Real Talk: Part 10, featuring Katy Chen Mazzara

Breaking down money basics & answering all your #BurningMoneyQuestions

Real Talk: Part 9, featuring Katy Chen Mazzara

In honor of National Economic Education Month, we’re thrilled to be bringing you an extra special edition of Real Talk featuring Financial Wellness Coach, Katy Chen Mazzara.

Having spent many years in the film and production industry where she didn’t always have a steady income, she quickly mastered how to live within her means doing what she loved while also building wealth for the future.

Today, she’s here to talk about how you can instill healthy financial mindsets in your kids to help them achieve true financial freedom and pursue their dreams without restraint.

Can you tell us a bit about your own relationship with money growing up? 💰

Absolutely! And may I say, this is a great question. It’s one I ask early on with my clients, because we all form certain beliefs around money as children from our parents, whether they taught it to us consciously or not. Take my parents for instance, they were total opposites and fought about money a lot. My dad was––and still is––super cheap. In fact, it’s something he’s proud of and even wants to create a TV show around. My mom, on the other hand, is a spender – she loves to shop. So, in a sense, they balanced each other out.

However, my deepest formed beliefs about money came from my grandmother who was incredibly protective over her money (even once accused us of stealing it from under her mattress). That experience really changed my outlook on money and what I wanted to do with it. For me, money represents the freedom of choice. Whether you have a lot or a little, it’s yours, and I really enjoy sharing mine with others – spending it on friends, family and unforgettable experiences.

What made you want to become a financial coach? 💫

Personal finance is something I’m incredibly passionate about and I firmly believe in taking a holistic look at your life overall. In many ways, your financial life is a direct reflection of your emotional life. Just as a traditional advisor would, I take a look at my clients’ cash flow, debt, savings and retirement funds. However, I also spend a lot of time working with them to identify what financial beliefs formed during their childhood years are no longer serving them well. Ultimately, my goal is to help them answer this question: Why am I feeling stuck and how can I get to a place where I’m doing the things that I love while making money for it.

There are two key reasons why I’m so passionate about what I do:

  1. For the first 15 years of my career, I was a TV producer living off a relatively small and inconsistent income. I had to navigate how to save up for a home and retirement on income that could be really generous one month and so scarce the next. However, once I got a handle on how to manage my finances in that environment, everyone wanted to know my “secrets.”
  2. Sadly, I’ve also known far too many women who stayed in an abusive relationship because they didn’t have their own money. So, my mission is really to help empower everyone to be able to make decisions based on their core values and what they truly desire over staying in a bad situation or taking an unfulfilling job just because it pays the bills.

Any big mistakes you made that you can share & what you learned from that experience? 🙈

I’m not usually one to harbor resentment or regret because I believe nothing is really a mistake––everything is a learning opportunity. So, with that frame of mind, the experience I learned the most from was probably taking a job that didn’t align with my values simply because it paid well. I was miserable every single day and was not doing work that I felt excited or passionate about. This is something I tell my mentees to avoid at all costs.

Name a few consistent traits amongst your most financially literate clients? 🏆

  1. They enjoy looking at the numbers and understanding where all of their money is going.
  2. They have what I like to call an “abundance” mindset, meaning they’ve put things in place to help them keep growing their wealth and have a good balance between spending and saving.
  3. They are driven to keep expanding their wealth by investing instead of just settling for the income they bring home from their day job.

In your professional opinion, what do you think are the biggest things holding people back when it comes to financial education? ✌

1. The fear of being judged holds a lot of people back.

Many of my clients believe they should know all of this “money stuff” already and are afraid to ask because they don’t want to be judged for their circumstance or lack of knowledge. However, you don’t know what you don’t know unless you ask!

2. Most people talk about finances in boring, dry and complicated ways.

News flash, talking about money can be FUN (there, I said it)! The reality is money is a major part of our daily lives but I rarely have a conversation that’s just about money. It’s a vehicle that enables many exciting things and should be talked about as such.

As you advise many parents, how do you typically recommend they broach the topic of financial literacy with their kids? We’d love to hear some of your top tips & any do’s vs. don’ts. 📝

1. Work on your own relationship with money first.

As I mentioned above, we learn mostly through what our parents do, not by what they say or tell us. So, being more secure, calm and happy around money will help instill that in your kids, too.

2. Make money fun, no matter your circumstances.

It’s really important to build positive associations with money through everyday activities, even if it’s scrounging for change to go get ice cream.

3. Teach your kids the value of money.

For example, instead of just giving them their regular allowance, make sure it’s tied to certain chores or responsibilities. It’ll make them appreciate that $20 a lot more when considering what to spend it on knowing how hard they had to work for it.

What’s one piece of advice for some people out there who might feel like they’re a bit behind when it comes to their finances. 🤔

That you're NEVER behind. It's like the old Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

We hope you enjoyed the latest edition of Real Talk and don’t forget to tune in next month for more great conversations! In the meantime, check out Step’s new automated allowance feature and help your kids learn about money management by mimicking a real paycheck.

† Photo credit: Joanna Shapiro