Many of us grew up believing that the pursuit of money and meaningful work are at odds. If you have the good fortune of being in the company of Tracy Theemes, she’ll have you thinking otherwise.
Tracy Theemes argues that if you want to make meaningful change in the world, you have to understand the currency in which the world operates. While this might seem like an obvious relationship, in practice we often forget that money and our values can, and should, align. Tracy believes that trying to change the world without an understanding of money will only get you so far. Here’s why.
Tracy grew up in a working class home and took part in running the family’s tree service business. She developed essential life skills that children today are seldom exposed to, such as negotiating and selling, balancing the books, risk-taking and having difficult conversations. “If you take risks you can get ahead was definitely part of the culture of my home,” Tracy remembers. “But there was also a lot of struggle. There wasn’t always enough and everybody worried.”
Tracy grew up to become an Infant Development Consultant and worked in the downtown eastside of Vancouver. She witnessed parents struggle due to economic factors but their problems were more often associated with psychological issues. After three babies died, two of which she believes were due to financial reasons, Tracy experienced a spiritual crisis and concluded that if she wanted to make a significant impact in the world, she needed access to money and an understanding of the distribution of wealth. And so, Tracy went on to work in sales for a leading playground equipment company in the US and eventually started her own company. While in the US, she made a bold decision to advance her understanding of money. She walked into Smith Barney (a leading brokerage firm that is now owned by Morgan Stanley), asked for a job and got it.
“I didn’t understand why money got you stuck. I felt I had to study money to understand how it flows so good people could move it to people who need it.”
At that point, she was, for the first time in her life, surrounded by millionaires who had the means to make positive changes in the world based on where and how they chose to spend and share their money. Tracy eventually returned to Vancouver, and today, along with her business partner, Kamal Basra, runs her own successful wealth management company – Sophia Financial Group.
Q: How did your journey lead you to a career in financial services?
A: When I was working in the downtown eastside of Vancouver, I learned that the real issues people were facing were that there wasn’t enough food, the living conditions were unsanitary, and there were bugs and rats in the home. So many distresses that we were calling psychological issues were in fact economical issues. I didn’t understand why money got you stuck. I felt I had to study money to understand how it flows so good people could move it to people who need it.
Jump ahead about 10 years I was with Smith Barney where the movement of money is etched into its walls. I saw how the people that have the money share the money. There was a time when my children’s schoolteacher who wasn’t adequately paid was struggling financially. Her family was falling apart. Her son had a broken arm that she couldn’t get proper care for, they couldn’t pay their bills, the car was breaking down and the power close to being shut off. So I went into Smith Barney one day and said, “I know this wonderful woman and she’s in trouble.” I didn’t even make it half way around the office before people were pitching in to help. It was a profound experience to see that when good people have the money they do share it.
Q: Financial literacy and planning for women is a passion of yours in particular. Why?
A: I want the world to be influenced by the female mind and the female heart. A recent study says that 90% of socially-responsible investing is done by women. When you put real money in a woman’s hand, she handles it quite differently to her male counterpart. Another statistic shows that about 70% of assets in the US and Canada are owned by women, but by and large we defer large financial decisions to the men in our life – so what good does that do?
I recognize the primary currency of influence is economic in nature. We all need to learn how to have conversations about financials otherwise we can’t lead – it’s a type of pseudo-leadership. It starts with conversation at all the tables: the kitchen table, the boardroom table and the parliament table.
Q: What would you say to someone who doesn’t see the connection between money and meaningful work?
A: Money isn’t evil – but I’ve seen it used for evil! Money is empty until I put something on it. What’s not working is keeping quiet or thinking that money is evil. So if you believe that affordable daycare should be universally available to all no matter what your socioeconomic status , as a leader, you better understand what the balance sheets needs to look like.
I was at a conference among national women leaders because the topic was supposed to be about money, but no one talked about it. People think it’s impure – power and greed – but that’s not it. That’s a stereotype. It’s like saying that redheads can’t wear pink. It’s another one of those rules and we need to shed light on this. Money’s how we feed our children.
Q: You’ll be bringing this conversation to Minerva in a workshop in September! What can participants expect from it?
A: The goal is for us to see how leadership is shaped by the lack of discussion and comfort around money, and how that dialogue impacts us when we have it and use it according to our values.
The workshop is meant to be illuminating, inspirational and innovative, and with lots of women’s minds together, things will get stirred up! It will be fun, and you will find sisters.
It’s about getting unburdened, not burdened. Money isn’t a burden – that’s a misunderstanding. As leaders we need to be able to talk about money issues. There has to be an economic foundation for leadership and we need to lead the way in starting these conversations.
Tracy offers a variety of education workshops, including Wealth Academy, and will be offering a workshop for Minerva on power, leadership and money on September 27.
Join us for a provocative conversation with renowned financial advisor, author and speaker, Tracy Theemes.
REGISTER NOW for Power, Leadership and Money – Can we talk?
Space is limited! Click here to register.
To learn more about Tracy and Sophia Financial Group, please visit sophiafinancial.ca.