Thursday, February 20, 2020

Gaceta Latina – A semesterly Glance at University of Houston Downtown (UHD) Center for Latino Studies – Fall 2019

I participated at the 2nd. Annual Mentor-Mentee mixer. Latina Professionals Invest in the Next generation of Leaders: This event offer UHD students the opportunity to meet professional, entrepreneurs and community leaders.

I was so proud to be invited to hear Selena Garcia Palacios when she addressed the Board of Regents of the University of Houston system. Her words were so powerful! It was a privilege to mentored you and see your academic success. Wishing you the best at your Graduate studies in social work and law!

Soledad Tanner, MIB

Monday, February 17, 2020

Why Are We So Afraid to Talk About Money?


Written by: By  Arianna Huffington, Thrive Global Founder & CEO (Sponsored By Discover)


Introducing Thriving Wallet, in partnership with Discover.

Money is never just about money. Our finances are more than a collection of numbers. Money is deeply connected to our physical health, our mental health, our work, our families, how we feel about ourselves and how we think about our future. It’s no surprise that money is the number one source of stress in our lives. So why are we so afraid to talk about it? Why does even thinking about a subject that touches every aspect of our lives cause stress for so many? And why is the cultural conversation about money so relentlessly negative and judgmental?

We need to redefine the discussion around financial health. And that’s why I’m so thrilled to announce the launch of Thriving Wallet, in partnership with Discover. Our mission is to help you pursue your goals with less financial stress and more joy, empowering you to focus on what matters to you most. On Thriving Wallet, you’ll find everything you need to build healthy money habits, take immediate action for positive change, nurture your financial health and reframe your relationship with money.

And we couldn’t have a more suitable partner. Discover is deeply committed to helping people achieve brighter financial futures and empowering them toward financial wellness to help improve their overall well-being. “We are committed to helping people achieve their financial goals, and our work creating tools and resources to help consumers in this space aligns well with Thrive’s vision to help people build better habits to create positive change in their lives,” said Julie Loeger, E.V.P., President of U.S. Cards at Discover. “No matter where you are on your financial journey, there’s always something new to learn, and the Thrive platform provides a unique opportunity for Discover to help consumers reach their next financial milestone through actionable, easy-to-understand information.”

The need has never been more urgent. As the science makes clear, we can’t separate financial health from our overall health and well-being. Researchers from the University of Warwick in the U.K. and Harvard found that for lower-income individuals, just thinking about a money decision would create a financial strain that lowered participants’ cognitive abilities. And a study by researchers from Singapore showed how, as the authors put it, “debt causes significant psychological and cognitive impairment and alters decision-making.”

For young people, the worries are even greater. In the latest Stress in America report from the American Psychological Association, 8 out of 10 Gen Z adults say money causes them significant stress. And a November 2019 report by Moody’s Analytics and Blue Cross Blue Shield on “The Economic Consequences of Millennial Health” showed the connection between financial health and overall health. “Poorer health among millennials will keep them from contributing as much to the economy as they otherwise would,” the authors wrote, “potentially exacerbating instances of income inequality and contributing to a vicious cycle of even greater prevalence of behavioral and physical health conditions.”

Thrive and Discover recently conducted a survey on the relationship between financial stress and well-being. You can read the full report here, but two points help drive home the need for a new space like Thriving Wallet: Fewer than 65% of participants said they feel confident in their ability to handle the stress from their financial situation, and almost half said they don’t feel like they’re able to control the important financial aspects of their life.

And changing that into a virtuous circle of well-being is what Thriving Wallet is all about. Here you’ll find The Thrive Guide to Better Money Habits. And to build those habits, actionable advice is broken down into Microsteps, which are too-small-to-fail changes you can immediately incorporate into your daily life. For example: Every night, take a few minutes to track what you bought that day in your journal or financial tracking app.

You’ll also find advice from experts, practical videos and inspirational personal stories. In our “Let’s Talk Money” series, you’ll hear from experts like Erin Lowry, author of Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together and founder of BrokeMillennial.com; and Rianka Dorsainvil, a Certified Financial Planner and the woman behind Your Greatest Contribution, a financial planning firm. And if you’re wondering if you’re ever too young to take charge of your financial health, check out Bernadette Anat’s essay. Anat, a former freelancer turned financial literacy educator, shares how getting a grip on her finances in her 20s changed her life. To start off you can also take our quiz to find out “What’s the Source of Your Money Stress?”.

Thriving Wallet’s core themes will be backed up by Thrive Sciences, which we’re also launching in partnership with Discover. Thrive Sciences will bring together scientists, psychologists and researchers to create data-driven insights and measurements that can shift conversation into action. For our very first project, we surveyed more than 3,000 U.S. adults to explore the gaps in our understanding of the connection between financial health and our overall well-being. These findings and insights, as well as tailored, actionable Microsteps, can be found here.

It’s time to bring our conversation about money into the open. We can’t thrive when we’re stressed and chronically weighed down by financial anxiety. Thriving Wallet is your gateway to financial health and well-being and a brighter future.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Millennial Women Are Poised To Be The Most Financially Independent Women In History

Source: https://tinyurl.com/s6bostg

Written by: Megan Gorman  Senior Contributor Personal Finance

A model is seen backstage ahead of the Prabal Gurung show during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week... [+]

In late 2015, a new fashion trend hit: designer t-shirts emblazoned with the phrase “The Future Is Female.” The message was on point and women of all ages, especially those in their 20s and 30s embraced them.

It’s no surprise that these four words resonated with Millennial women. For the first time in decades, feminism is on the upswing. From career progression to child rearing, Millennial women are taking on the world. They are making themselves the new future.

But the phrase “The Future Is Female” is not a new expression. It was first coined over forty years ago in 1975. That Millennial women of today are claiming this 40-year old slogan is an interesting development. Today’s twenty and thirty-somethings are living in a completely different world relative to where women were financially in the mid-70s. In fact, today’s young women could become some of the most financially independent women in history.

“Millennial women have more freedom with their finances than past generations ever did,” says Misty Lynch, a John Hancock financial advisor consulting for Twine’s Savings and Investing app. “A married woman couldn’t even get her own credit card before 1975 without permission, and single women didn’t have it much easier when it came to financial independence.”

A look at recent data regarding Millennial women finds that they are enjoying opportunities unavailable to women before them. Pew Research has found that these women are more likely than men to have finished at least a bachelor’s degree by 7 percentage points. Further, 71% of Millennial women are in the workplace and they are marrying later versus previous generations as they focus on growing their careers.

All of this puts them in a different financial situation than previous generations. While the wind may be at their back, it is important that Millennial women have a clear understanding of what they need to do to maximize their financial lives, including taking their weaknesses head on.

Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, CFP, president of the Charles Schwab Foundation and SVP of Charles Schwab & Co, Inc., addresses the potential pitfalls. “Longevity plus wage and opportunity discrimination means these women need to work harder, save more and be in charge of their finances because financial independence isn’t just a matter of strength; it’s a matter of necessity” says Schwab-Pomerantz.

Financial independence is not a sudden result but rather a lifelong journey where certain decisions and behaviors propel the individual ahead. Understanding where Millennial women need to develop more skills will help them on this road.

Developing Goals And Being Fearless About Investing
John Hancock’s Twine Savings and Investing app recently studied the financial behavior of young women ages 19-36. Forty-five percent of women surveyed said that when they set a financial goal they are motivated to achieve it. Goal orientation is key in amassing wealth as financial independence is a slow progressive journey.

On the whole, Millennial women display high confidence in areas of budgeting and bill paying but at times demonstrate a lack of confidence versus their male peers in terms of investing. The most appropriate next step for these women is to use their money strengths to gain confidence in investing and putting their money to work for them.

Alison Norris, CFP and Advice Strategist at SoFi, agrees. “Instead of shying away from the topic with others, [Millennial women should] be confident discussing it at the dinner table with peers, asking their parents how they are paying for retirement, and initiating a salary conversation with their manager. When they open it up and start talking in a human way about money, the shackles fall off.”

This is even more imperative as Millennial women enter their prime child rearing years. Twine found that currently only one third of women in this group are investing outside of a 401(k). Without having clear financial goals, the disparity over a lifetime versus their male peers can cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Schwab-Pomerantz advises, “Always try to live below your means. Living below your means and saving the difference is key to achieving long-term goals. If helpful, view your money in terms of trade-offs. If I buy X, what am I giving up? Does spending money in this way support my long-term goals?”

And this means Millennial women are going to have to move beyond one issue that came out of the Twine study: that you need at least a $1,000 to invest. With the advent of easy access to the markets at a low cost, these hurdles disappear.

Lynch concurs with this thinking. “This assumption creates a false sense of intimidation for first-time investors. Even $10 or $20 can get you going.”

As a result, by living below their means, even if just a few dollars, Millennial women need to capture these funds and put them to work. The advent of investing and savings apps makes this even easier.

Financial Independence Is A Journey


As Chantel Bonneau, financial advisor with Northwestern Mutual and a Millennial herself, noted, “Finances are similar to fitness. Getting into your ideal shape doesn’t happen overnight. It is a process that requires, time, patience, and commitment. It’s also about moderation.”

Millennial women are poised to be the most financially independent generation in history. At the same time, “The Future Is Female” T-shirts continue to sell. While it might be a fun fashion trend, in terms of financial independence, Millennial women need to embrace the opportunities they have today to grow their wealth

Thursday, February 13, 2020

University of St. Thomas (UST) flag

To see a flag with your picture, name and company name at the University of St. Thomas (UST) were I studied my master program was such an incredible honor, only surpasses by being able to share it with my mother while visiting Houston. Thank you UST!

We are here to support you. If you need help with your finances or to improve your business profit, contact us for a complimentary consultation (346) 227-2895

Soledad Tanner, MIB



Monday, February 10, 2020

You've set the budget and it's Q1. Now what?

Written by: Jason Lin

Credit: Fotolia

Monthly forecasting exercises offer CFOs 12 chances to perfect their plan. Here's how to get the most out of them.

The following is a contributed article from Jason Lin​, CFO of Centage Corporation. Opinions expressed are author's own.

It's a new year and a new decade: the perfect time to update the plan you’ve spent months discussing and creating. No one knows better than you do that the minute the first set of results come in, your plan is out of date and needs revisions.


Only now, it’s not just a matter of updating projects. You also have to have an eye on the strategic insight you're expected to bring to the decision-making table. According to a CFO sentiment study by Insperity, 75% of CFOs say their roles are increasingly strategic to the business, especially when it comes to driving operations, including marketing, sales, HR and risk management. This means all eyes are on you to provide concise insight and advice as to how the company can meet its business goals.​

How do you meet your company's expectations for 2020? I recommend five strategies:

Update your reporting tools

It’s no surprise that CFOs have outgrown the traditional internal reporting tools long relied upon, including spreadsheets and PowerPoint decks. Business managers need to see accurate and up-to-date data in relevant dashboards, so they can drill down to identify the root causes of variances and uncover surprises. Reports that rely on last month’s data are stale, a snapshot of what occurred in the recent past. Only real-time data allows your business managers to assess what is happening now and respond to trends as they occur.

Cloud-based tools are useful here, as they proactively retrieve data from multiple sources and provide a robust way for users to get the story behind the data. If your business is spread out geographically, this type of cloud-based reporting solution can ensure all stakeholders are looking at the same data, giving your enterprise a single source of truth.
Meet regularly with your controller

The controller is very close to your company’s expense minutiae, and can provide insight into what’s happening on the field week by week. It's a good idea to meet with your controller regularly to understand how money is being spent so you can update your plan accordingly. Once, our controller pointed out that our actual bonus and commission payouts were very different from our forecast projection. Digging in deeper and correcting it created a significant impact.

It’s also a good idea for your controller to meet with other business executives, such as your chief marketing officer and VPs of sales and operations. Our controller hosts biweekly meetings with our VP of marketing to ensure our marketing funnel is on track to meet our goals throughout the year.

A department once removed a vendor expense in our forecast, but the auto-renewal had already occurred in a previous period. Our controller caught that mistake, too. Cross-functional meetings are a good way for the entire finance team to learn the business and become better strategic partners thereto.

Put KPI tracking on autopilot


One of the toughest challenges we face as CFOs is identifying the right internal KPIs to track to assess ongoing performance. Drivers will be unique to the company and sector. For example, because we’re a software company, we track opportunity creation to monitor our new business performance, as well as customer onboarding (i.e., time to value) as usage, which is a leading indicator to retention rates.
Your list of drivers may be long, which means you’ll need to identify the ones that will have the most impact on your plan and develop KPIs that enable you to track them easily and frequently. You'll need a tight grasp on leading indicators in Q1; your board will begin asking in February whether the company is likely to meet quarterly goals.

Complicating matters further, according to a Gartner survey, nearly seven in ten financial planning and analysis (FP&A) leaders say the volume of nonstandard, manual processes is a top problem for 2020. Fortunately, there are FP&A tools that allow you to customize reports and track data pulled from other business systems, such as your general ledger (GL), customer relationship management (CRM), or enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. By pulling up-to-date data directly into your plan, you’ll be in a position to detect problems early and report them to management and the board.

Focus on automation and efficiency

The 2019 CFO sentiment study makes clear that operational excellence is the top mandate for CFOs in the coming decade. Are your manufacturing facilities operating at maximum potential? Are there inefficiencies in your supply chain, and if so, what’s the best way to reduce them? Which market sectors should sales focus on to enhance profits and long-term viability?

According to a Gartner survey of FP&A priorities in 2020, 74% of CFOs say that they have insufficient forward-looking information in their management reports, and another 52% view annual budgets as disconnected from long-term plans. Clearly, operational excellence isn’t achievable until these gaps are bridged.

How to bridge them? In general, business intelligence tools are becoming more widespread and sophisticated. These tools act as data warehouses, pulling in data from various systems, including CRM, payroll, ERP and GL. All data is normalized so it can be layered, offering nuanced views of your business and all of its moving parts. These tools are also fully automated, eliminating the time-consuming and error-prone process of entering data.

For instance, let’s say you enter data on the cost and terms for a new office your company has rented. These tools can input that expense according to your company’s unique business structure (e.g., allocate that expense to the appropriate division), and automatically update all outputs, such as your P&L, balance sheet and cash flow statement.

Measure, revise and measure again


Be prepared to revise your plan with each new set of results that come in, and plan on asking many what-ifs and doing scenario planning exercises. My best advice: ditch the spreadsheet and adopt a tool that will automate your most critical workflows and what-if testing.

This change will allow you to test multiple scenarios and plan for each outcome. For instance, your business plan might call for hiring ten new sales reps, which the board hopes will increase revenue by, say, 20%. What is the impact of missing those hiring plans? Knowing how this will affect your financial statements ahead of time will allow the executive team to respond as quickly as possible. As a CFO once said to me, his monthly forecasting exercises offers him 12 chances to perfect his plan.

Soledad Tanner Recognized as Women on the Move Honoree (Encounter magazine. Winter 2019)


Friday, February 7, 2020

A consultancy CFO's No. 1 KPI

Source: https://tinyurl.com/re53uhe

Credit: MaxPixel

According to Halloran Consulting's Tania Zieja, there is one KPI that is vital for finance, accounting and HR.

Tania Zieja, CFO of Halloran Consulting Group, has a lot on her plate. Bolstered by over 20 years of accounting experience, Zieja manages the HR, accounting and finance departments of the Boston-based consultancy. Among her several operational duties on a day-to-day basis, she manages one integral role with an especially deft hand: knowing how to support company growth with new software system integration. 

Zieja spoke with CFO Dive Thursday about her keys to success as CFO, the best way to measure success, and how her intel on which systems to upgrade has evolved from her time at IBM to her time at Halloran. 

Prime KPI: billable utilization

Among all the data Halloran compiles through its software programs, Zieja tracks one KPI most intently: billable utilization. 

"Any billable time our consultants put on a timesheet goes through [cloud accounting software] Sage Intacct, onto a client invoice, and becomes revenue for the company," she explained. "It’s a healthy metric that shows we’re doing resource allocation correctly, and that we’re hiring at the right speed." 

Zieja said that at consulting firms specifically, resources are mostly shared, "so it’s really important to have your finger on the pulse with what’s going on with your resources, because they cost a lot, and if they’re sitting on the bench, they cost even more."

Billable utilization is Zieja’s main metric, and she and her team share it freely with the board. 

"We’re very transparent with those numbers across the company," she said. "Which is not meant to shame anyone if they’re not meeting targets. It’s truly meant to start conversations, to make sure everyone’s sharing the workload, no one’s suffering in silence, and to ensure we’re on top of hiring."

Understanding yield and billable utilization, Zieja says, is key for any financial team working with contractors, and consultants especially.

Tracking time spend

An upward trend of time spent on things such as budgeting or forecasting, year over year, shows Zieja that, because of Halloran’s growth, and the data they’re looking for, workers spend more time on a particular task. 

"Is there a better use of my team’s time? Is there a program that can replicate what they’re doing rather so they don’t have to crunch numbers on Excel?" These questions, she said, are the key drivers for her next implementations. 

"I tend to spend a lot of time looking at the forecast and budgets, and reconfiguring them if need be," she said. "I also read a lot of slide decks.

"My theory is: if you can create a template of the data, and you can click a button and fill it in from the data source, then you’re not spending time downloading, uploading, and manipulating trends and graphs. Put in the time upfront and reap the rewards later," Zieja said.

Upgrading while expanding

As the company's need for resources and headcount expanded, so did the systems necessary to support them. "While we were implementing our new system, we were still growing and adding to our headcount," she recalled.

"Our people are our product. Their salaries are our main expenditures. If we start spending a ton on systems, software, and other operational expenses that go into running a consulting firm, we kind of strangle ourselves a little bit with our growth, because we need to have that capital available for their salaries, and generating their revenue."

Financial planning & analysis (FP&A) helps support that, Zieja said, but "it’s a bit of a circular argument ...Who’s more important? I don’t think anyone," she said, but the relationship between consultant salaries and FP&A implementation costs are "very symbiotic."

Compared to Zieja’s former employer IBM, Zieja assumes they’d "have to provide the majority of their staff with a user license, and that’s where the costs can go up exponentially with these systems."

In any upgrading effort, Zieja stressed the importance of deciding which systems need changing and which are best left alone. To do that, she asks her teams to report on their trend sheets where they’re spending their time. 

Programming rules for small vs. large companies

Zieja​ noted there are differences between upgrading a system for a big, established company like IBM, where she worked as a revenue accountant, and for a smaller, fast-growing company like Halloran. 

"When I came to Halloran, it was really in need of some serious upgrades," Zieja said. "Expenses were being entered in manually, and I just knew that the way we were doing things would not allow us to grow and expand at the pace we truly wanted to."

One of the first systems Zieja eliminated was Paychex, which she replaced with Paylocity. The switch enabled her to work on the front end with onboarding, benefit administration, and payroll, she said. 

Her second endeavor, in 2017, was moving from QuickBooks and Netsuite’s cloud-based OpenAir to Sage Intacct, all the while keeping Salesforce, which integrated well with Sage. 

The thoughtful switches have alleviated several pain points, Zieja said. She points out that the need to keep FP&A spend relatively low in consulting can be tricky.

Tackling integration woes

One common system upgrade snag, regardless of company size or spend: integration. Does it ever make sense to change a system, even if it would potentially create integration problems?

"Integration is definitely key," she said. "I’ve gone through an integration that broke often. The problem with that is that you could have a system that might be very helpful, but if you can’t rely on the data, and get the data out, or you have to reconcile it to prove the data integrity is still there, it kind of defeats the purpose." 

Zieja cites a real-life example from her time at Halloran. When the company used Netsuite OpenAir for timesheets, expenses, and product reporting, they took the data and pushed it to QuickBooks in an effort to expedite their financial reporting process. The two systems spoke to each other well enough, Zieja recalls, but there would often be some type of missing link, such as one system needing an upgrade while the other needed new code.

"That can really be a time-suck," Zieja said. "I find that when you can’t trust your data or its source, you’re really putting yourself in a bad position. And if your management team can’t trust the data because the system integration broke, they won’t trust it in the future. And that’s not a good cycle to get into."