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Season 2, Episode 10
Making Money Equitable with Meg Wheeler

Meg Wheeler (she/her) is the Founder of The Equitable Money Project, which offers financial education through its free Biz Money Library, CFO support through The Equitable Money Club, and done-for-you tax preparation, bookkeeping and CFO services to primarily marginalized business owners. She is a licensed CPA and financial literacy educator with a focus on helping online educators, service providers and small business owners set up, manage and master the financial aspects of their businesses. 

The Equitable Money Project prioritizes diversity, equity, inclusion and justice, and is committed to supporting marginalized and underrepresented business owners through accessible financial education. Meg ties her social justice activism and political work into The Equitable Money Project as part of her commitment to achieving economic equity for all. She is the host of The Disrupt Your Money Podcast and a former Democratic Candidate for the Massachusetts State Senate. 

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Discussed in this episode:

  • Meg’s relationship with feminism
  • Why money is political
  • Privilege and generational wealth (vs. being rich)
  • The role of ‘money mindset’ in financial conversations
  • Why acknowledging privilege is so important for those working in the financial space
  • Systemic barriers that contribute to financial inequity
  • Why Dave Ramsey and financial “gurus” like him are so problematic
  • How they do things differently at Equitable Money Project
  • The reason Meg’s gives away the bulk of educational materials for free
  • Conditioning that tells women and others with marginalized identities that “they aren’t good with numbers”
  • The power of money meetings
  • Separating money from self-worth
  • The pros and cons of Profit First accounting
  • Why “be a radical giver” is part of Meg’s core values
  • What Meg’s run for State Senate taught her
  • The power of talking to people in your community
  • How Meg kissed Zac Efron

Resources mentioned:

Becky Mollenkamp:

Hi, Meg. Thanks for joining me today. I’m excited to talk money and politics and how money is politics and everything else.

 

Meg Wheeler:

Oh, me too. Thank you so much for having me.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Before we dig into money and politics, first tell me about your relationship with feminism.

 

Meg Wheeler:

I grew up in a family of women. We had like one guy. So for me, being around women and being aware of women’s power was just a natural thing. And I didn’t really understand at a young age that there were limitations on that. And so as I got older and I started to realize that our society is not designed for women or really anyone who is not in the majority, to be successful, it made me really question everything. And that has led to my deeper understanding of what equity means, what justice means. And so I think feminism is very near and dear to my heart, but it’s just the beginning. It was really just a stepping stone into the work that I’ve done and the passions that I have for really creating an equitable and just society, not just for women, but really for anyone for whom this society was not designed to be successful for.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Yeah, I think we share the vision of feminism meaning intersectional feminism. I actually, I know we do because your website is really great about going into your value system that’s clearly aligned with that. So that’s beautiful. And I wanna talk a lot about money cause that’s your wheelhouse. But let’s start out with the big question, which is, how is money political?

 

Meg Wheeler:

Money is such an interesting thing because on the one hand, we put so much into money. We give it so much power. It has so much power. But on the other hand, it really is just a form of currency. It’s a form of bartering. It’s a form of exchange between myself and someone else in society. It’s so fascinating to think about money and what it does and why it’s become so powerful, and how it’s also being used as a tool to keep massive groups of people down. So when someone says to me, oh, I don’t like to talk about politics. I don’t want to get into politics. Everything we do is political. Every choice we make is political. My choice to work and earn income for myself is political. Um, my, my choice to how I pay my team is political. My choice to live in a state that has access to reproductive justice and healthcare is political. But to that point, I have that choice and not a lot of people do, and that’s really where we get to the heart of money being political because privilege is such a huge piece of this conversation. And when we think about how money is used to hold back entire generations of people. It’s not just the money I have or the money I earn or save or invest in my lifetime, but it’s everything that I came into my life with because of the privilege that my family had. And it’s everything that I’ll pass on to my son and future generations. And how that creates almost this snowball of privilege that becomes really hard for somebody who’s like this little ant on the hill to just be completely walloped by that snowball. And so when we’re thinking about the decisions that we make, we’re thinking about the votes we take, whether or not we vote, that is all political, but so is where our money comes from and where it goes and what we do with it and how we invest it and what we spend it on and also how we approach it. You know, I think a lot of us have a scarcity mindset around money. And that is political too, because that creates this fear in us that there won’t be enough, we won’t have access to healthcare, we won’t have access to affordable housing. We won’t have access to education. And that perpetuates this inequitable system. I could talk about this forever, so I’ll stop.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I’m curious for people who maybe this, I’m thinking if they’re listening to this podcast, it’s not their first time of thinking about these things, but maybe they haven’t yet really thought too deeply about their own privilege or, if they’re on the other side of that privilege equation, how privilege plays a role in money and generational wealth. Because I think when people hear generational wealth, they think, oh, then you’re the, I don’t know who, the Vanderbilts or the, although I guess they have no more money, but you know, the big names of money, right? And that doesn’t apply to the you and me of the world. Like my parents were middle class. So talk to me a little bit about the idea of generational wealth and privilege and how privilege perpetuates systems.

 

Meg Wheeler:

Yeah, and I mean, I think you nailed it because the comment I hear most often from people is I don’t have generational wealth I didn’t my parents. I’m not getting a big inheritance. I didn’t grow up with tons of money. And I understand that. I didn’t either. My mom was a single mom, school teacher. We were fine, but we didn’t have a lot. We had enough, we were happy. But I would never consider myself having had generational wealth. But what we have to do is go back and look at the history. And we have to understand that there are times in our country where, because of your gender, because of the color of your skin, you had access to benefits that other people didn’t have. I think about my grandparents, who were able to purchase a house, I think it’s Levittown, you know, one of those first subdivisions where they could buy a house, use GI Bill money to buy a house at an affordable price. And that house allowed them, you know, which was financially accessible to them, allowed them to then raise their family and pay for education and, and grow and grow and grow. So no, I’m not sitting here on piles of, you know, mansion money, but even that component put me in such a better spot for my lifetime than it would have if I had grandparents or parents who were struggling to pay their bills, were in tons of medical debt, had disabilities where they couldn’t afford healthcare or caregivers. And I have to provide that for them. I don’t have those challenges like so many people do because of the benefits that my family received for being white, for having a male in the family. And so I think we need to understand the history of those pieces and also recognize that just because I have privilege does not mean that I am not struggling. It doesn’t mean that things aren’t hard for me. It just means that I came into this life in a different spot than someone who doesn’t look like me because of those advantages that my family had. So I think that’s the first thing to understand. The second thing for someone who’s on the other side of it is it can be such a hard concept for anyone to start thinking about building a long-term financial, stable foundation. And I think especially when you are in one of the marginalized groups, nobody’s looking out for us. So we have to prioritize those conversations. We have to prioritize those actions, whether it’s something as small as putting your money into a high-yield savings account so that you make a little bit more money on it than just leaving it in a regular account. Whether it’s setting up a 529 plan or a Roth IRA for your child. Maybe you don’t put a lot of money into it, but it’s something. You’re starting them off on that right foot. And even if, when they turn 18, there’s $100 in it, that is going to be such a difference for them because they’re going to now say, I have this financial tool. What is this? How do I build this versus somebody who doesn’t have that? And I talk to a lot of people in our community who come from cultures where talking about money is not okay. And that is such a barrier to overcoming this generational wealth issue. And I’m not trying to say like, oh, you know, we should blame ourselves, but we have to just be aware of that. And I think work each generation to become more and more comfortable talking about the money stuff.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I think maybe a piece of that not having the comfort around talking about these things, like there’s some amount of that that’s by design. Because if you start to create a culture in which the marginalized don’t feel like they can or should be speaking about these things and helping each other in that way, nothing changes. Another piece of what you talked about was mindset. And I don’t think that you can money mindset your way into generational wealth. And I wonder what your thoughts are because there’s a lot o,f I think fairly often well-meaning, often white people, often white ladies that are in the like woo money mindset space. And I say this as somebody who has had a program called Money Mindset. So like I have been there. I was that person who maybe have not yet done all the work on unlearning a lot of these things. But I wonder what your thoughts are because, you know, there is also something too, like you were saying, having these conversations, changing your thoughts around talking about money or, you know, understanding money. So how do you find that balance as somebody who obviously cares deeply about inequity, but also understands we can’t money mindset our way into generational wealth? Like, where do you kind of come down on that line of balance of money and mindset?

 

Meg Wheeler:

Yeah, it’s such a great question. I guess I think about it much like I think about anything else. I mean, I, if I think about wanting to be a healthy person, you know, I go to therapy, but I also exercise and I eat well and I sleep, you know, and meditate and do all of these different things and no one thing on its own is going to make me a healthy person. It’s really the collection of items. So when I think about money mindset, I think it’s a  tool that plays a critical role in this sort of money journey that we’re on. But it’s not solely the thing we need. I mean, what I love about people talking about money mindset is that people are finally starting to talk about money. Cultures, you know, and folks who, as you point out, were really made to feel like that was not an okay thing, intentionally by design, now have a space where they can talk about their money baggage. We can talk about debt. We can talk about scarcity, we can talk about guilt over making money. All of these topics that come up in these communities that I’m in. And I think that’s great. And I think it’s really important. But I also think it’s important to take action and understand the steps you have to take to build a strong financial foundation, whether it’s in business or in your personal life. And I really think you need that combination of the two. I go to therapy to talk things out, but I hit the road when I want to you know, strengthen my body. And I need that combination to get to where I wanna go. And I think it’s the same with money mindset.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

And the acknowledgement of your own lens and experience when you’re talking about those issues, which I’m guessing is what you’re bringing into the conversation and what you’re trying to do a little differently.

 

Meg Wheeler:

Yeah, it absolutely is. I mean, look, I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to have grown up in some of these cultures. I mean, it’s not on me to design that experience or to tell the story of that experience. So when I’m having conversations with people about money baggage, money mindset, money trauma, which is a very real thing, I’m a listener and I’m a guide in that conversation. And one of the things we talk about in our community is, there is no one right way to do these things, except for taxes. The tax laws are the tax laws, but otherwise there’s no one right way. And so, you have to figure out what your journey is going to look like as you’re going to build these strong financial foundations, as you’re going to build generational wealth and understand that every person is going to come to that with different experiences and perspectives and their journey is going to look different as a result of it. And so, yes, I do think it’s highly problematic that we have a lot of these, you know, well-liked, nice-looking white ladies who get up on social media and talk about this stuff. And I think make people believe that if they just buy their course or just go on their retreat, then, you know, it will solve all of their problems. And in reality, we have to get down to the core of the problem and it’s twofold. It’s whatever our experiences were and are, and the impact those have had on us. And it’s also external. It’s the impact of society and how it was designed to not work for us, and how it is continuing to work against us. And we need to understand and dig into those pieces because if we’re ignoring those, you can’t woo-hoo yourself out of this. There’s just, you know. You’ve got to dig deep and do that work.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

How it’s continuing to work against us. And by us, I know that you’re including all folks with all sorts of marginalized identities, in our case, women, but obviously, there are far more marginalized identities beyond those that we hold. But I am curious about the now because I think often these discussions around money, we talk about generational wealth, people, it’s easy to go to 100 years ago, like, well, when things were more blatant, right? Like these blatant ways that there were clear barriers. But what are the current sorts of challenges and barriers that people with marginalized identities face around money? And you can’t get into all of them, I know.

 

Meg Wheeler:

I was going to say, how much time do we have? 

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Take as long as you need.

 

Meg Wheeler:

So there are a couple I want to mention, but I will just say one thing that came to mind. Women could not have credit cards in their own names until the 70s, which is shocking to my brain, but it was 50 years ago. I still think we’re in the 90s, so I still refer to everything as 20 years ago. But 50 years. Roe vs. Wade was just overturned and is not much older than that. So when we sit here and we think, oh, everything’s fine now, we have power, we have rights, we can have our own bank accounts and credit cards and everything’s great. We’ve only had that for 50 years. We only had Roe for 50 years and that went out the door pretty easily. So I think we need to remember that we are still on very shaky ground here and we cannot take this for granted. And it’s why we need to be constantly on aware, I don’t want to say on guard, on aware of what’s going on and getting out there and talking to people and voting and paying attention. But the actual issues that I think, again, there’s too many of them to list all of them. But for me, there are three to four big ones. Affordable housing is a massively huge issue. We know that there are still disparities in the financing for marginalized folks, especially people of color. We know that there are challenges in accessing quality affordable housing in a lot of the places where there’s employment opportunities, where people can work. So we have massive issues there. You know, if you cannot get access to a reliable place to live, everything else falls apart. That is like, that’s the core. That’s where we have to start. And that is such a huge issue for folks. Another issue is healthcare. I mean, we can’t not talk about healthcare. The lack of quality, accessible, affordable healthcare in this country is disgusting. And the system we have, even for people who can get access to it, is not working. And we know that medical debt is the biggest debt that consumers have in this country, and it’s crippling to so many people. So we have to start having some real conversations about that. And also recognize that the powers that be do not want us to do that because the people who are running the ship are the health insurance companies. They are making billions and billions of dollars off of us. They are paying Congress to continue to uphold these laws and, you know, that don’t serve us. And we’re just going along with it in many cases. And so we really need to start digging into it. There’s lots of groups out there fighting the fight on this, and candidates speaking out about this, and we need to give them our support. And then I think the last one is the student loan debt conversation. Again, we’ve seen huge disparities in the amount of debt, the interest rates, the amount that is going into arrears for marginalized folks. And we talk about generational wealth. One of the biggest determinants of success in your life is whether or not your parents paid for your college and whether or not you could go to college. That was another piece of it. But that is such a huge difference maker for a lot of people. And again, generational wealth is sort of, we’re seeing the effects of not having it now because of so many people needing to have student loans so that they could get the education they needed. And now they have this crippling debt that they can’t pay. And so they can’t get affordable housing, they can’t get medical care, and they can’t pay their student loans. I mean, how are people supposed to survive? And again, we’re seeing this in massive numbers affecting marginalized communities and especially people of color significantly more than other groups.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I know you couldn’t go into all of them. I’m going to just throw two more really quickly, which is childcare costs and childcare accessibility, which I know you would also agree with, and then pay inequity and the issues around pay inequality. Okay, which brings me into my next question. You have an episode of your podcast, which is called Disrupt Your Money. Everyone can check that out. It’s called Rich White Guys Make Crappy Financial Advisors. Highly recommend people listen to it. I want people to go listen to it, but just for people who maybe aren’t right now and wanna know what we’re talking about, give me the quick down and dirty on why people like, I’m gonna call him out, Dave Ramsey, and you do too, are so toxic. And I have a feeling a lot of it’s related to everything we’ve been talking to up until now.

 

Meg Wheeler:

Let’s start kind of at the beginning. I mean, Dave Ramsey comes from his own experiences, his own privilege, and I think does a really shitty job of understanding and recognizing that privilege and bringing that into the conversations he has with people. Even worse, I think he’s now weaponized that. I think he has weaponized the fear and the trauma that people have, especially, again, marginalized communities have around money, into scaring people into thinking, you know, this is the way you have to do it. And let’s be honest, when we look around in our society, who has all the money? Older white guys. So whether we like it or not, we’re internalized to believe that the old white guy who sounds like he knows what he’s talking about, knows what he’s talking about. It doesn’t matter if he does or not. And I think that’s why he’s become so popular. And again, I think he’s weaponized that. I think he knows exactly what he’s doing and he’s using that to make more money. I don’t think he gives a shit if your money is in good order or not. I think the other issue with him is that he lives by this one-size-fits-all methodology that, even if we sort of give him the benefit of the doubt that he has good intents behind it, doesn’t work. We’re all different. We all have different backgrounds. We all have different personalities, experiences, situations, life circumstances. And so that’s one of the things we talk about in our community is, how can we adjust things to work for you? Because the one-size-fits-all does not work. And by the way, he doesn’t follow his own advice. So that’s where we know that it breaks down is that it’s really just a sales tactic. And he also really puts forward this idea of scarcity. Don’t have any debt, don’t spend money at Starbucks, don’t do any of this stuff. Pay for your house in full, don’t get a loan for that. And so what he’s telling you to do is to basically tether yourselves to these things, your house, your bank account, and not take advantage of any of the tools that wealthy people use. By the way, wealthy people use debt and interest as huge leverage points to make a lot of money. And if you do it right and you understand what you’re doing, it’s a great tool to build your wealth. And he’s effectively telling marginalized communities, no, that’s not for you. Don’t do that. If you do that, you’re bad. There’s something wrong with you. And he makes those people feel like they are inherently broken or wrong if they try to take advantage of these wealth-building tools. So I could keep going on, but I’ll stop because I don’t want Dave Ramsey to sue me. So. Ha ha.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

The idea that getting a Starbucks latte is the reason that you’re financially struggling. And that is such a common message that’s out there that absolutely, I’m sure makes you so angry too, because it makes me so angry. Your website talks about compassion, that compassion is one of your company’s core values and that you are all about creating judgment-free zones for your clients. And I know with Equitable Money Project, you are specifically supporting marginalized business owners. So with all those things in mind, how are you guys doing things differently?

 

Meg Wheeler:

Well, the first thing that I think makes us different is all of our education is free. So we did not want access to be an issue for anyone. If you can get access to a computer and internet, which I recognize is its own accessibility challenge, but if you can do that, then you can access our education. Our courses, our guides, our templates, all of that is available for free inside of our Biz Money Library. And that was a huge shift that we made about two years ago. As we kept seeing the online community get more and more excessive in what it was charging for education, making the price of access so high for so many people, and frankly, seeing a lot of people, in particular marginalized folks, going into debt, going into significant debt to invest in this education that they were told and promised would be the answer, and most of the time it fell really short. So we didn’t want to be part of that problem. So I think that’s the first piece. The second piece is what I’ve already hit on a few times, which is we recognize that there is not one-size-fits-all model for this, whether it’s an accounting system, whether it’s how you manage your money, whatever it is, we work with each person to really understand what’s going to work for you. This is the sort of ‘done is better than perfect’ concept here, right? I’d rather you have some financial foundations in place than maybe the ones that I love or the ones that pay me an affiliate income or anything like that. I want it to work for you because that’s the only way that you are going to build those financial foundations and benefit from them. And then I also think we’re different because we do focus on the equity piece of it. I mean, it’s literally in our name. We started Equitable Money Project because we wanted a place to provide support and resources for primarily marginalized business owners, but we’re open for everyone, to be able to learn about money, talk about money, build money, earn money, make money, make money work for you, make money work for your communities, and do that in a way that does have compassion, that does come from a judgment-free zone, but that also brings that lens of equity and justice and recognizes privilege and doesn’t shame away from it just understands it as a piece of our circumstances and makes that a part of the conversation.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I’m glad that you mentioned the free Biz Money Library or free business money library because that was one things I wanted to ask you about, and I love that approach because I think gatekeeping of resources is another one of those tools and tactics that really helps to perpetuate the systems to keep the status quo in place. And so that is disruptive to say we’re going to offer resources for free. And so I also know that you teach around offering courses and things like that as a way to make additional money. So how do you balance the idea of giving away resources versus what you charge for?

 

Meg Wheeler:

The way we position it is that we charge for our time. We charge for interaction and engagement with us. We don’t charge for something that is a resource that benefits the whole community that we can create and then deliver without any cost to us, or even minimal cost to us. But it is a hard question. And I often have these conversations with people in our community who are just starting out. And they say, well, is it wrong that I’m charging? And I say, absolutely not. I’m not saying that all education in the entire world has to be free, but that simply critical education, like financial education, if it can be done, needs to be accessible for folks. Because it’s not offered in schools. It’s not readily available. And anyone who’s searched online knows that there’s a lot out there, but you don’t know where it’s coming from, if the person’s qualified to talk about it. And it’s also not put into a package that I think is easy to work through. It’s kind of all over the place. And we try to make things really easy for you to work through the process. So I do think it’s a hard balance and it’s one we’re constantly reevaluating. We are actually working on some tools that we may sell, but part of that is because we’re going to offer support along with that recognizing the value of our time, recognizing that we are still a business, that we can’t accomplish our goals if we don’t operate like a real business, but also understanding that we come from a place of privilege and we can make this education accessible and so we should.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I think maybe it boils down to everyone needs to find the thing that makes them feel like they are trying to do things differently, like challenging what exists. For me, that looks like I do equitable pricing whenever I can on anything that’s not my direct, just me, time—any group program, any course, anything like that. I love the idea of considering what are the things you can give away for free? And when you’re giving things away for free, can they be things that are actionable, not just failed sales tools? But we all have to think about it for ourselves. And I love that you’re exploring what it can look like to do it different. Okay, I wanna talk about numbers and money from that fear standpoint, because you say on your website that a lot of your clients don’t like numbers. I have fallen into that camp myself, and we don’t think of ourselves as number people. I also recognize thanks to having done, now, lots of work around this that is not just because of the moral failing on my part, that is, again, a lot of the stuff we’ve talked about that’s been handed to me, the conditioning I’ve received as a woman in particular. How do you think that issue of, I’m not a numbers person, I’m afraid of money, how does that show up more for marginalized people and how is that, how does it relate to what we’ve been talking around inequity?

 

Meg Wheeler:

I think again, it goes back to our experiences and how society has approached marginalized people when it comes to money, the lack of access to it, the lack of education on it, the lack of conversations around it. And, you know, again, sometimes that is, well, no, actually, I’m going to take that back. It’s by design. We know that it’s intentional, it’s by design. And so I think for a lot of people, it’s almost a scale, right? I mean, there’s sort of discomfort, and then there’s actual trauma and baggage around it that people need to work through. And a lot of the folks we work with who say I’m not a numbers person, it’s because they’ve never been told that they could think about themselves in that way. They were raised to think that you get married and you have kids and okay, you get a job and you do that, but nobody ever said to them, ‘you could be a math genius, you could be a numbers person, you could be great at finances.’ And I think so many of the folks in our community didn’t see their parents do the bills or do the numbers or they did, but in a way that has a negative connotation for them. ‘I saw them sit at the kitchen table stressing because they couldn’t pay the bill’ or ‘I saw the final notice sitting on the table.’ So they don’t understand what it looks like to have a healthy relationship with your money, to feel like you come from a place of having enough, knowing there is enough, not having that scarcity mindset. And so it’s easier to say ‘I’m not a numbers person’ than to dig in and address all of that sort of deep-rooted trauma that they have, you know, from their experiences. And you know, again, our society doesn’t want to think about women as finance people. They don’t, I mean, we’re still ridiculously outnumbered in the finance industry, which I came out of. You know, it’s interesting, we’re more allowed in places where the work has to be done, like accounting or bookkeepers. Bookkeepers overwhelmingly are women, right? But we’re less allowed in places like Wall Street, where the big money is made. And I think that’s a really important distinction to understand because they actually, somebody did a survey once, I wish I could remember who, that the majority of houses or households, women actually do the bills. So you could argue women are in charge of the money, but in reality, they’re not. They do the bills, but the big financial decisions are more often made by the men, by the husbands. And I think that disparity is so important to understand because it’s what makes a lot of people who come to us say, I’m not a numbers person. Because they’ve never been led to believe that they could do anything more, that they’re smart enough or capable enough, or that it’s their place to do more.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Well, you say that numbers are the sexiest part of your business. So for those of us who have been in the numbers suck camp, convince me.

 

Meg Wheeler:

And let me just, let me start off by saying I get it because I have had those days where I’ve opened my bank account and I’ve had a little crap. You know, I’ve had those days where I’ve looked at the sales and they’ve been down and I feel really squishy. Numbers are the most powerful tool you have in your business to do what you want, whether that’s grow your business, make more money, take time off, whatever it is. And so many of us aren’t harnessing that tool because we’re afraid. We’re afraid to look at them. We’re afraid of what they mean. We’re afraid of what they say about us as a person or a business owner or whatnot. And if we could change that mindset, I honestly think we could just take over the world. And here’s why, because numbers are just pieces of information. They just tell us things. You know, if I go on Instagram and I look at, or I guess TikTok’s now the big thing, right? I go on TikTok and I look at, I don’t even know. I look at my followers and I look at my engagement. I look at all these things and I use that information to decide how I’m going to do things differently. It’s the same thing with our numbers in our business. If I look at my sales and I understand which product or service is selling more and okay, it’s selling more, but is it actually profitable? And should I double down on that? Or maybe it’s selling more, but we’re not making much money off of it. So actually we need to refine that, or maybe we need to refine it or maybe we need to look over here at this product or service. And having that information is so powerful. I mean, I always say you cannot grow what you don’t know. And if we stick our head in the sand, we will never be able to grow, whether it’s our business, our personal lives, our wealth, whatever it is that we want. And we have this tool right here, and we have the ability to understand it. This is not rocket science, because trust me, I can do it. And I was not but a brainiac in school. I was not a math nerd either, by the way. I hated numbers in school. I think I failed geometry because numbers really aren’t about math. They’re about understanding the story that the data tells you. And I think if you work with someone like us or somebody else to help you understand how to do that, you’ll agree with me that they’re sexy too.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I like that you mentioned TikTok and/or Instagram looking at your followers because you say that it’s just data. And yet I think for so many people, data, even those numbers that you mentioned it gets so caught up in their self-worth. Oh, but only this many people like me or less people like me now or oh, look, I got more likes. And now people like we have been very conditioned in that same way around money with social media around it being tied to our worth. So how do you begin to separate that worth from money? And you talk about money going, like doing money meetings for yourself. I wonder if that’s a piece of that, like having to confront it to be with it, learning how to remove some of the emotion from it.

 

Meg Wheeler:

So I love money meetings, which are really just meetings with yourself. We recommend them once a week where you sit down, you look at your numbers. And we have some resources on getting into the details of steps you can do, but I think they’re so critical. The story that I love to tell is last year, I started, and this is actually personal finance, not even in our business, but I started to realize we were overspending a lot every month on just our day-to-day eating out, things like that. And it was becoming really stressful. And every month I’d be afraid to check my credit card statement. I’d be like, oh, God, what’s it going to be this month? And about March or April of this year, I thought, you know what? I’m going to apply my own information here. I should probably listen to myself. And I’m going to look at my credit card statement or my online access every single day. Because my thought was if I look every single day, there’s only so much damage I can do in a 24-hour window, so I kind of know what I’m gonna see when I log in and it’s not gonna be scary because it’s not gonna be scary because it’s not going to be that surprising. And then if I look every day, I’ll have a sense for where we are in the month and I can kind of stop, you know, pull things back if it feels like they’re getting out of control. And I did this for about six months. And let me just tell you, it became one of the most enjoyable parts of my morning. Because I would log on, I would see where we were at, I would update our little budget, it would take me about 10, 15 minutes, and then I would go on with my day, and I felt so relaxed. I was never stressed about that credit card statement, because it just became such a part of my routine. And it became information that once I had it, wasn’t scary, it was scary thinking about the unknown. It was scary not knowing what that information was going to be, but once it was in front of me, I could handle it. I could address it, I could do what I needed to do. And while I’m not necessarily saying you have to do this every single day, just thinking about how can I build a relationship more with my money? How can I treat it more as something that serves me instead of something that scares me or harms me? We always recommend making your money meetings as enjoyable as possible. Do them somewhere that you really love, a coffee shop, a comfortable place in your house, set the mood. This is a time for you to go on a date with your money. It sounds cheesy and it is, but it’s that relationship that you’re building with that information. And I think the more you do that, the less you start to make it tell stories about you.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I said that I am not a numbers person. I am reforming. I wouldn’t say I’m reformed yet. I’m reforming. I am in the process of learning to be better about my numbers and be less afraid the visibility, the consciousness, just the paying attention, the seeing it. At first, when you’ve been a person who hides from your money, which was my go-to, that can be really hard. It’s confronting, it’s scary, it’s overwhelming, it’s stressful, but when you can do it more and more, the discomfort eases and you start to grow more comfort with that, and it changes a lot. And so for me, what really helped was implementing Profit First, which is a method where you’re paying, you’re putting money into profits first, paying yourself and then thinking about expenses rather than it being the other way around. And I know you talk about making sure that people are paying themselves. You have an episode of your podcast about that too, about making sure you pay yourself first. First of all, I’m curious, is Profit First an example of paying yourself first or is it a little different because I know it’s really sort of paying into profits first and then yourself. And then why do you think it’s so important? Because I hear all the time from founders who aren’t paying themselves. I cannot tell you the number of networking calls I go to with founders who are like, well, I’m not making any money yet. I’m not paying myself. I’m just keeping everything afloat. What are your thoughts around those things?

 

Meg Wheeler:

Let me address that one first, because I see this a lot. My husband’s actually a startup attorney, so I see this a lot. And I think the first thing is you have to understand what is the norm for your industry. He works with a lot of bioscience, tech type companies. And when you are bringing on investors and developing a product that is more normal, in that type of industry. I don’t necessarily think it’s good or right, but that is just kind of the way it works at the beginning. And so I think understanding that. But if you are in a service-based business, if you’re in a business where what you have is available for sale right away, then I think you need to set that profit sight a lot closer to where you are now. I have folks I’ve worked with who have gone a year, two years not paying themselves. And at that point, you need to ask yourself, what am I doing? Am I in this to run a business or is this just a hobby? And if it’s a hobby, that’s fine, but just acknowledge it so that you can run it and treat it like a hobby. But for those people, they really want a business. And so in that case, we need to look at those numbers, go back to the information and see where is this not working. Now, what I like about Profit First is that it sets that idea and expectation of we should pay ourselves first. I think that is really important. I also think that it is a lofty goal for a lot of people. Again, I think it comes from a place of privilege. You know, businesses cost money, they have expenses, and not everyone can enter their business with the capital to fund those things while you’re building up that business. So I think it’s a really good concept to work with. We actually have a podcast episode on Profit First, and I talk a lot about how, you know, there are pieces of it I like and pieces of it I don’t. But again, as I say to everybody, if it works for you, great. If it doesn’t, don’t do it. And a lot of our community does a modified version of it, which is a little bit more simplified, which is one of my biggest criticisms of Profit First. So I think this idea that you need to put yourself first is really critical. I had a client once years ago. who came to me and said, I’m really burnt out. Like, I don’t understand. I think she was making sales of like $150K. So she was making money, money was coming in. And when we looked at her numbers, we figured out that when she priced her service, she never factored in, not really, the cost of her time. So her prices were so low that, you know, yeah, she was getting a lot of sales, but she was so overworked because she didn’t factor in what that resource was costing, we actually just released our pricing calculator for this purpose of trying to figure out where should your pricing be set. And I think this goes along the same lines as Profit First of we’ve got to make sure that the way we’re structuring our business works for us. Because if we’re not doing it in a way that gives us the money to pay ourselves, what are we doing?

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Another value that you list on your website is to be a radical giver. And I’m curious about how that shows up in the advice that you’re giving to your clients, but then also in how you are running your business for yourself on your back end.

 

Meg Wheeler:

This goes back to that scarcity idea that, you know, and I want to be clear, I get it, especially when you’re talking about marginalized communities. I get that sort of scarcity, like I have to protect what I have because society has not given you much. Society has not looked out for you. You know, when it comes to things like housing, you know, or education or, you know, childcare, really any of the critical things you need. But I think if you are outside of the survival mode, so if you’re in a place where you can pay the bills and you’re not fighting to literally survive day to day, that coming from a place of being a radical giver is really the best way to build the community we want. So I kind of think about it like laying little seeds all over to plant a beautiful garden. You know, the more that I can support everyone around me, the more they will rise up, the more I will rise up with them, the more we will support each other, and the more we will build the community and the society that we want. And so in our business, this shows up a lot. It shows up in our free education. It shows up in the time that we are constantly taking to think about, is this tool or resource or service or whatever it is, serving our people in the way that they need? How do we need to readjust it? A lot of people just create something, put it out there, it’s working, so they don’t really think about it. I can think of a lot of online courses where people have only gotten 10% through, but the course creator still sells the course, and sells the course, and sells the course, and doesn’t really think about are people actually having success with this? We do a lot of that. We have a lot of those conversations creating this space for people to talk about this stuff. We had in our membership, Equitable Money Club, we do money meetings every week, group money meetings. We had ours yesterday and we had a great group show up that just needed to talk about stuff. It was kind of like money therapy. And we create the space for that. And to me, that is a way that we can give of ourselves. I get vulnerable. I create that open space to be able to do that. And that plants those seeds all over our community so that, again, together, you know, we can grow in the way that we want to.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Not to just parrot back all of your values to you, but I think the thing that’s first and foremost in front and center everywhere is that you support equity and justice above all. And I love hearing sort of some of the behind-the-scenes from people and how they’re actually running their business and what that looks like. Like, what are you trying to do different to really walk your talk as a business owner, not just in the services you’re providing, but in the way you actually run your business when you say you support equity and justice for all.

 

Meg Wheeler:

So we look at a few different areas. We look at externally what we’re providing, how we’re providing it, what we’re charging and how we’re engaging with our community. So kind of to the point I was just talking about, we’re constantly having conversations both internally and with our community about are we approaching this work from the right way? Are we framing this in the right perspective? Are we causing harm, which of course we never want to do, but sometimes happens and we need to understand that and address it. So that’s a really big piece of what we do. We also really focus on this when it comes to our team and we think about equitable hiring. We have, as much as is possible with a single business owner, we have a blind hiring process, so blind to a point. And we also focus on offering benefits that speak to wanting a more diverse group of folks. We offer education benefits. We offer a work-from-home stipend. We have flexible schedules, so we understand that people might be caregivers, that people might have disabilities that require a different schedule, and we’re very flexible with that. And then the other piece that we look at this through is where our money is going. So when we invest in either contractors or vendors or products, where are those going? And we track every single month the percentage of women-owned, the percentage of BIPOC-owned, we’ve been tracking the percentage of LGBTQIA-owned, which is really great to see those numbers go up every month both because we are making the intentional choice to look for resources, but also because in the online community, we’re seeing more of the tools that we use being started and created by marginalized folks. So it’s been really great to see that progression over the last few years.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Those are wonderful examples for people and the tracking of it is really important, I think, because it’s one thing to say you do something and then maybe even believe you’re doing it, but to really look again, going back to numbers, you like numbers, to really see what data do you have to support that. I’m going to ask you a question that you ask on your website, which I think we’ve really answered, but I’m going to give you a chance to kind of just summarize it, which is how do you want to use your money to disrupt the status quo?

 

Meg Wheeler:

This is a question that I think about, consciously or unconsciously or subconsciously, sometimes I feel like I’m unconscious, but subconsciously, every single day in pretty much every aspect of my life. And again, I want to address up front that I am able to do that because of the privilege I have. But every time I go to put my money into something. I’m thinking about what is the impact? What is the environmental impact? What is the impact on the communities that are affected by whatever this thing is? What’s the impact on my ability to continue to support my community? And so sometimes that looks like buying from a local business instead of a big business. I did quite a few Instagram story rants on breaking up with Bank of America, you know, for this very reason. It’s just being, being intentional in the choices that I’m making so that I can feel like I am, it doesn’t all end with me, that what we are creating then gets let out into the world and has that ripple effect of benefiting more people, more communities, more of society. And, you know, we talk about this a lot on the podcast, but that’s, in my opinion, really how we will get that change is for all of us to just keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing, and just keep putting it out into the world, what it is that we want to see until it’s all we see because it’s drowned out the inequity.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

And go back to season one and listen to Toi Marie Smith’s episode, because I think there’s some great questions in there, along with this question about how do you want to use your money to disrupt the status quo, especially for those with more privilege around money to really think about how to go from having these values to walking these values. I’m going to switch areas altogether for one last question before we go into the final things. Because you ran for office in 2020, I believe it was. You ran for State Senate in Massachusetts where you live against an incumbent Republican. Talk about really going up against it there. We think of Massachusetts as being very liberal, but there are plenty of Republican pockets of Massachusetts. So going up against a Republican incumbent. You lost, but not by a giant margin. I was like, I think it was like 55,000 votes for him and 45,000 votes for you-ish.

 

Meg Wheeler:

48.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

48,000 votes for you, I was close, which is great for, I think a first-time candidate against an incumbent. What did you learn through that experience? What made you want to run and what did you learn through it? And will you ever do it again?

 

Meg Wheeler:

Well, I did not know we were going to have a global pandemic. So, you know, that was, we announced our campaign in February and two weeks later, the world shut down. I wanted to run because… So yes, we are Massachusetts, but it’s actually for that reason that I wanted to run because in Massachusetts, there is this idea that we’re safe, we’re okay. Even in highly well-informed political circles, folks want to donate their time and their money to other states, other places that are the places to worry about. And they lose sight of what’s happening here in Massachusetts. And I think what’s probably happening in a lot of people’s states that aren’t on the news, which is we get complacent. So I ran against a Republican incumbent who, it was not a Trump Republican. He was not ranting and raving. He was not out there, you know, yelling against marginalized communities or anything like that. He was an ‘upstanding’ guy. I used air quotes for anybody listening, not watching. He wasn’t objectionable, you know, and that was so much harder because people can get really riled up when Roe gets overturned or when a Black man is smothered for eight minutes. But people don’t get really pissed off when foster kids in Massachusetts cannot get reproductive health care because there’s no legal person allowed to sign off for them. They have to go in front of a judge to get that health care. Nobody gets pissed off about that in Massachusetts. And that pissed me off. We’re also a state with very little transparency. The majority, actually super majority of the votes that our legislature takes in Massachusetts are not done by roll call. So we don’t know how our representatives are voting. Again, not a thing that people get pissed off about, but we should. Because it’s a huge problem when it comes down to some of these bills that are going to be split pretty close. And we just don’t know. We just don’t know how the people whose job it is to represent us are speaking up for us. So that’s why I decided to run. It was an incredible experience. I’m so glad I did. It was especially interesting running during a pandemic. Because our primary objective became making sure that the communities we wanted to serve were supported through that pandemic. You know, we started an online tip jar for folks who were out of their restaurant jobs, out of their service jobs, and needed a little bit of cash to get by. You know, we worked on getting information centers set up for people. We did a lot of webinars for folks to understand what was going on, both on the medical side of things, but also on the financial side. We were starting to see a lot of benefits come from there. What did that look like? And I think, yes, I lost, but to me it was a win because I live in a, we are technically a Democratic district, but we are a very moderate conservative Democratic district. And we had conversations about Black people being murdered by the police. That has never happened before on a public scale in our communities. We had conversations about things that were really uncomfortable for people. And we made it okay to talk about those things. And I think we’re still seeing the impacts of that to this day. So my encouragement to anyone who’s maybe thought about this is you don’t need to have years and years of political experience. You don’t need to have lots of money, although frustratingly in our society that is what buys elections. What you need is to understand that this job fundamentally is about being a voice for the people that you serve and having it in your heart to want to do that to make the lives of those people better. And I think everyone who has a thought about running should run because we need more people to run who have different experiences, different perspectives. And would I run again? Maybe. We’ll see.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I hope you do because clearly you have the passion, clearly you have the knowledge, and I think you’re what we need more of. So that’s my encouragement. I wish my state, which is not a blue state, would have more folks like you for me to choose from on the ballot. All right. Let’s wrap things up for this portion of our interview with an educator, a book, a podcast, an Instagram follow, a TikTok follow, someone that you learned from that’s been helpful for you in your journey, as you’ve been doing some of this liberatory work or that you just think is a great resource for people.

 

Meg Wheeler:

Well, this might be cheating a little bit, but it’s genuinely the first thing that came to my mind, which is to actually just get out and talk to people. I know that maybe doesn’t sound as easy as throwing a podcast on your phone, but there is so much to be learned from just having conversations with the people in your communities. You know, we can read all the books we want. Don’t read the ones written by white ladies who think they know how to solve this problem. And I think listening to podcasts is helpful because you can, especially the ones that do talk about more of the story side of things to share those perspectives. But you’re never gonna be able to have true change in your community if you don’t understand the issues in your community. And I also think it’s just so important for us to start having these conversations with each other, especially among white people, because these are not conversations we’ve had before, in many cases, and we need to be creating spaces where it’s okay for us to have these conversations and to make some missteps in these conversations and to push each other to work through those. So I don’t know, that’s actually my recommendation.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I wouldn’t have met you if I hadn’t just, you know, we aren’t reaching out and talking to people. So that’s great. And an organization that you support that you would like to shine a light on.

 

Meg Wheeler:

I’m going to cheat and do a couple, sorry. But let me just say right now, especially any organization working for reproductive healthcare is critical because despite the fact that we’re not talking about it as much as we were last year, it is still absolutely an issue. In fact, I will highlight one, which is a very niche one, but it’s called Elevated Access, which actually has volunteer pilots that fly people who need reproductive healthcare to where they can get that access. So that’s one I would highlight. I also just love Girls Who Code, which is, I don’t code. Computers scare me. Numbers don’t scare me, but computers scare me. But I love any organization that is working to get more women and more marginalized folks into these spaces that have historically been dominated by men. So whether it’s that organization or another one similar to that, I think they need our support.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I will be making a donation to each of these organizations then to say thank you for your time for being here and ask that listeners do the same. The links to them will be in the show notes. And before we end, I have one last question I have to ask you. You put it on your website, so this is done unto yourself. You said that you’ve kissed Zac Efron, so I have to know the story.

 

Meg Wheeler:

I have. So years and years ago when I was much younger, I went to a fashion show in Austin with some girlfriends and we snuck our way up into the VIP lounge, and we met this guy and he was young and cute and he, oh, he was adorable. He was like, I’m an actor and we’re like, oh, that’s so sweet. Maybe someday you’ll be somebody, you know? We had no idea. So I’ll let you imagine how the kissing happened. There was some alcohol involved. But the next day, my friend was showing the pictures to her, probably I don’t know, 14-year-old daughter at the time. And her daughter just started screaming. And she was like, what? What? And she’s like, he’s on. What is it? High School Musical? I didn’t watch it. It’s not of my generation. We had no idea. We thought he was just this, you know, we thought he was lying. We didn’t think he was really an actor. We thought he was like a wannabe actor. No idea. No idea. So yeah.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

That’s a good one to have in your back pocket, a nice little story to share with people. So thank you for telling us. All right, well, we’re going to pause this and have a separate conversation. We’re going to talk about how to reduce your tax bill, three tips for reducing your tax bill. So if that’s something you’re interested in and want to get the extras, then make sure you sign up for the Feminist Founders Newsletter. These little bonus things that we’re doing with these episodes, we’ll just be going to subscribers. The link to that is in the show notes. And thank you so much for your time, Meg. This has been amazing. Thank you.

 

Meg Wheeler:

Thank you.

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