A Different Conversation on Finances with Sofia Financial’s Stephanie McCullough

Money talk made stress free.

Stephanie McCullough is the Founder and CEO of Sofia Financial.

Sofia Financial creates a safe environment to speak about any concerns you have with your company's finances. A successful relationship means the client is happy with where and how their money is being handled. They work hard to maintain a confidential vibe to keep you confident and content.

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Welcome to The Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. I'm Josh Elledge, Founder and CEO of UpMyInfluence.com. We turn entrepreneurs into media celebrities, grow their authority, and help them build partnerships with top influencers. We believe that every person has a unique message that can positively impact the world. Stick around to the end of the show; we'll reveal how you can be our next guest on one of the fastest growing daily inspiration podcasts on the planet in 15 to 20 minutes. Let's go.

Alright with us right now we've got Stephanie McCullough. Stephanie, you are the founder and CEO of Sofia Financial, you started that back in 2011. And you serve an audience that I have a lot of love for this audience because it's the audience that I've served through savings Angel and that's women. So can you tell me A little bit about your kind of your superhero origin story.

I can. Um, so I started out as a financial advisor almost 23 years ago now, I joined my father's business when my husband and I moved back to Philly to have a family and be near the grandparents. And I got into the financial advisor wills and I kind of thought, Oh, dear, this is not for me, because I'm not a natural born salesperson. And I don't have an MBA, right? That's kind of the image that I had. And luckily, we had a bunch of retirement plans that we serviced, so I became the point person on the 403 b plan, which is the retirement plan at a hospital. And as you probably know, the majority of employees at a hospital or women, I was meeting one on one with employees all the time and I found so many women who had outsourced the financial decisions to a man in her life who may or may not have done a good job, or who found the whole topic, just super overwhelming and kind of bought into the societal message that women aren't good at this stuff, which is baloney. Or they had been really poorly served by usually a man in the financial advisory industry. And so that kind of just bolstered me think you know what? Darn it that makes me angry. There's a need here. And then so in 2011, I hung out my shingle and decided I'm going to start Sofia financial Sophia, meaning wisdom in Greek to try to help have a different conversation about the money stuff with women.

Yeah. And so Stephanie, was was there music? Was it hard to start your own financial planning a brand?

You know, I had such hesitancy for so long. When I worked at the hospital, people would say, oh, can't you just help me with my IRA? And I push them away? I'm like, No, no, just go to Vanguard, you'll be fine. You know, I was I was the anti salesperson. So that was my biggest Roadblock, I would say and I actually worked with a business development coach for a few years and I kind of came around, you know, the more I just put it out there and talk about what I do. You know, your people, my people find me. So I've kind of gotten over that fear of selling something because it has a negative connotation and a lot of people do the strong arm tactics, which I really just hate.

Oh, gosh, well, and today is just so not necessary. You know, I any car dealer that's still doing that kind of stuff. I'm really surprised in car dealers always get the Best Rap on us car sales techniques, right? I am gonna have to talk to my manager. But you know, but that true coat, you know,

oh my gosh, the last car I bought, the guy asked me if I was bringing my husband to the test drive. And I said no, I'm bringing my children.

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So, okay, so you you launch Sofia financial and where do you find new business?

You know, I love speaking to women's groups. I talk about things like the human side. money and money survival skills. And really My mission is to spread the word as widely as possible that women completely are capable of making wise financial decisions. We don't have to be experts, you don't have to have an MBA. So when I speak to women's groups, you know, inevitably there's somebody in the audience who has been looking for some objective advice. I do a lot of networking with local women's groups out there, I try to be you know, I try to be putting out useful content. And, you know, people stumble across me. So, it's been, it's been great.

And what do you do today, Stephanie to I mean, obviously, you have a really decent book of business at this point, but, you know, is it just networking or what what, besides networking is your is your magic or what what do you do to kind of stay visible?

Yeah, I have to say, just not to disagree with you, but I do hate that expression, the book of business. I know I don't forgive terminology. No, no, no, but but you know, I think People use it and you know, it, to me loses the fact that the clients are actually human beings. Yeah. Yeah, you know, lots of it really started out with lots of in person networking. And I think it's it's transitioned more and more over the years to online stuff, you know, being active in various groups that I'm a part of and, and trying to provide value right. I have started doing a couple years ago now I started doing Facebook live videos the first of every month, just kind of popping in trying to talk for a few minutes on something helpful. And that gains visibility.

Yeah, being onto podcasts. I'm going to start my own podcast later in the year, just trying to get out there and put as much helpful information out in the world as possible. So you talk about going out and being helpful as opposed to Well, I'm just gonna pay for a bunch of ads and and yeah, and share average. Oh, you just made a face. So tell me tell me about your philosophy on that.

Yeah. I don't know the ads feel. Number one, they feel like Oh, you got a lot of money to buy a fancy ad in a magazine. Um, and they don't they're not as targeted. Maybe as I as I would want to be, you know, lots of people have belonged to those like BSI groups, the networking group where you half you're required to bring in nouns for the other member. And people have said, Oh, you should join a DNI chapter. And I think, I don't really want all comers. Right. My clients are specific kind of demographic. Yeah. And a specific kind of psychological profile meaning, or psychographic, or whatever you call it, you know, yeah, usually a woman 40 Plus, who is a professional in a professional capacity in some way, who really kind of wishes she didn't have to worry about this stuff. You know, money is not the most important thing. It's what this money can do for me in my life and my family, and what I want to create.

Yes, there's this whole body of research out there. It's really kind of the bringing together of economics, right? Traditional economic theory said that human beings are perfectly rational. And every financial decision they make is a cool, you know, unemotional weighing the pros and cons of every decision. And along came some, some, you know, really wise people. The name is escaping me, but there's a guy who won the Nobel Prize for this in economics, but he was a psychologist. And he brought the wisdom of psychology to the study of economics to say, you know what, human beings aren't completely rational when making financial decisions. So there's been tons of research and my favorite book title is by Dan Ariely. He's a professor at Duke University. The book is called predictably irrational. Yeah. So not only are human beings irrational about money, we are irrational in predictable ways. And that's to me where the big learnings come in I love to share that knowledge with audiences. And you can see the whole group kind of be like, Oh, it's on a character flaw that I bounced a check. Last year, or that I tend to spend too much money on shoes, that would be me. You know, there, there's a lot of psychological and biological stuff going on.

Wow. So how can someone begin to identify when they are making sub optimal decisions based on emotion rather than what they probably should be doing?

Yeah. And I think that that's the key that you just mentioned start to recognize right start to become aware of it. That's the first key is kind of realizing the stories we're telling ourselves in our heads. One example is something called mental accounting. And this is, you know, the behavioral finance really is a study of kind of the biases we have and these mental shortcuts we take. So mental accounting is this concept that even though we know intellectually, that $1 is $1 is $1. And every single dollar can do the same thing for us. However, we tend to value different dollars in different ways. Right? The other day, I put on my favorite pair of jeans. And there was a $10 bill in the pocket. I was like, Whoa, extra money free money. Right? And I might do something with that $10 that I wouldn't do if I had to pull it out of my bank account, even though it's still $10 Yeah, or, you know, they've done studies for students when they gave them $25. And half the students, they said, this is a rebate on your tuition. Yeah. And the other half, they said, this is a bonus for you for doing something great. And the people who saw it as a rebate on tuition, were like 75% less likely to go spend, right, the people who saw it as kind of extra free money. And so, right, you don't

Yeah, I know that. You know, they they have, you know, in the consumer world rebates in particular. So whatever the value is, typically is associated with the amount of redemption. So if you're talking like a $1 rebate, even though people buy The $3 product and say, Oh, well, I'm only spending $2 because I'm gonna get this $1 rebate. If it's a $1 rebate, the redemption rate, it's about 1% it's that bad. Yeah. So what happened, what ends up what ends up happening is people buy the thing. And then they kind of look around. They're like, it's it's too much work to, you know, have to like, do copy of the receipt. And then I got to fill out this form and they rebate people like that. Again, we don't do rebates as often now today, but they intentionally make you jump through a bunch of hoops, so that you won't go through all the work for the dollar. And even though when you buy it in your mind, you're thinking, Oh, it's only $2, not $3 because of the rebate. Yeah, it's very, very common. So one of the things I would have to just teach people is like, Listen, if you're going to go for it, do not go for it unless you are absolutely committed to keeping that form, you know, on a magnet on your fridge or on your bathroom mirror or something usually not get to put that thing away until you get it filed. And you got to note in big, bold letters, what your deadline is, otherwise, I promise you, you are not going to redeem that thing. I know you think you're going to redeem it, you won't, you know, and so, yeah, people. So marketers know people better than people know, people. Absolutely.

The marketers know, all this stuff. They know all the psychological things that go on in our minds, even if we're not aware of it. So that's what I think people could do to arm themselves is start start to become aware of some of these things.

Yeah, you know, even in sales as well. So we talked about, you know, going to a car lot and, you know, if you think that you're going to be able to go to a car lot and negotiate just as effectively, as someone who has been doing this their whole life possibly, and they've studied, you know, you know, millions and billions of dollars of marketing research and like, how To get people to take action, you are not on even footing my friend, if you think you are, you know, you're you're joking. So you have to know that going in there in advance. And so what are the things that you can do? So, you know, we see the same thing in business, you know, and again, we have our own mental blocks in business and in revenue generation, and we think a certain thing, but and we're being ignorant to maybe perhaps what the market is telling us and because we are just too close to the thing, like you cannot, you know, the expression, you can't see the forest from the trees, you're in it, you need an outside expert, who can see things a little bit more rationally, objectively, and is just looked at this type of process over and over and over again, and because they listen, I can point out exactly what you're doing here because I see a lot of other people doing it and and if you think that you have that level of objectivity in your business, You're again, you just you just don't. And so so Stephanie, I know that, you know, you probably work with some business owners as well, right?

I do for sure. And one of the things that I think we get caught in is another concept of behavioral finance called anchoring. So it's this idea that we get stuck kind of on a fact, or in the finance side a number. And we have a hard time letting go of it. Right. The classic example is selling a house, maybe, you know, you paid for this house 10 years ago, and the market really has deteriorated, but you kind of you're stuck long, like no, I have to get my money back out of that house. Right. So on the way I see anchoring affecting business owners is on the pricing of their services, right. I have so many, especially women, business owners, who underpriced themselves out there in the market, and maybe they've got 20 years experience and then there's a new kid on the block with two years experience charging, you know, 50% more than they're charging, but they it's so hard for me to talk to them. into increasing their prices, because it feels selfish or because it feels like oh my gosh, how can I go from charging $100 an hour to $150 an hour? Because they're anchored in that previous number?

No. And so can you talk just a little bit more we did we have chatted already, but to share maybe some more of your discoveries or your you know, in your experience, particularly as it comes to gender, and, and help me as as a man, and I'll tell you, like, I've got my own company, I think Voronoi I have two contractors that are male, everybody else in this company, this company, this company is basically female run. I just do the I just do that. I just talked to people on podcasts. That's all I do.

But you show up and they tell you to.

Yeah, no. So as a leader maybe, or as a CEO, or you know, coworker, like one of the things that we could all maybe do a little bit better mail and Female, maybe to understand some of the gender related issues as it relates to, you know, either, you know, kind of working or finances that sort of thing.

Yeah, there's so many of them. Um, you know, one of the things I always say to women is, you don't have to know all the answers. You have to know the questions to ask and have the guts to ask them. Because I think especially women, and I'm sure there's men, too, who kind of get stuck in this idea of Oh, if I, if I ask a question about the retirement plan, or the benefits or whatever it might be. I'm going to show that I don't know. You know, I'm going to reveal I know that feels vulnerable to admit that I don't know this stuff, right. And I always push back on people. How the heck are we supposed to know? We were not taught this stuff. Very few people I've ever spoken to have had a personal finance class in school. Maybe they had accounting but that's not personal finance. Most of our families did not talk openly about money or if they did, you know, it was maybe not the best messages. And then the other bit about the families is that I've talked to, you know, women who took a certain message out of their family of origin, but their sibling took the exact opposite opposite message, right? So there's all kinds of weird stuff that we pick up stories we tell ourselves about money from our families. And then the third piece is we're not allowed to talk about it with our friends. Right? I definitely got that message very explicitly. When I was a kid, it is rude. Talk about money. Yeah. Right. You don't ask someone what they make. You don't ask them how much they spent on that car. Right? You don't talk about it. So how are we supposed to to know we have to kind of demystify things and D stigmatize talking about money.

I love that, you know, if we, you know, money is no longer a taboo subject I you know, we can talk about it as freely as we talk about, you know, movies, you know, or so. 30 news or whatever it is, yeah, they could get I think that's gonna be a great day.

Yes, exactly, exactly. So then if we're in this situation where we don't know as much as we feel like we should, then I think we have to give ourselves the comfort level of asking the questions. Right. Okay. You just use the term right there. I don't think I understand what that term means. Can you explain it to me? And maybe this comes with age, you know, I'm over 50 now. So I've, I'm comfortable asking the questions and revealing, you know, what, I don't know anymore. But I would encourage people do that as soon as possible. You know, don't worry about what it says about you to someone else worry about, you know, getting as much information as you need to make a good decision.

So Stephanie, with Sophia financial, and it's SF i a financial.com. What would be some great ways that people could kind of get to know you and the services you provide? Is there anything that people could kind of download or do for free with

you? Sure. Absolutely. On my website, the Sophia financial calm under the blog, there's both things I've written as well as videos that I have done. I've taken to doing Facebook live videos the first day of every month I call them rabbit, rabbit. Because when I was a kid, if we believe that if we said rabbit, rabbit, the first thing the first day of the month, we'd have good luck. So I don't know, that came to me one day. But you know, I think there's a lot of information there. It would give people an idea of kind of my approach to things and how I view things. I'm on the social medias. I try to post when I'm on other podcasts or have been quoted in articles. So I think hopefully, you know, I'm an open book, people can can see me before they reach out. There's also you know, I'm happy to talk to anybody free for 2030 minutes. There's a scheduling link on my website.

Fantastic. Well, Stephanie McCullough, you are the founder of Sofia Financial, and the CEO. I want to thank you so much for this conversation, important points. And I'm so glad that you joined us today. Thanks It was fun.

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