Office Hours: I was VP at Goldman Sachs. Now, I’m building the first tech-powered financial mentor to take on the wealth gap. I’m Crissi Cole. AMA!Featured

Hi everyone!

I’m Crissi Cole, founder and CEO of Penny Finance, a personalized and tech-powered financial mentor that provides real-world financial education and know-how to women at the starting line of their financial lives.

Before Penny, I worked for over ten years in wealth management at Goldman Sachs where I invested in ultra-net-worth portfolios and built trading & technology platforms. Over and over again, friends, family, colleagues (in the industry!!) would come to me for financial advice. One thing was clear: there’s a problem. The education gap, pay gap, wealth gap…GAPS! I’d hear it all the time. Well, what are we going to do about it?! So, off I went to do something about it.

People say Penny is my first born. Well, my first-born-human is my baby girl, Charlie. When I’m not building, I’m soaking her, family and this precious first year up for all it’s worth. It’s been incredible (and wild).

Ask me anything about financial wellness, being a founder and a mom, small ways we can tackle the pay gap at an individual level, or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @Citycrissi!Elphas – please ask @Citycrissi your questions before Friday, August 12th. @Citycrissi may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Do please ask the value of compounding and how to leverage it.
@anubhat Great question. Compounding is the magic behind investing. Compounding interest said sooo simply is: your money making money and then that money making money, over and over and over again. Saving: 2+2+2+2+2=10Investing: 2x2x2x2x2=32The key is to ensure your 401k or IRA are fulling invested (and you start investing earlier in life to give yourself many many years for compound interest to do its job). Also, make sure your extra savings are held in a “high yield” savings account to take advantage of rising rates. Take our money quiz to see the power of compounding real time.
A big welcome to Penny and @Citycrissi to the good fight –reducing the financial literacy gap. Investing is a sure way to create wealth but getting vetted information from tried and tested analysts is getting increasingly more difficult online where one has to wade through "hot stock tips" and other click baity headlines. Where do you recommend novice investors go to get good information in real time on individual stocks and ETFs?
@TaniaAhuja Ugh, this stresses me out. There is so much mis-information out there. My favorite research sites are MarketWatch and Morningstar, and Penny of course ;) (although we do not recommend specific investments, we are strictly education) Remember, if it sounds too good to be true then it is. You can’t get rich fast. You can’t make $20k from crypto in a day by wiring your money to some random person. Trust your gut. You can grow your wealth and protect your wealth at the same time by investing in a diversified portfolio of investments that matches your age and risk tolerance (this is called “modern portfolio theory”). You don’t need to day trade or buy options or invest in the next big thing to make money.
hi @Citycrissi! Love what you're building. Are you hearing a lot of demand from your clients for financial guidance around impact investing and alignment with their values?
@nishadesai YES! Women especially are curious about how they can invest to support environmental and social initiatives. We actually have an article coming out next week “how to invest to save the world” because of the number of questions we get around buying stocks/funds that do not include certain types of companies (ie. tobacco, gambling, gun companies). It is important to know that you don’t need to sacrifice investment returns when investing for good.
Are you advising strictly with stock market investment options? Or are you supporting more diverse portfolios that include other assets like real estate, which may weather market downturns in different ways? I have supported women negotiating for themselves and so many are so nervous about money they tend to have limiting beliefs. How will you encourage them to use your site as an ally for $96 a year? Love to hear more about your thoughts as I would love to drive traffic. Partnering with Ladies Get Paid is also on your list I'm sure. :)
@jennash We offer financial education on both topics! Homebuying, real estate investing, stock market investing, and then additional personal finance topics: credit cards, debt repayment, alternatives to budgeting, explanations of crypto investing, etc. We have found the education gap leads to a confidence gap, so allowing women to learn their numbers inside and out without the BS and on their own time breaks down the barriers into the investing world. Our women to date have set themselves up to retire with average of $1.4million and reduce their debt burden by 6 years – something we are so proud to offer in an affordable way for less than $100 per year.
Yay @Citycrissi this sounds great! 👏🏻 I worked on personal finance articles/advice at Credit Karma and on a financial literacy app for businesses called Paven and there are so many challenges in getting people from understanding to action (the intent-action gap). How do you plan to develop a product that can actually drive behavior change?
@parisward Amen sister. This is the hardest part. Not the tech. Not the content. Not the marketing. But creating a product that is relatable, approachable, and accessible. We’ve found that simplifying – and explaining to our members exactly how to do these seemingly difficult and intimidating things (ie. because you are 22 and don’t work at a company, open a roth ira and put $x in), then the action happens. And wrap that with a community that holds you accountable. Easier said than done. It takes a village – money is psychological and supercharged with anxiety. P.S. Paven looks super cool! We should connect offline :)
Hi @Citycrissi, this sounds like an amazing initiative. Thank you for your work! I have 2 teenage daughters who are decent at math but of course learn nothing about financial literacy at school. Can you suggest best tools/resources to introduce the basics for the financial school of life? (I myself never learned and regret it to this day!)
@elisaolenik So great to teach them early!! I love Greenlight. It is a debit card for kids, and helps them learn about credit, spending, budgeting and even investing. They have a blog too.
Thanks so much!
Hi @Citycrissi would love to hear positive examples of hedge funds - few websites you like and maybe a source to checkout 🤗
@anjelica217 Hedge funds are not my specialty!
@Citycrissi - What a wonderful (and needed!) business to create! How can we follow you/your business? Also, LMK if you ever need a PR person! My last role I helped to establish a startup as an authority in the influencer marketing space / get double-figure pieces of coverage in relevant outlets for them in less than a year. Would love to help a female-led business again! Best of luck with both of your girls (business and human!)
@katiehwaldron Thank you ☺️ You can follow us on Instagram @startwithapenny
Thank you for offering office hours @Citycrissi! I am on a journey of financial independence, which I’m finding difficult as a Black woman with few “financial models”. Therefore, I wanted to ask what books, podcast, or other resources you’d suggest for folks who are trying to learn the basics and beyond.
@brianathrift You can do it! I don’t know about you but I cannot read a book about finances – too boring. I like to hear real stories and see my numbers in real time! Podcasts: Jo Franco (Not Your Average Jo) is incredible. She has many episodes dedicated to money – I did an episode with her: she just recently did a show on the psychology of money Facebook Groups: Dasha Kennedy – she built one of the largest communities of women on Facebook who talk about money!Instagram: @Bosswomenmedia
Thank you so much for joining us Crissi! I'm always curious what money-myths are out there that really get under your skin. One, for me, for example, is "debt is bad." In America -- it's unavoidable to do a lot of things (and I've heard that the ultra-rich do a lot with debt as a financial vessel -- is that true?? that is so far out of my comfort zone of understanding...)What are some myths you work to dispell at Penny?
@Naomi I love this question! You are so right, debt being “bad” is certainly a myth. It could be bad if you have student loans that are not being paid so they snowball into more debt. We obviously don’t want that for anyone!! But debt can be used to make money. Have you heard people use the term “leverage?” This is when you borrow money to buy an asset that is going to make more money than what your loan payments are (ie. You borrow $250k to buy a rental property. Your debt payment is $2k a month but the rental property brings in $4k a month. You are earning $2k a month that you wouldn’t otherwise have.)As long as you keep your debt-to-income ratio below 40% (ie. You make $100k a year, try to keep your debt at $40k or less – this is what the mortgage companies look for when you go try to borrow money)Some other myths1. You have to love finance or follow the stock market on a regular basis to be an investor. Not at all. 2. You need a lot of money to be an investor. Nope! You can invest with $30-$100. 3. You need to buy crypto or pick the hot stocks to make money. Not true. 4. Credit cards are bad. No! Credit cards are a must. You can make money from credit cards, and boost your credit score, as long as you pay the statement balance every month. And so many more. Remember, the finance industry makes billions of dollars if we don’t pay our loans or credit cards, or incur overdraft fees. We have to pay attention to keep more money in our pockets and not put money into the bank’s pockets.
I loveeee LOVE this answer Crissi! Thank you so much for this! Balanced and useful :)
Hi Crissi, the Penny Finance mission sounds incredible! I was wondering what advice would you give to female entrepreneurs looking to start their first companies? Both from the perspective of transitioning from a full-time job to working for yourself as well as how to get good advice on getting started! I recently founded a software dev house ( and navigating all the different legal and accounting structures just to get going was a real challenge.
@katiegandomi Congrats!! I have so many thoughts for you. Crunch the numbers before many any decisions! Here are a couple articles we published to help you think through the big things. And we also have an interactive tool within Penny where you can enter the cost to run your new biz, and it recommends the next steps for you. The toughest thing for me personally right now is my ability to buy a house. While you get tons of tax benefits from running a business, it could hurt your ability to qualify for a mortgage. So just think about the timing if that is a near term goal for you!