Money is powerful. It affects all areas of our lives. Not only that, but human nature puts us at risk of making irrational financial choices. Today we are talking with Event Coordinator Sara Witt from Mindful Money who explains the importance of taking risks, being aware of our spending, and why it’s important to face your fear of finances.
This is part three of the Mindful Money Talks series. Get to know the Mindful Money team while learning more about how to be mindful with your money.
Alessandra Illarramendi: Hello mindful money planners and happiness seekers. We are sitting down with Sara Witt who is the Mindful Money event coordinator at Mindful Money. Hi Sara, how are you?
Sara Witt: I’m doing well. How are you?
Alessandra Illarramendi: I’m good, thank you! Sara has over 10 years of administrative and client service experience and has been at the Mindful Money front desk since May of 2018 greeting clients and colleagues. She is here to talk about her experience and time at Mindful Money. Before we get into all that good stuff, we wanted to get to know you a bit better and start with some ice breaker questions. Are you ready?
Sara Witt: Yes, I am!
Alessandra Illarramendi: Okay, so tell us a bit more about yourself.
Sara Witt: I am born and raised in the Bay Area. I actually have a background in theater rather than in finance. I kind of fell into the industry. I currently live in Lafayette. I have been with Mindful Money for two years. I’m expecting a new baby at the end of May, and I just got a new puppy. So, I’ve been very busy.
Alessandra Illarramendi: Super busy, congratulations! What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
Sara Witt: I have eight siblings. It's a Brady Bunch mix, but there are eight of us all together.
Alessandra Illarramendi: Wow, that must get crowded.
Sara Witt: Yeah, during the holidays it does.
Alessandra Illarramendi: If you could be an animal which one would you choose and why?
Sara Witt: I always gear towards squirrels. I guess I always enjoy their fluffy tails and squirrels always seem very productive. I like to think of myself as very productive and efficient in making sure I have all my nuts ready for winter.
Alessandra Illarramendi: You can definitely pull it off as a squirrel. If you had to create a slogan for your life what would it be?
Sara Witt: Aww, thanks! It would probably be, “keep on, keeping on”. There are a lot of times I have experienced in my life where things just feel really hard, but I know how important it is to push through and that it gets better.
Alessandra Illarramendi: Yeah, never stopping. And if you can describe yourself in three words, which words would those be?
Sara Witt: I would say I am hardworking, friendly, and curious.
Alessandra Illarramendi: Awesome. What is something that everyone else seems to love, but that you don’t understand why?
Sara Witt: Avocado and Twitter! I’m a bad Californian, I just don't like avocados.
Alessandra Illarramendi: It's an acquired taste.
Sara Witt: It's a texture thing.
Alessandra Illarramendi: Now let’s just jump into your wisdom and experience.
Money Wisdom and Experience
Alessandra Illarramendi: What is one thing you wish you had known when you began your career?
Sara Witt: I wish I had more confidence in myself and knew to go for the jobs that thought I couldn’t do. There were a lot of times that I would sell myself short when I was completely capable of going for it.
Alessandra Illarramendi: What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career similar to yours?
Sara Witt: Be open to learning new things and make sure that you have a lot of tools in your toolbox. It could be learning the office suite that your office uses, or new forms of communication, and learning how they work. Active listening is another great tool because I do a lot of client gift giving. If you just listen for one little bit of information, like a client is a dancer, you can do something to make their experience exceptional.
Alessandra Illarramendi: Beautiful. What is one common myth in your profession or your field that you wish to debunk?
Sara Witt: Working within the finance industry, I think there is a lot of suspicion around the industry based on what goes on in the media. If someone just saw Wolf of Wall Street, I want to say that is not true, not everyone is like that, and don’t be afraid of the financial industry.
Alessandra Illarramendi: What is the thing that you like the most about your job?
Sara Witt: I love working with people. I love getting to know our clients and all the different interests they have. I have really been enjoying expanding my own financial education and learning to face my own financial fears and knowing that I am not the only one in that situation.
Alessandra Illarramendi: I think there is a lot of fear related to finances. A thing to tick off on my to-do list. Tell me a story that has touched your heart and how that changed your work.
Sara Witt: I guess it's not really one story, but some little emails and moments of gratitude, and knowing that what I do is important. I always get a lot of thank yous. When a client is going through a rough time, I send them flowers and they say “thank you so much, that is so thoughtful” or “this is such a great gift”. Just all those little moments altogether really make me enjoy doing my job and making sure that people are happy, feel heard, and are taken care of in whatever little way that is, whether it's scheduling, gift giving, or anything. The little things matter.
Alessandra Illarramendi: That's true and it's really beautiful how you work towards helping others in your job. That's amazing. What advice would you give to someone who is starting to plan their finances?
Sara Witt: Don't be afraid. Avoidance, I would say, is to be mindful of when you are doing it. If you don't want to look at a certain account or look at what's going on, whether or not it is in your portfolio, even if it is just your checking account, don't be afraid to face it. Don't be afraid to confront things you don't know. It's okay if you don’t know and if you are struggling in some areas. The first step is acknowledging what you want to improve on and taking steps to reach out to people who can help you.
Alessandra Illarramendi: How do you think disciplined behaviors can have a long-term impact on a person's life?
Sara Witt: I had never started a 401K before I worked here or started my emergency savings account. Now that I have done that, I know that I am saving for my future and I am also saving for the present, for anything that might happen. Sometimes you just have to say no to an impulse buy. That is another thing, be mindful of your financial spending behaviors, like why am I buying this, am I buying this because I am bored, am I buying this because I am feeling a certain way? You may just want that little release of dopamine. Just go put it in your savings account.
Alessandra Illarramendi: Avoid that emotional buying.
Sara Witt: Avoid emotional buying and put it in your savings account so that you can save for something fun and really meaningful, or make sure that you have your emergency fund.
Working with Mindful Money
Alessandra Illarramendi: Perfect! Now we are going to move into information about you working at Mindful Money. How did you become a part of the Mindful Money team?
Sara Witt: I saw an ad and they were looking for a front desk person and decided to take a chance. Usually, I would think that I was underqualified for an office administration role, but I just did it and they hired me. I still work at the front desk, but I was an associate for about a year and then they promoted me to events, because I showed an interest and because I had a lot of good ideas that they appreciated.
Alessandra Illarramendi: What is your current role at Mindful Money?
Sara Witt: I got into my current role in the middle of the pandemic, so we had our blueprint from the previous person in that role but we had to throw it out the window because we had to do everything virtually. It required me to learn a lot of new technology like Zoom and do a lot of sleuthing and looking into different things that we may or may not do. We created this travel thing where we would look at Angkor Wat or the Pyramids and have a happy hour. We did two cooking lessons together and just tried to let our clients know that we are there and that they have a place to go to. I know that people are feeling isolated right now, so we just wanted to provide a fun space, where we can be together and focus on something that is not the news or the pandemic.
Alessandra Illarramendi: That sounds really fun. And especially great in a complicated year like 2020. I'm sure it was a challenge but also had good results.
Sara Witt: It was really rewarding. I was happy to just have some people have a place to go to.
Alessandra Illarramendi: What does being mindful of your money or financial plan mean to you?
Sara Witt: Being mindful, I think it means being honest with yourself about your money. And I think also if you want to be really mindful about your finances, in my opinion, you have to self-reflect and try to figure certain habits that you want to break and where that fear is coming from and try not to make choices based on fear. I think that is really important.
Alessandra Illarramendi: Based on these suggestions, how do you think these choices will lead to happiness as an outcome?
Sara Witt: I think it can lead to happiness because I think if you are just aware and mindful of that it will help you make better decisions. It's good to be cautious, but don't make decisions based on your fear or struggles. I think this will help you grow and take more control over finances and planning your life by addressing those fears.
Alessandra Illarramendi: What is the biggest challenge you have with your specific role right now and how are you going to overcome it?
Sara Witt: Finding new events. I have been overcoming it because in the beginning there weren't a lot of resources, but now there are so many different resources that have made it accessible through virtual tours, virtual tasting, or virtual magic shows.
Alessandra Illarramendi: So fun! I want to do them all. How do you continue to learn in order to stay on top of things in your role?
Sara Witt: I always accept constructive criticism from other people. I love feedback. If there is something that needs work, I'll definitely find a way to work and make it more efficient.
Alessandra Illarramendi: Perfect! And in your own words what does the phrase “mindfulness is a doorway to more rational choices” mean?
Sara Witt: Just being self-aware. If you are self-aware, you know why you are making that choice and what that choice is based on. It's going to give you more control in my opinion and open more doors because you will feel more secure in yourself and know that you will be able to go down new paths that you didn't expect because you didn't want to go down that path based on fear.
Alessandra Illarramendi: Great, and with that, we have finished our round of questions. Thank you, Sara, for joining us.
Sara Witt: Thank you so much! This was delightful.
Alessandra Illarramendi: It was a pleasure speaking with you. We hope to see you soon so you can meet our next guest. And remember to stop predicting, start planning, and stay mindful.
Sara emphasizes the importance of being confident in one's work and qualifications. She also explains the importance of being self-aware and being aware of our spending habits. Most importantly, we can find ways to be courageous when facing our finances. Dive in ready to learn and understand how you can make the most out of financial planning.
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