is due out October 13.
Opportunist: What prompted you to write The Money Queen’s Guide, Cary?
Cary Carbonaro: My sister, who is a publicist for WPIX Tribune, said to me so many times: ‘You need a book, you need a book.’ So I started writing blogs and spent about a year trying to do one blog a week about whatever was happening at the time with my clients. For example, one client going through a divorce wanted to know ‘How do I get my husband off the mortgage?’ and another client would ask ‘My mom is going to a nursing home, what are my options?’ and I would write a blog on it. I started accumulating all these blog posts, and I hired a professional editor to pull it together with chapters and transitions.
Opportunist: What do you hope readers get out of your book?
Cary Carbonaro: I want readers to feel good about themselves and think I can do this. Making people feel good is my gift in this world and, hopefully, this book makes people feel uplifted and that they’re not stupid for not knowing better. How can you make the right financial decisions if you don’t have the knowledge? Some women may think it’s math or it’s not fun or sexy. Whenever I talk about asset allocation or stocks and bonds, some women’s eyes glaze over as if to say ‘I’m not retaining anything you’re saying.’ So I’ve tried to make my book interesting and a little bit funny to show readers ‘You can do this!’ It’s not brain surgery.
Opportunist: Why did you feel it was important to open your book with your own personal story?
Cary Carbonaro: My story is powerful. I was a really successful woman on Wall Street. By the time I was 30 years old, I was making half a million dollars. I was in the top 1 percent of women in finance at an incredibly young age because I practiced what I preached and made all the right financial moves with money—and then I married the wrong person and screwed it all up. Since I have gone through lots of changes in my own life, I wanted to share some of this knowledge to help people who either cannot afford me or think money is complicated or who are intimidated by it. People can read about me and my life and think OK, here’s her wisdom.
Opportunist: Do you believe your own experiences will resonate with a lot of women?
Cary Carbonaro: I think my message is so powerful because here I was, a money expert who dedicated her entire life to helping people and learning and doing all the right things about money, and I got taken advantage of in numbers that are so extreme it makes you do a double take. I wanted to write about my divorce—a very negative situation—and put a positive spin on it about where I was and where I am now and tell my story.
Everybody makes money mistakes; it’s how you recover that matters. So don’t feel bad about making mistakes because there is nobody who doesn’t—even if they do all the right things. It’s a matter of learning from them. My net worth was devastated. Everything was a disaster. Nothing was good in my life except that I still had my brain and my earning potential. I just walked away with myself and my clients and had to rebuild. I’m on the other side of it now, and I have a fabulous life. I am with a man who is a partner. I never had a partner in my life before. I have the love and support of a family and a stepson, and I have a thriving business. So it was time to write the book.
Cary Carbonaro: We originally called it ‘The Gucci Bag Lady.’ My therapist came up with the name, but Gucci wouldn’t give us the rights. My nickname at work was ‘The Money Queen.’ Now everybody loves The Money Queen; it’s just my cute little nickname. [Laughs]
Opportunist: What is one piece of financial advice you would give women today?
Cary Carbonaro: My ultimate goal for this book would be that women want to stand on their own two feet, be independent and not have to rely on a man. I don’t mean every man or every situation, but I recently saw a client who relied 100 percent on her husband and he died. They had a fabulous marriage and they were fine financially. He left her enough money that she doesn’t have to worry, but she doesn’t know how to pay bills let alone take care of the money he left her. She beats herself up for it and feels she should have paid attention instead of letting him take care of everything in her life.
I would say for women to be able to know they can stand on their own two feet and be independent women and financially literate is very important. Personal finance and financial literacy is incredibly important; it’s not something you can delegate to somebody else. If you’re going to plan your vacation and your wedding, why wouldn’t you be planning your financial life?
Opportunist: You recently posted a tweet that asked people if they were a Commitment, Happiness or Fear Money Mind. What is that exactly?
Cary Carbonaro: I have a whole chapter on that in my book. My firm has that trademarked, and you can go to Findyourmoneymind.com and take a simple quiz to find out what makes you tick around money. People are either fear, commitment or happiness or a combination of two out of three, and one is usually dominant. Fear is the most common result. A happiness money mind usually means living in the moment and not thinking about tomorrow. Fear is you don’t want to spend or you’re afraid of making the wrong decision. It’s a tool that can give you some personal insight but there is nothing to change. It’s a matter of knowing who you are and what you can do to manage that.
Opportunist: With the next presidential election only a year away, if you could ask the candidates a fiscal-related question what would it be?
Cary Carbonaro: Social Security will be insolvent by 2030 or 2033—I don’t remember the exact year because it’s always a moving target. In the near future what would you do, other than pushing the age of eligibility back, to remedy this problem? Pushing the age back is the easiest answer because it’s the path of least resistance; however, if you look at the railroad pension, it is privatized. So they are invested and it’s sitting in a bank account. They are actually over-funded. We are underfunded and we haven’t made any changes to privatize. The answer I want is: ‘Privatize.’ We are not there yet. Certainly a Republican would be more likely to do that.
Also, Social Security is very broken. It was designed to last a lifetime when that meant 10 to 15 years. Now people are on it for 30 years. Obviously, it’s broken.
Opportunist: What are your thoughts on the current state of the stock market?
Cary Carbonaro: We are in a correction. A little bit of volatility has come back. I was expecting a correction for over a year since we hadn’t corrected since 2009. A healthy correction is healthy. The market cannot just go straight up. Nobody likes losing money in the short term—you just don’t sell if you don’t have to.
Opportunist: What did you think about Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen’s announcement a few weeks ago that the Fed will hold off on raising interest rates?
Cary Carbonaro: I expected her to raise rates in September. I’m not really happy with her decision. She’s a smart lady. I’m not questioning the head of the Fed. If not in September, I am sort of thinking they might go up in December because they are artificially low. Greenspan kept them artificially low for a long time and then we had the housing crisis. So I don’t necessarily like that. I do know that people on fixed incomes and investing in bonds were hoping for the increase.
Opportunist: Do you feel America is ready for a female president?
Cary Carbonaro: I think so. I think it would be great, but since I’m sort of a feminist I don’t know if I’m the right person to ask. The funny thing is I’m a Republican. I don’t see why not, but I don’t know if it’s going happen. I lived in England in 1988 and 1989 when I went to school over there. I remember saying I loved England because they had Margaret Thatcher as prime minister and they were so progressive and somebody told me, ‘We don’t look at Margaret Thatcher as a woman; we look at her as asexual.’ They really didn’t think of it as a big deal. They didn’t look at themselves as being progressive or cutting edge.
Opportunist: Do you plan to write more books?
Cary Carbonaro: This is the first of many. I have more in my head and, in fact, I’ve already started on the second book. It will be The Money Queen’s Guide for Millennials because so many people have been saying to me, after reading my advance copies, ‘I wish I had this knowledge in my 20s. This book is really for people in their 20s, right?’ It’s funny they say that because it’s for any age group; however, it would be most impactful for those in their 20s. My stepson is a 22-year-old Millennial who wants to learn more about investing. There are a lot of resources, but that’s the problem. There are probably too many resources out there, which make it confusing for people.
Leslie Stone is an award-winning writer, editor and journalist with more than two decades of experience covering business, finance, real estate and lifestyle issues for newspapers, magazines and online publications. Originally from Virginia, she currently resides between Florida and Michigan. Follow Leslie on Twitter: @lescstone.
Follow Cary Carbonaro on Twitter: @CaryCarbonaro
Follow The Money Queen Guide on Facebook