Updated: May 9
Kriti: [00:00:00] Hey guys, welcome to WhyFI Matters!
Today, I'm really excited because we're going to be covering a lot of topics such as entrepreneurship, but also FinTech. And we'll be taking a look into the career of my guests today, LaToya Westbrooks.
I met LaToya last year, virtually of course, while preparing for a speaking engagement at GirlCon Chicago, which is a conference empowering women and tech.And I talked about FinTech there and LaToya was able to offer guidance, on this topic, which I frankly did not know much about at the time. And, also do a little Q and A at the end of my presentation, which was pretty cool. So I'm excited that for all of you guys listening, you will now be able to learn a little bit from her.
So a little background on LaToya. She is currently working full-time as a user experience researcher at Facebook. She is also running her own business called "Weathly", where she helps millennials and Gen Z and minority groups with personal finances and is really working towards removing the stigma surrounding money and making it a less daunting experience for people.
She has been working in the banking and financial tech industry for over 15 years. And I'm excited to learn more about her and about her career path and more about how she's able to have multiple streams of income through being a UX researcher, an entrepreneur of course, and a woman in FinTech.
I hope you enjoy the interview.
Hi, LaToya. Thank you so much for coming on WhyFI Matters today!
It's great to talk to you again, and I'm excited to learn more about your extensive career and FinTech and also your career as an entrepreneur.
LaToya: [00:01:59] Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here.
Kriti: [00:02:03] Yeah. So can you tell the listeners a little bit more about yourself when you were a teenager?
LaToya: [00:02:10] Oh, yes. I remember those years. Don't worry guys. I'm not that old. Um, I mean, high school was pretty fun for me. I remember, I was a really involved student. I was in a lot of organizations.
I went to school for the performing arts, so I was in dance. I was a varsity cheerleader. I was in. Business club law club, just, um, and a lot of different activities. But I do remember in high school that math was always my favorite subject. Like I remember even in middle school, I took more math classes that was necessary and did the same thing in high school. I think I was like a year or two ahead , than all my peers at my same grade level when I was in high school.
Kriti: [00:02:58] So do you think that this love of math made you also love finances and money ?
LaToya: [00:03:05] I think initially I didn't realize that the two were like related. What I loved about math is the calculation part. Like not knowing something straight, struggling through it, figuring it out. I loved problem solving. But personal finance, I sort of dove into once I got to college. It is different in terms of just solving for math versus like understanding how personal finances work with like the lifestyle. But I do think obviously there was some type of correlation between like me not being afraid of the numbers and being able to like break it down and to, um, I guess like a way that made it like easy to digest.
Kriti: [00:03:47] That makes sense. A lot of people find math scary, so maybe for you it less daunting. But also I think you bring up a great point about problem solving. So I think that's really cool.
So were money and finances ever discussed openly inside your house, because there's obviously a huge issue where finances is not transparent. So kids don't really know what's happening. It's all happening behind closed doors.
LaToya: [00:04:16] I would say maybe around middle school or high school that, certain aspects of personal finance was spoken about in my household. So I remember I started my first job in eighth grade. And I worked during tax season at a family friend's accounting office. And so I, that was my first paycheck. but I just remember, I just like had people signed for the tax refund check and I would check IDs and log them into the system. So almost like a front desk receptionist, but also like when people like with their, passing out their refund checks. But this is before like direct deposit, obviously.
But like I remember growing up, like my, my mom, she taught me how to pay bills. She told me to pay bills on time. She told me to save. I do remember her talking about like, not spending more than what you're bringing in and things of that sort. But, in my household, we did not talk about like debt management. We did not talk about how to use credit to your benefit. It was more of like, don't use credit cards. Like credit cards are like stay away, which is not the case. there's a way to use them, just use them properly. And we also didn't talk about investing , all aspects of investing. But I later realized that's because my, my parents and grandparents and extended family, they themselves, weren't investing. So like how could they talk to me or teach me about something that they weren't doing themselves?
Kriti: [00:05:45] I think it's great that you were still kind of having discussions. But investing is definitely becoming kind of a trend. Like, I feel like a lot of millennials are all like investing in things and like, like there's apps for kids to learn how to invest. So. I wonder if maybe there was an app back then it would be more accessible for people whose parents don't know how to invest, to maybe learn about investing. So to bridge. Yeah.
LaToya: [00:06:14] sure. If there was technology, the technology that we have now, if that was available back then, or just even, even easily assessable, like it is on our phone, a lot different.
Kriti: [00:06:25] And we're, we're gonna talk more about this later in the podcast, but I think that's a good point.
So why is financial independence important to you?
LaToya: [00:06:36] Yeah, so for me, and it's really not about, um, I'm not passionate about money. I. I'm not even passionate about making money. For me, it's important because of the flexibility and option that money provides. And so that's why personal finance is important to me.
So I love having the option to travel when I want to, obviously this is pre COVID. Being able to support different nonprofit organizations or charities when I want to. Being able to help a family member or friend out financially, if they're in a bind , and you know, being able to not have that financial anxiety that comes with paying bills or being tight for cash. And I think that's what I love about , personal finance, like the, the freedom. Yeah.
Kriti: [00:07:34] Yeah. And, um, I feel like a lot of people think that if you're like into money or if you want to be able, or if you want to be financially independent, they might associate that with being rich or just being hungry for money. But it's not a lot of people are financially independent. It's not like they live in mansions and castles and things like that. It's just, they're really smart about their money. And they're able to sort of make money, work for them in a way that suits what they want and like their lifestyle. But I think that's a really important.
So how did you even get interested in personal finances? Because, it's a boring subject to a lot of people. I know it's something that I'm very much interested in learning about but it's very boring. So how were you ever interested in this and why did you want to make this a career of yours?
LaToya: [00:08:30] Yeah. So I think it's funny that you said it was boring because I remember when I got into personal finance and entrepreneurship , it was around the same time. Um, when I was 18 years old. And then maybe like two years later when I was 20, I got into real estate because I actually was a mortgage broker when I was in college. Um, I know. Right. Crazy.
So what got me into it initially? My high school. Um, and I'm originally from Miami, Florida. I went to Dr. Michael Krop, senior high school , for dance. I trained in ballet and modern, but there were a lot of, uh, rich kids at my school . And I just remember that the student parking lot looked better than the teacher's parking lot. All right. Like, I just remember it.
Kriti: [00:09:19] So such an interesting observation.
LaToya: [00:09:23] Crazy. So like, I I'm looking at the teacher and it was like two different parking lots. Cause they were on each, on two different sides of the school. Like, so teacher parking was in the front of the school and the student parking lot was in the back of the school. So in the front of the school, um, I just don't remember. There were like, A lot of cars that were like run down, beat down, like older cars. Like, I mean, there were a few like some like nice cars, but for the most part, it was like really run down. And then you went to the student parking lot and it was like, back then I'm really aging myself back then it was like Hummers,which, no one drives anymore. Um, BMWs Lexus, Mercedes, like all these, like, I mean it just sports cars, Mustangs.
I was like, yeah. Um, well, welcome to Miami life. Um, so that was our, our student parking lot. And I just remember like speaking to one of my friends who had a luxury car. And I was like, what does your parents do? Because that, this is not my story. Right? So like, my family is not from the us. My family is from the Bahamas, which is a Caribbean Island. So I'm like a child of an immigrant. So I did not have a luxury car. I think I had a Toyota Corolla when I was like a junior in high school. But, so I would speak to my friends who did have this luxury car, and I would like, what are your parents do? Like, how are you guys living this lifestyle that I wasn't exposed to?
And it was a lot of if their parent wasn't like a doctor or a lawyer. A lot of their parents were like business owners , with a lot of their parents were investors like that just kept coming up. I guess I was like tapping into my research skills even back then. And everyone was like, Oh yeah, they do this but they also invest invest. But like that just kept coming up. Um, that was my first introduction to it.
Kriti: [00:11:13] Yeah, no, even nowadays, a lot of the kids who are more wealthy in my school. All of their parents are investors . I think that's really, it's a really interesting observation that you made.
LaToya: [00:11:26] Yeah. So being an entrepreneurship really stuck out to me, my, Senior year in high school, and then it kind of propelled my direct with you. Yeah, I got to college. Yeah.
Kriti: [00:11:37] So what are some of the ways , that we can achieve financial independent?
LaToya: [00:11:44] First of all, I think people need to understand what is it that they want in their life? Once you figured that out, then you could determine what is it that you need to do to make whatever that income is to live that lifestyle. Right. So for everyone, it's going to be different. Like there's some people who don't need a lot of money. They're fine, you know, living a certain way. They're fine. taking a trip a year or no trips at all. Maybe they want to just live like very earthly and then there's like, people who have different situations. Like they need to make , a certain amount of money to not only support themselves, but maybe also support a younger sibling or help their parents out or help their grandparents out . And of course, like whoever's listening to your high school, this might not be your situation. But like once you get to college, you'll like, I remember wanting to go on spring break trips with my friends. every single spring break. So the first year I didn't, but then when I saw like, this is what people do, I was like, okay, I need to like, either make some money during my summer internship or save more because like, spring break was like a thing we did right every year when I was new grad. Yeah. And so I think people just need to understand, like, what is it that you want and they'll come over time.
Kriti: [00:13:02] I guess for teenagers, we, like my life that I envision when I'm like older. I want to live in like New York and do all of these crazy, like amazing fancy things. But also I want to, you know, stay grounded. I don't wanna like, be like a list famous or anything like that. I don't know what career path want to do yet.
And then a lot of teens, a experience like lifestyle creep, where they're living like a certain life now, like right now my parents say pay for all my food. They pay for my clothes and all of that. But then when I get into college, they're not going to be paying for all of this. And yeah. Our old lifestyles creep upon us when we're older. And we find ourselves in this very strange situation.
LaToya: [00:13:46] Yeah. I mean, you'll figure it out along the way. Like I remember when I was in high school, my parents , definitely took care of everything financially. And even though I had a part-time job, I think I used all that money for like senior activities or like to go out with friends, movie sinners, get my nails done and things like that. Um, and it wasn't after my freshman year, my mom was like, no more. Like, you need to figure it out. I'm going to have grants and scholarships that took care of like tuition and books. But I still, again, like I was very social in college, and I still am to this day. So I had to get like a part-time job to supplement, like the fun things I wanted to do. Yeah. Um, that was important to me, but I think as you get older, like you wanting to move to New York city, it can be very realistic, but I knew. It is, it can be depending on the industry that you go into after college.
Most of my internships were in Florida and then right into my senior year , I went to like this conference for like college students in business. And I met all these interns from New York and my God, they were just so polished. so on point, um, just knew their stuff and I was like, I gotta get to New York. And so I just spent that whole year applying to some internships. And I finally got one. So right before my senior year, I had messed up an internship in New York and I knew that's where I want it to be one. It's the financial capital. And I love the pace of the city. And I ended up getting a full-time offer after my summer internship, like by October of my senior year in college. And I've been in New York since I've been in New York for like the last 12 years when I came here right after college. And I'm still here. So. It's it is realistic. If so, anyone who's listening, who was like, okay, I want to, you know, study abroad on, um, college after college and New York, LA London, Miami, Chicago, if you want to live there like any big city, I think you just have to have a game plan. and if you want to live a certain lifestyle, if you're not getting support for your families, then you have to figure out which career is going to pay you enough to live that lifestyle.
Kriti: [00:16:00] So tell us are about your really, really interesting career path. I feel like you've done. You've been in a lot of different businesses. You've worked in different places. You're an entrepreneur. So tell us about this.
LaToya: [00:16:15] I know it's so crazy. Um, because. Like my mom and my grandmother and my dad, like they have been in the same like career and professional company for like over 20 years. And here I am like, no, think I'm crazy, but I mean, I, it's not that I just jump around. Like I jump around when it makes sense. Yeah, well, was the purpose when it was time for me to transition. So my first job out of college, I worked in banking and we did city group now talk city. Um, I got into like a management development training program. So it's like a two year rotational program. So I think I had either two or three rotations. And it's basically when you work on different teams , to support them. And they're like maybe after six months or nine months, you rotate to a different team. So I did that for two years. but while I was there, it was like corporate finance and. And find it's a such a like big pop. Yeah. It's so I didn't realize that. Right. Like I went to, I majored in finance. I did all these internships, but finance is broad. Like there's so many different aspects of it. So those two years, I, I loved the salary. I loved the people, but I'd hated the word polished, like, Oh my God. Bored to tears. Um, so I was like, this is not it. And I was like, and I was like mid office. Like I worked on the trading floor and I did like, operations and swaps and derivatives, very, very technical finance that I can't even remember right now. I mean, you guys can probably tell I'm a chatty person. I'm very social. And I needed something where I could interact with people, which led me to JP Morgan, where I was a banker. And, my clients were wealthy clients. I mean, I had clients who had like, over. At least over like $25 million in assets, like, or right. It was like the first time I ever like. Met wealthy people. And that's really like where I learned a lot of my personal finance skills is just having wealthy people as my clients.
Kriti: [00:18:37] Yeah. Learning from them.
LaToya: [00:18:38] learning from them, asking them questions to helping them with their accounts, studying them. I I was at JP for like five and a half years. Um, I also learned about business finance while I was there. Cause I had a few promotions and um, I was a business banker, so it got to deal with wealthy businesses , for awhile. And my office was on the upper East side of New York. So if you haven't been to New York, the upper East side is like Beverly.
Kriti: [00:19:04] I like know it well, I've been to New York several times, but In the past, like three years I haven't been. And I feel like my conscience has developed in the past three years of my life. More like, I know more things. So all I know of the upper East side is gossip girls.
LaToya: [00:19:23] I used to watch that show. Yes. That's where my office was. I haven't watched a show in a while though. I need to probably be watching it. Um, so I did that. And then while I was at JP. Um, I decided that I decided two things. I decided that I wanted to have my own business, and finance, but then also I knew that I wanted to significantly increase my income. Because I had like a strategy of things I wanted to do. Um, and then I also wanted flexibility. Cause when I was in JP, I was like wearing suits every day with like a Pearl necklace and my heels. It was like very stuffy. And my boyfriend at the time, my fiance now he was like going to work in like shorts and sneakers and he worked in tech and he would like, Oh, I'm going out of town for the weekend. The whole company is going on a camping trip and I'm like, And he like works from home twice a week and I was the soo jealous, Oh, what does this live? Like, Oh, I'm so mad. I'm like working every day in a suit and is like intense. And I have to go to work because it banking don't work remotely. It's just. So date, it is so dated and, um, that's what led me into FinTech financial technology.
Kriti: [00:20:44] Yeah. I mean, now you can work from your house. You can work on your computer, through FinTech, you know?
LaToya: [00:20:51] Yeah. Yes, exactly. Yeah.
Kriti: [00:20:55] Yeah. That's a super cool path. So for any people listening, you can go one direction and another direction, as long as you kind of have a method to your madness, I guess.
LaToya: [00:21:07] Yeah, I didn't want to go down my whole career history, but like after I worked at a FinTech company called betterment based in New York and after that I had like three more roles in tech.
Um, and now I work a full time at Facebook in addition to running my own business. So like, if any. But yeah, here is listening, making, like check out my LinkedIn page to get like the full review of my career journey
Kriti: [00:21:30] I'll drop it down in the episode description for people who are listening. But I think this is a great transition into entrepreneurship specifically.
So tell us about your "Wealth Building Wednesdays" and how this eventually led to your business "Wealthly".
LaToya: [00:21:49] So I started wealth building Wednesday, when I was working at betterment. I just saw such a discrepancy, a huge gap, a wealth gap, and understanding when it came to investing between like, those who were wealthy and those were not wealthy, I would say gender as well. So like men versus women. And then I would say like race and ethnicity, where I just saw a lot of underrepresented minority, so , um, immigrants. A lot of my clients who were like from immigrant backgrounds, like first generation here, there was just like a big gap. And so I was just frustrated me that I knew people who knew how to invest and. And we're comfortable investing. And then these groups that I just mentioned, they will like lose $10 in the market and want to close their accounts. . They're like hurting themselves and their future financially and their children's futures, because if they're scared to invest, they're not going to teach their kids. And it just continues generation on generation. That was the reason why I started wealth building Wednesday. It was just a way for me to share financial advice and personal finance advice to my family and friends. And it just really took off. I would like pose a question or a tip and would get like 20 to 30 comments and like 10 to 15 reshare. It just really, really took off. And then I like launched the business in 2019
Kriti: [00:23:19] so what would be your why behind Wealthly?
LaToya: [00:23:23] I was so tired of people being turned off about personal finance. Like they probably would like hire a financial advisor and a financial advisors, so pushy that it turns people off. And so then people just like, I don't want to invest at all. So my, why was just like, I just want to see people thrive financially. I don't want people to have financial anxiety or stress. , I'm really good at, helping people and coaching them and having them exacute their goals. So that was the real reason why I started Wealthly and that's still the reason to this day.
Kriti: [00:23:59] So what would be your mission at Wealthly?
LaToya: [00:24:04] My mission is to help millennials and generation Z, um, and couples like reach their financial goals through support technology , and accountability. So people fall off because they don't have a strategy and they have no one holding them accountable. So then they don't execute. And so I'm really good about like executing goals and stick with that.
Kriti: [00:24:31] Disciplined with it. Um, so I think it's interesting that you coach also both you coach individuals and you also coach couples. And can you tell us why you started coaching couples as well?
LaToya: [00:24:45] Yeah. So when I was a banker at JP, I just saw a lot of engaged couples and married couples and people who've been dating for awhile, like either break up or end up in divorce or their finances. And for me who like I've been studying personal finance and business and entrepreneurship since I was like 18, I just couldn't understand why are people arguing so much over money that it caused them to break up and get a divorce? If I just did not get it? Obviously, cause I'm like, it's just so easy for me to understand. ,so that, that was the reason why I was like, I want to really help couples and not only just individuals, because I just like, there needs to be less divorces. and like when you look up the reasons why people get divorced, a lot of people think it would be because of adultery, like people having an affair and that's really not. Number one. Number, number one is finances.
Kriti: [00:25:40] That's crazy.
LaToya: [00:25:42] Isn't it? Isn't that crazy. Like people will forgive someone for having an affair, but like the money is like the number one thing, people arguing with that.
Kriti: [00:25:51] there's that negative connotation surrounding it, like it's being posed as the villain.
LaToya: [00:25:55] Yeah. So that's, that was I, um, I'm not gonna be like, Oh, I just want divorces to end, but really I just was like, it's so sad. Cause it's like my parents divorced. I don't think it was, I'm not sure I was younger. if I can like prevent families from divorcing and affecting them. Their children because of money. Like why not add that?
Kriti: [00:26:16] I think that's really amazing, everything you're doing at Wealthly.
you have two online programs currently, in addition to like your sessions with people, right? So, tell us about some of the takeaways from your two programs, which are called money matters and money mindset. And what do these two programs offer?
LaToya: [00:26:41] Yeah. So money mindset is my foundational program. So it's like eCourse number one. And that's where someone who's just really getting started. Or maybe you are like, you've been down this journey, you fell off a little. Now you're trying to get back on the wagon.
And so in that. Program. I teach people about budgeting and how to build an emergency savings account and , money management and like how, you know, improve your credit and like the finance basics. Money matters , which is my second e-course is where I will go a little deeper. So that's where I talk to people about investing ,