This month’s Females and Finance feature is one of our 2016 Project Money winners, Liz Ehlert! Find out what motivated Liz to own it and why she still does every day since the end of Project Money.
- What does “owning it” mean to you?
To me, owning it means stepping up and taking action in managing the daily finances of my family. For the longest time, my husband handled all the finances, but when my son was born it was crucial to me that he see that his parents are equals and partners in everything we do. Owning it for me is taking responsibility of our finances, so that I can give my son a better life than I have and make sure he is prepared and educated when it’s time for him to take over his own finances.
- Tell us about your personal and professional journey that helped get you where you are today.
I was always doing something: sports, music, working for my dad at his restaurant washing dishes before I could drive. My first major financial decision was made when I was a freshman in college. I decided I wanted to go to Michigan State because it was far enough away, but close enough to come back. I absolutely loved it and would have stayed, but I quickly realized that paying four years of out-of-state tuition was not an option. So, I transferred back to Madison. Fast forward almost 10 years later and I was working at a job I wasn't totally in love with, so I decided to make a change - another large financial decision. I went back and got my MBA from Madison with the hopeful intention of changing my career to something I was more passionate about. Turns out, my next boss was also a classmate of mine and recruited me to come work for her at a local marketing agency. I haven't looked back since!
- What are the most important lessons you’ve learned about finances?
You have to bust your butt to save the money you make! Life is not handed to you on a silver platter and you have to put in a lot of hard work to pay for things you want. When I was 24, I bought my first house - a single, newly graduated, naive kid who knew nothing of the housing market ... did I mention this was mid-2007 - right before 2008? Yup, enter housing crash, enter my home quickly going underwater. My dream quickly became reality, and it wasn't the best reality. I was struggling to pay my mortgage, struggling to pay bills, just struggling to make ends meet. Fortunately, my parents were able to help me for a while, but I quite literally had nothing in my savings account after I paid bills. I learned very quickly that saving money is incredibly hard, and it really drives home the importance of spending and living within your means, and also knowing when you can have some fun.
- What resources or strategies help you ensure that you stay on top of your finances?
Although my season of Project Money is over, somehow I still hear my coach, Ryan, asking us, "Is it a need or a want?" Literally, every time I feel the urge to do some online shopping, right before I hit that checkout button, I hear, "Do you really need that?" Granted, sometimes I find the strength to push that little voice away, but the majority of the time, it really makes me think twice about spending that money. I never would have thought that a simple question like that would have such an impact on how I spend money, but it really has. It got us through Project Money, and it continues to resonate with me now.
- If you could have dinner with one person (past or present), who would you choose, and why?
I would have to say any member of the band U2. They are such strong advocates for women's rights and equality, among a variety of other issues, and not to mention they're an amazing band! I would love to hear their stories, what they've seen, what they've done, who they've met - it would be a heck of a dinner.