For April’s Females and Finances spotlight, we’re proud to introduce Elizabeth Odders-White, associate professor in business in the Department of Finance, Investment, and Banking at the Wisconsin School of Business. Elizabeth has a wealth of experience in financial studies and fiscal responsibility. Keep reading for some of Elizabeth’s financial insight and personal tips!
What does “Owning It” mean to you?
To me, “Owning It” means speaking and living from a place of truth... bringing honesty and authenticity to everything you do and taking responsibility for your words and actions.
Tell us about your personal and professional journey that helped get you where you are today.
I always loved solving problems (still do!) and that led me to study math in college and finance in graduate school. After finishing my Ph.D., I joined the faculty at the Wisconsin School of Business at UW-Madison, where I teach and mentor students and conduct research that examines the ways children develop into financially capable adults. I have also had the opportunity to serve in leadership positions in the school, first as associate dean of our full-time MBA program and then as senior associate dean for academic programs. I think that the unifying theme across all these roles is “learning through collaborative problem-solving.” Whether I’m helping a student compute the expected return on an investment, assessing the impact of a financial education program for fourth graders or considering ways to enhance our course offerings at the Wisconsin School of Business, I especially value working with others to uncover challenges and seek solutions together. Above all, I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the love, support and encouragement of many people along the way.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned about finances?
Probably the most fundamental lesson I’ve learned is “live within your means.” This involves paying off credit cards in full each month, saving for significant expenses if possible and carefully evaluating the costs and benefits of taking on debt for larger purchases. The idea is simple, but it can require a great deal of discipline, especially for those living on a tight budget. In the end, I think it comes down to evaluating trade-offs and making choices that are right for you... Is that new purchase going to bring you enough pleasure to outweigh the financial stress and strain it may cause? Each of us needs to consider these kinds of questions and find our own answers.
The other thing I’d emphasize is the importance of being a smart consumer... comparison shopping, seeking out relevant information before making decisions and finding people you can trust to give you sound financial advice if/when you need it. I believe that the earlier people are able to establish these types of positive financial habits, the more likely they are to achieve financial well-being.
What resources or strategies help you ensure that you stay on top of your finances?
Like most people, I am often pressed for time, so I try to keep things as easy as possible. I’ve opted to simply track expenses in a spreadsheet, but there are many other options out there. I also like to pay for things in cash. It is more tangible, easier to monitor in real time, and makes spending more visible. If you took out $300 and only have $20 left, you know you spent $280!
If you could have dinner with one person (past or present), who would you choose, and why?
If I could have dinner with anyone, I’d choose the toddler versions of my two kids, who are now in high school and college. Maybe that’s cheating because it’s two people rather than one, but I would love to be able to spend just a few more hours experiencing how energetic and silly they were at that age. Afterwards, I’d not only have a more vivid memory of what those days were like, but also a fresh perspective on the amazing people they’ve become.