Invest Financial Planning

HerMoney Podcast Episode 199: Abby Johnson, Chairman and CEO of Fidelity Investments On Career Growth, Female Investors, Risk Tolerance And More

Kathryn Tuggle  |  February 5, 2020

Jean sits down with Abby Johnson, Chairman and CEO of Fidelity Investments, to chat career, work-life balance, women and investing, and so much more.

When you look ahead in your career, where do you think you’re headed? Managing Director? VP? CEO? Maybe all of the above. This week’s guest, Abby Johnson, is the Chairman and CEO of Fidelity Investments, and is the third generation of her family to run the company, which boasts an impressive $8 trillion in customer assets and 30 million individual investors… If you have a 401(k), a 403(b) or a health savings account, not to mention a 529 college savings plan, there’s a good chance you’re a customer! 

In this episode of the HerMoney Podcast, Abby talks about her career background, and the path that taught her a strong work ethic and led her into the family business. (Yes, even CEOs start out babysitting, working as a server in restaurants and selling T-shirts!) Abby also discusses her career progression within Fidelity, and what she learned as an analyst on the health care beat. “Being an analyst really shaped a lot of my thinking, even the thinking that persists in the way that I operate today,” she says. “It’s a role where curiosity and persistency is really rewarded, and you have to want to learn about anything and everything.” 

Abby also dishes on some of the biggest mistakes she’s seen leaders and corporations make over the years, and the importance of reinventing yourself when you see the world start to change. 

The pair also tackle the topic of investing, and how women can be more confident when it comes to making our money work for us. Many of us want to invest, and we know we need to invest, yet we feel like we’re in “foreign land.” Unfortunately, the lingo is part of the problem, Abby explains. “There’s just a lot of technical jargon, and when you really dig into it, the technical jargon isn’t as complicated as it sounds,” she says. “But if you walk right into a conversation, and people are talking about debt inequity and using lots of terms that are just frankly unfamiliar, it’s very off-putting. And people can understand way more about finance and investing than I think they think they can, because that mental obstacle of the language gets in the way.” 

Jean and Abby dive into how much people actually have to do with their money in order to succeed — Abby says that we might all be surprised how quickly we’ll come around to understanding the basic concepts of investing, especially when we have someone that we have confidence in to interact with. (Hint: It can be a professional, a trusted friend, an investing club, the list goes on!) 

Abby also discusses the topic of risk tolerance, and how we can get to know ourselves and what our risk tolerance is. While we don’t have a crystal ball to predict how the markets may fluctuate, we do have to consider how we’d feel about our portfolio performing differently, given varying market conditions. “You can’t ever say for sure how things are going to go,” she says. 

Jean and Abby also break down some of the efforts Fidelity has made over the years to make their company more female-friendly, and to ensure that both halves of a couple understand their finances and are ready for whatever the future might hold. Abby dives into the company’s use of artificial intelligence, including voice recognition software, which has helped rid the company of unconscious bias. 

The pair also dish on Abby’s role as a mom, and how she’s encouraging her daughter not to follow in her footsteps, but rather to find what makes her happy. They also dive into mental health, and how getting outside and getting exercise is one of the best means we have of combating stress. 

In Mailbag, Jean and Kathryn tackle questions around saving for retirement while also paying down student loans, balance transfer credit cards, and how to balance the desire for having a baby compared to the goal of saving for retirement. Lastly, in Thrive, Jean dishes on how changes to your life in 2019 (including a marriage, a divorce, a new baby, a side hustle or retirement) may impact your tax return, and what to consider before you file on April 15. 

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