Nicole Lapin on Boss Moves, Budgeting—and Why She Loves Talking About Her Financial Fails
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Consult Urban Dictionary, and you’ll learn that a “boss bitch” is “a successful, independent woman who knows what she wants…stands up for what she believes in…and will not stop until she’s satisfied.” Given the definition, “Boss Bitch” is a fitting title for Nicole Lapin’s new book.

At 33, Lapin’s resume already includes anchor positions at CNN and CNBC and a best-selling first book, “Rich Bitch.” She’s also host of the CW’s business competition show “Hatched” and runs her own production company.

We talked to Lapin about her #1 career tip, biggest money mistake—and why you shouldn’t feel guilty about the occasional Starbucks splurge.

How did you get your start in the finance industry?

I came from a broken home, so I needed to work early on and was laser-focused on getting a J-O-B. I was offered a [reporting] position on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile, [a financial exchange], when I was 18, and I was super scared. I knew nothing about business news.

What I realized is that finance is just a language, [and] it’s actually not that complicated. If you’re in China and you don’t speak Chinese, you’ll be super confused. If you’re on the floor of the exchange and you don’t speak the language of money, you’ll be confused. So I started learning the language. Once I figured it out, I wanted to be the Rosetta Stone and teach it to others.

What money lessons did you learn growing up?

As a first generation American, like a lot of immigrants’ kids, I grew up thinking everything has to do with cash—I didn’t have a great concept of what credit and mortgages were…I figured things out at the school of hard knocks, and I got myself in a lot of trouble.

In my book, I talk about my failures way more than my successes because those are most instructive. My goal is to reach my former self—the girl who was really clueless about finance and business—and felt left out. I’m hoping to fill that void.

What’s your best money advice for people who are just starting out?

Get a spending plan together. Break it down into the three Es: essentials, extras and end game. Seventy percent of your overall budget should go to essentials: housing, transportation, food, all the stuff you need to live on every day. Fifteen percent should go to extras: the latte, yoga class, whatever makes you excited. Fifteen percent should go to the end game [or savings goals]: your future self, your retirement, your vacation. Create savings accounts and name them so you know exactly what you’re saving for.

I argue for the morning latte because it [makes sticking to a budget] more sustainable… If you allow yourself small indulgences, you won’t end up splurging on something super expensive later on.

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What was the biggest financial mistake you made? 

Not talking to a significant other about money. The math that has to do with business and finance is easy-peasy—something a fifth grader could do. It’s the humanities part that’s most complicated, whether you’re talking to friends about borrowing money, talking to your significant other or getting into business with a family member. Financial infidelity is one of the biggest causes of breakups and divorce.

You have to align your financial and family goals. They don’t need to be the same; they just need to be compatible.

How about your best financial decision?

I got myself in $5,000 of credit card debt when I started my career. The best thing I did to tackle that was prioritize and pulverize: I ranked my debt from the highest to lowest interest rate; then I broke it down. Five thousand seems like a boatload of money, but [when I calculated the daily amount to pay it off], that felt more manageable.

Your new book focuses on how to be a confident boss. Is there one trait in particular that can help you take charge of your career?

The key is to be self-aware. Figure out the things you’re good at, brand yourself and outsource the stuff that you don’t know.

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