12: Empowering Women to Invest with Confidence: Talk to Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz

Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz's first job was a file clerk in her father's firm in its early days. Now she's an executive at the company.

Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz's first job was a file clerk in her father's firm in its early days. Now she's an executive at the company.

When you see Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz's name, you might assume the daughter of Charles Schwab grew up quite privileged.  

After all, the Schwab name has become synonymous with wealth management. Didn't she end up working in the industry by default? 

Actually, no.  

Schwab-Pomerantz's parents divorced when she was a child, and her father's firm didn't become a financial force until she was well into her 20s. She was already there working with clients when Bank of America bought the company in 1983, and continued after the company split off again four years later. 

Today, Schwab-Pomerantz is Chairman of the Charles Schwab Foundation, and a senior vice president at the $56-billion company. She's a certified financial planner, and focuses on reaching out to groups like women, minorities and young people, who tend to have less experience managing their personal finances. 

I talked to Schwab-Pomerantz for the Fortt Knox podcast to get a sense of her personal journey – successes and mistakes – and also to dig out a lot of practical money tips for professionals who are trying to save for the future while planning big purchases and even raising a family. It's January, after all. There's still time to make good on those money resolutions.  

Marriage: Don't Get Lopsided  

One of Schwab-Pomerantz's key pieces of advice is, in marriage, make sure both people understand what's happening with the money. 

"I think involvement leads to financial security. For anybody, you want to understand the basics of money management," she says. "Basic in a marriage, or a partnership: Don't totally abdicate. You can delegate, but not abdicate. So that means know where your assets are, what are you invested in, and always be involved in the big decisions." 

Kids: It's About Value (and Values) 

When one of her sons was a teenager, his friends started getting cars as gifts from their parents. One got a BMW. 

"I, coincidentally, had just bought myself a car, and I looked at the BMW and I looked at different cars, and I ended up getting the Acura, which was $15,000 less," she says. When she heard about the friend with the BMW, she made sure to emphasize to her son that it wasn't the sort of thing their family would do. Not that there's anything wrong with buying nice things. "We're more about value." That's part of the reason she insisted that her sons get summer jobs; one bagged groceries at a local market. 

Future: Know the Rules Before You Break Them 

Not that she's always made perfect financial decisions. When she got out of college, she almost went to work for another financial firm instead of Schwab, until one of the company's managers convinced her to come back. Then Bank of America bought the company, and she had the opportunity to buy the mega-bank's shares for no commission. At 23 years old, she was a little too conservative. She bought only two shares at $22 each. "I was a little scared," she says. "I always joke that I was the smallest shareholder at Bank of America and my dad was the biggest." 

Schwab-Pomerantz has since gotten bolder in her love of stocks as part of a savings and retirement portfolio. But she advocates knowing the financial basics first and foremost. "Those people who invest in equities are outperforming those who are not, and that's what separates the haves and the have-nots," she says.