July: Turning Your Obstacles into Economic Independence

It can be tough to figure out what to do with your money once you’re making money—and even tougher to figure out what to do with your money when you’re not making any.  Regardless of the situation, Dress for Success knows that economic independence is definitely on your horizon, but let’s be honest, it may take some hard work.

So this month, we have dedicated the Dress for Success Blog to “Turning Your Obstacles into Economic Independence.”  We are celebrating each and every women who strives to achieve financial freedom and those who are determined to maintain it.  And for those that don’t know anything about financial freedom, we’re here to let you know all about it! So it’s no wonder why we chose the women that we did to participate in this month’s blog…

A woman who set herself apart from her high-profile family to carve out a career all her own? Liz Goldwyn did that!  What’s the best way to manage your money?  Alexa Von Tobel breaks it down in her new book What are the most important lessons to teach your child about money?  Carmen Wong Ulrich has all of the answers!

There’s only one person that determines your financial future and that’s you!  But we’re to help you along the way, so we hope that you are empowered and inspired on your path to economic independence by what you read this month on the Dress for Success Blog!

Joi Gordon, CEO of Dress for Success Worldwid

Liz Goldwyn: How the Risk-Taking Hollywood Royal Achieved Success on Her Own Terms

If you run into her on the Hollywood scene, she’ll tell you she’s a renaissance woman. A writer, artist, director and fashion savant, Liz Goldwyn always likes to leave room for growth.  And growing is something that she’s done quite a lot of in her lifetime.  Born into Hollywood royalty, Liz’s grandfather is film pioneer Samuel Goldwyn. Also in the industry? Her father, mother, brothers, and now even her nieces pen it as a family business. But Liz has been able to step out from the shadow of her family to create her own spotlight.  When we first met Liz last year, we knew we just had to share her story with you!  Liz sat down with Dress for Success this month to talk about how she has created a legacy all of her own.

She could have easily become a pop culture princess who collects royalties through tabloid pics and partying, but Liz has always been just as financially independent as she is creatively adventurous.  She attributes this sense of adventure to her late grandfather, whom she never had a chance to meet herself.  A Polish immigrant who came from modest beginnings, Samuel Goldwyn, Sr., was a glove maker turned self-made film mogul, who contributed to the founding of several studios in Hollywood. But her personality embodies anything but the privilege that surrounds her.

Rejecting today’s traditional Hollywood scene, Liz’s professional and personal influences do not reflect the culture or name she inherited. Though her father and grandfather are a part of her inspiration, she has always sought advice from those who are older. “I’m surrounded by so many incredible, strong and successful women my own age—that I seek out older women and surprisingly a lot of men’s advice,” Liz explains.

Always exploring the space outside of her comfort zone, Liz has built on the wisdom of others, giving her a living resume of incredible depth and versatility to keep in her back pocket. Complimenting this innate desire to learn and grow in her own right, Liz has a fearlessness, which spearheads her persona and provides her with a platform to approach almost anyone. She once persuaded the CEO of an international fashion company to hire her on the spot, explaining, “I’ve found in my career that a lot of people who are very successful don’t get approached for jobs as often as you might think.”

Liz’s calm and open tone shows her confidence to be vulnerable, but is backed by a quick wit to prevent any proverbial missteps. When she heard that the CEO of her favorite company was in town, she did her research, looked up his photo, found out what event he was attending and boldly introduced herself. “I really think a lot of times, people don’t realize that everyone is human and if you are heartfelt in your message and express that you have the knowledge of this person or company, it can really pay off,” Liz told us.  Her candor has a humbling effect that makes you feel like you’ve been childhood friends—and it’s this same quality that leaves no question as to how she landed the job.

Definitely not a novice when it comes to courting a new career, Liz has been this motivated since she was 12 years old, holding various jobs throughout her teen years, including a position at Plan Parenthood, as well as working on the sets of several movies—and she will be the first to tell you that none were her family’s.

By the time Liz got to college, she had already carved out a full-time career, working as a consultant and curator for Sotheby’s, a contemporary global art company. She also worked as a contributor for French Vogue while finishing her degree in photography and art history. Now in her mid-thirties with a lifetime’s worth of experience under her belt, Liz tells us, “I think it’s a lot about trial and error and not being afraid to take risks in your career to try something new.”

Liz radiates independence—intertwining both her art and image. Though she has always charted her own course, she says it was her father who set the precedence, instilling values that built a solid platform from which she could branch out. Growing up, Liz was taught that income must be earned, so for an allowance she would recycle with her siblings. They would collect soda cans and newspapers and go to the dump every weekend to rifle for items to recycle. Their work was made even more complicated by the fact that they were not even allowed to actually drink soda themselves. “We would have to go to other people’s houses and go through their trash cans, so the neighbors were like, ‘the Goldwyn kids are really weird, they’re always coming over and stealing our trash!” she laughs.

The most elegant dumpster diver we know, Liz’s mentality that true wealth cannot be inherited, allows her to see her privilege as a responsibility to give back. With a valuable vintage collection in her corner, she could easily turn her closet into a steady source of income, but a firm believer in karma, Liz prefers to keep her work going full circle. In January, she collaborated with British model, musician and fashion mogul, Karen Elson, to create “Vintage Vanguard,” an initiative that teamed up with a handful of high-end fashion designers to reimagine their old vintage wardrobes and create totally new pieces to sell to benefit Dress for Success. From someone who knows how to leverage her resources, Liz tells us giving back is a necessary part of success. “If you want to change the world in any way, you’ve got to put your money and your time where your mouth is.”

Whether it’s her art, fashion, film, or philanthropy, Liz has already left quite an imprint, but she admits she’s nowhere near fulfilled. Always somewhat of an academic junkie, success by her standards will come when she earns her PhD. Of course, we have no doubts about the inevitable three letter addition to her name, but in the meantime, we can expect dozens of other side projects. Always careful not to confine herself to just two or three roles, she is deep in planning her next moves at the moment—a new book that compiles eight years of research, which will officially be released next year.

“I don’t think you have to stay in one role your entire life. You have the ability to transcend,” Liz remarks. Mastering this philosophy, she has effortlessly blended filmmaking, fashion, and writing to create her own sphere in the art world.

Though it would be easy to dismiss Liz’s accomplishments as a product of the Goldwyn legacy, she proved from a young age that she is willing to embrace the unknown and take the necessary risks to forge her own path.  It is this daring to dream outside of the box that has allowed her to ascend her Hollywood name, making Liz Goldwyn self-made royalty in her own right.

Read more about Liz’s accomplishments on her website or keep up-to-date on her next projects by following her at @goldilockslg.

The Most Important Lessons to Teach Your Child About Money!

Financial Advice By: Carmen Wong Ulrich

Q: My daughter is still quite young, but I want to make sure that when she’s older and ready to go off on her own that I will be able to send her off with a positive start to her financial future, so that she can be as independent as possible and can avoid some of the mistakes that I made.  What do you think are the most important lessons that I could teach my child about managing her money as she’s growing up?

My seven-year old daughter says loudly every time we shop for her, “Mom, what’s my budget?”  Onlookers twitter, but as you can imagine, it’s a proud moment.  No matter how old your child is, it’s never too late to begin.  Here are some solid to-do’s to teach your kids about money that will last a lifetime:

  • Limits:  As early as five years old, you can start a child with a budget.  For example, let’s say your daughter wants a toy and you say, “Your budget is $5.00.”  She then knows that she has to either find something close to that amount or two or more things that add up to that amount.  Knowing that money has limits—that you can’t just put a card into a machine and unlimited cash spits out—means that your daughter will be much more likely to respect limits when she grows up, such as avoiding the trap of overdrafts on her accounts or using too much credit. But the key here is you have to hold firm.
  • Earning and handling money:  This one is simple.  As soon as your child is old enough to make his or her bed, get dressed on her own, and do other small household chores, start them with an allowance.  Adjust to what fits your budget and child’s age.  Allowance isn’t just a way to make money to buy candy.  It’s a big and tangible way to teach that when you put in effort, you get a result—this result is your responsibility.  Start three piggy banks or boxes where you can put some of the money in one box, then a charity or church box to teach that you should give to those in need and, then, save money for something bigger down the road.  Which brings us to…
  • Delayed gratification, a.k.a. planning:  This one is a doozy and one that even many grown-ups fail at.  Part of your child’s allowance should go toward a goal.  Maybe it’s the ability to go to the arcade with friends or rent a movie on-demand.  Designate some spending as their responsibility.  For example, my daughter knows that any movie, show or app she wants comes out of her “bank.”  Recently, she spent all of her allowance on a movie rental then realized she had no money to play games at the arcade later that week.  She was very upset, but I held my ground and explained to her the need to plan for your money and use good judgment.  It wasn’t easy, but lesson learned.
  • No fear:  One last important lesson is to make sure that your kids are not afraid or ignorant of what it’s like to go to a bank or other financial institution and make a transaction.  Take your kids to the bank with you when you can, even if it’s just to sit in the lobby while you go over a few questions.  It’s important to see the role of banking in your lives.  And if you’re mostly an online-banker like I am, then show your daughter your cell phone bills, explaining charges, so she understands what bills are and just how much it costs to have cell service or other comforts such as cable.  Our kids should not fear bills or banks.  No fear means they can approach their money positively and with the confidence to manage what life has in store.

Carmen Wong Ulrich is a personal finance expert and author of “The Real Cost of Living.”

Boost Your Productivity While on Your Lunch Break!

It’s 12:45 p.m. and you’ve worn out the refresh button on your email. It’s probably time to take a lunch break! Though most of us find time to scrounge up a sandwich and a cup of coffee in our allotted hour, we often spend the rest of the day waiting for the caffeine to kick in before we see 5 p.m. roll around, but with these handy tips below, you can now turn off the automatic timer on the coffee pot and take an actual lunch break that will boost your energy and productivity, naturally.

It’s Time to Make Time:

In order to maximize your lunch break, you must first take a break. The key is to actually schedule a time in your calendar to eat and refresh. If you set a time at the beginning of the day, you will be less likely to forego lunch when you get hit with an impromptu meeting or project. Skipping meals to be more productive will actually have the opposite effect. Not eating for several hours will cause your glucose levels to drop, which gives the body nothing to convert to fuel and leaves the brain running on empty.

Unchain the Desk:

Pulling some left over oyster crackers from your side drawer and snacking while continuing to research does not constitute a lunch break, nor will it help you concentrate when you hit afternoon crunch time. Around 2/3 of all workers eat at their desks or skip lunch all together. This makes you more likely to snack all day on sugary, high fat foods that provide a quick spike in energy, but ultimately leave you unsatisfied and lethargic throughout the day.

Step Away from the Screens:

Stepping out of your office and away from your computer to eat will help stimulate new thoughts through a change of scenery.  But in the age of smart phones, most of us have our computer by our side at all times. We are constantly stimulated and straining our eyes to see small images on a screen. This sensory overflow can cause headaches, lack of concentration and a shorter attention span. In order to actually feel the effects of a break, try to resist the urge to surf the internet or check social media during lunch, this will allow your system to recharge and you’ll return to work more alert.

Get Physical & Get Outdoors:

We know getting to the gym during your lunch break can be daunting, so it’s a good thing taking a walk outside not only has the same effect, but is actually more beneficial. Walking increases creativity, and a walk in the park can reduce stress, improve concentration and encourage a positive attitude. The scent of flowers and foliage has a calming effect and being surrounded by Mother Nature allows you to feel an innate sense of protection and therefore relaxation—and you get a nice dose of Vitamin D, which will help lift your spirits.  A 20-minute walk is even said to provide the energy equivalent to a cup of coffee!  Summer won’t be here forever, so make the most of it while you can!

Alexa Von Tobel’s “Financially Fearless”

Let’s be honest.  We’ve all had a time when we’ve been guilty of trying to “keep up with the Jones.” And if you find that competing with Ms. Jones is more than just rare occasion, we have just what the doctor ordered—or in this case, just what the financial planner ordered! Financial planning is one of those concepts that we sometimes put on the back-burner in order to take care of our day-to-day responsibilities.  Alexa von Tobel, chief executive officer of personal finance website, LearnVest, struggled severely with this reality. As a certified financial planner and graduate of Harvard University, Alexa found that even after working a few years on Wall Street, she still didn’t know the basics of this important life skill.  Luckily, she turned her challenges into what could be major triumphs for you! Now at 30, she shares her answers and experiences in her book Financially Fearless.

Unlike most financial planning books, Financially Fearless is not only digestible, it’s also relatable. Alexa writes from a holistic view, but provides practical and engaging information that speaks to situations unique to a woman. Although the gap is slowing closing, women on average still make 77 cents to a man’s dollar and are not typically the target audience when it comes to managing finances and wealth. Alexa’s book changes this.

In a candid, but dignified voice, Alexa discusses how to build circumstances such as maternity leave, childcare costs, grad school and caring for aging parents into your long-term financial plan. Despite its playful chapter titles like “Therapy Sesh,” Alexa writes under the empowering assumption that women have careers, not sugar daddies.

Financially Fearless is meant to break down the barriers of intimidation surrounding finance with flexible, but effective methods based on Alexa’s core 50/30/20 philosophy. Her budget structures the division of your monthly pay into using 50 percent for essentials, putting 20 percent in savings and the other 30 percent is reserved for “happiness.” The plan is weaved into witty, easy-to-read steps, laced with narratives called “Money Mics” that provide real-life scenarios for inspiration. Graphs, charts and even worksheets are also spliced throughout the book so that you’re not just passively reading, but physically crafting a future plan.

All of Alexa’s advice is practical and adaptable to various lifestyles, such as how to choose the correct health insurance plan to fit your needs and budget. She even has a section that analyses the economics of packing a lunch. She shares the surprising brown bagging stats: brining your lunch to work four days a week saves on average $1,248 per year. Her quick tips let you weigh your “cost per happy,” as she calls it, helping readers cut out the frivolous extra cocktails or clothes that provide a short lived happiness return. A modern guide, Financially Fearless, takes the anxiety out of future planning and puts you on the path to financial freedom!

Want to win a copy of Financially Fearless? Tweet us your top money-saving tips at @dressforsuccess and we’ll pick three winters at the end of the month to receive a copy of Alexa’s book!

Dear DFS: How Do I Craft an Elevator Speech?

Dear DFS:

I’ve been unemployed for two years now, so I’ve recently decided to try career counseling in hopes of revamping my job search. Everyone I’ve talked to keeps telling me that I need a great elevator pitch to step up my networking skills, but no one’s given me the tools to get started. Do you think having an elevator pitch is important?  If so, do you have any tips on how to create one that’s right for me?

Ready to elevate my career!

Michelle, Houston


Dear Michelle,

First, let me start by saying that I understand how difficult it is to be job searching.  It is a competitive market, so kudos to you for keeping your head up and giving it your best!  I think it is very important for everyone to have an elevator pitch, whether they are job searching or not.  Networking is one of the best ways to make connections that could lead to opportunities, so it is good practice to know how to talk about yourself in a way that is interesting, memorable, and, most importantly, brief!

The best thing about an elevator speech is that there’s not a lot to remember!  You’re taking all of the best qualities of yourself and condensing it into just a few minutes to provide a powerful punch of information that should leave a long-lasting impression on your listener.  No one knows you better than yourself, right?  You should talk about what you do and why.  Speak from the heart, so your words are authentic, not memorized—even though you have spent a long time perfecting it.

So, here are some tips and a few questions to for you to ask yourself that I hope will be helpful to you in crafting your personal pitch:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do, and why?
  • What do you want to do, and why?
  • What skills or experience do you have that make you the right person for the job?
  • Take a look at your resume, and think about the accomplishments you made in each job you’ve had.  If you have not worked before, think about accomplishments you have made in school, or in your personal life that would transfer to a job situation.

Focus on all of the positive things about yourself, and you can’t go wrong! Remember that great opportunity is out there just waiting for you to find it. And the only way to find it is by continuing your search.  Please do not give up.

I wish you all the best in your job search and beyond!


 Kim Todd

Executive Director

Dress for Success Boston

Quick Fashion Fixes for Women on the Go!

Some days you can do everything right—you got up and actually got out of bed to the first alarm, beat the traffic, and prepped for your morning meeting.  Oh, and did we mention you’re wearing the perfect outfit? But somehow you did not foresee the giant crater in the sidewalk or the gum stuck to the train seat that has now found a new home on your silk skirt. In the absence of a fairy god mother and some pixie dust, we have the working women’s Houdini moves– to get you out of any Fashion Faux Pas (FFP) without ever having to leave the office.

FFP: When you scrape your shoe on the sidewalk.

Fast Fix:  For black patent leather, apply some petroleum jelly with a cotton ball and rub in a circular motion to remove the scrape and then wipe clean with a damp cloth—follow up with a little Vaseline to restore the shoes original shine.  For leather, lightly brush toothpaste onto the scuff with a toothbrush to remove the mark. If you completely scraped off the leather, use an appropriate color marker (black or brown are the easiest to disguise) to fill in the scratch.  For suede, repeatedly brush an eraser in the one direction over the scuff to get rid of any dirt trapped in the fabric. This trick will also remove marks on vinyl!

FFP: When you break a heel.

Fast Fix: Crazy glue it.  Or for black heels, try wrapping the broken area in electrical tape—this is not a permanent hold, but it will look seamless and more importantly, get you through the work day.

FFP: When you find a deodorant stain on your shirt.

Fast Fix: Rub a cotton sock back and forth over the stained area. Don’t have a sock handy? Vigorously rub the fabric against itself.  You can use a dab of white vinegar to speed up the process.

FFP: When you’re a victim of the static cling.

Fast Fix: Use a dryer sheet to rub the inside of your skirt or dress where there is cling. If you don’t have a dryer sheet, rub a small amount of lotion together in your hands and then quickly run your hands between your clothes and your skin.

FFP: When your zipper is stuck.

Fast Fix: Rub the tip of a graphite pencil over the stubborn area to loosen the stick. If that does not work, try applying lip balm as a lubricant to both sides of the zipper.

FFP: When you bring your furry friend to the office—on your sweater.

Fast Fix: Grab a packing label or duct tape from the supply room and wrap it around your hand like a glove —dab and repeat until all of the pet hair has been removed!

FFP: When you have a run in your panty hose.

Fast Fix: Use some clear nail polish or even hair spray at the top of the run to stop it from spreading.

FFP: When you sit in gum.

Fast Fix: Fold a piece of duct tape around your hand and stick it to the gum, then carefully lift it off. If that isn’t doing the job, squirt the gum with hairspray to harden it. Wait five minutes and then scrape off with the tip of a coin.

FFP: When you have “hanger bumps” on your shoulders.

Fast Fix: Wet two fingers and rub out the entire area—the wet fibers will eventually flatten and mold to the shape of your shoulder. You can also use an ice cube for really stubborn bulges.

FFP: When you tear your blouse on a file cabinet corner.

The Fast Fix: Pull the threads and ripped fabric through to the inside of the shirt.  Then apply tape to close the gap from the inside, making sure to cover all the edges and loose threads to prevent any unraveling and subsequently unwanted stares.

FFP: When you lose the back to your favorite pair of earrings in the “under desk abyss.”

The Fast Fix: Break off a small piece of an eraser and use it as a replacement back until you can buy a new one.

FFP: When you spill…

The Fast Fix: Soak the stained area in club soda or tonic water then blot repeatedly. For ink stains repeat the same process, but with dry erase board cleaner or hairspray.