Part 2: How does NBC’s Stephanie Ruhle handle finance and family?

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MICHAEL LIERSCH: Hey humans. I'm Michael Liersch and this is My Next Move podcast presented by J.P. Morgan.  I'm a behavioral scientist, which is just a fancy way of saying I help humans understand their behaviors to make better money decisions. Each episode, I take a look at our interactions with money and consider science-based techniques to help you move closer to your financial goals.  In this episode, we're back with Stephanie Ruhle as we continue with the rest of our conversation.  If you didn't catch part one, that's okay too.  In the first part of our conversation, we covered Stephanie's background and elements of her career.  Now we're going to get real with Stephanie and go deep.  Deep on social issues, which is something we have never done before on the My Next Move podcast.  I hope you enjoy.  

So, what do you think are your number one or two things that you think are most important for people to be literate about; whether they're women, girls, men, boys, human beings?  What, what are those one or two things?

STEPHANIE RUHLE: Our relationship with credit. Well actually I would say two things.  Managing money is not about being rich, right? People think that it is for rich people.  I have money, I have a personal finance person because now I'm rich and I need someone to manage my money.  I think that is an enormous mistake.  You will never get to have a lot of money unless you manage it when you have none or win Powerball.  And I said, really low probability.  So, when you are at your most basic, you have to have a relationship with saving money.  You have to look at your personal expenses and your income as mundane as it is.  I think--

LIERSCH: [Interposing] People say they hate budgeting, by the way.

RUHLE: Great. Well then nobody likes it.  But you know what's worse? Being broke or being in debt, right?  Being in debt is horrible.  And I just think about all of the young people out there that are starting their lives, hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt who can't even get out from under that for years.  And I'm not saying, well everybody should stop socializing and going out and just stay home and save money, but budgeting is so important.  And so, I think no matter how much money you have, it is so important to learn to budget.

LIERSCH: So, budgeting is one. And then before we close, your second one you mentioned.

RUHLE: I just want to go back to understanding credit. Just because you can get a line of credit, does not mean you should use that line of credit.  Having that line of credit is a beautiful opportunity but it doesn't mean you should seize it.  It doesn't mean you need it.  It doesn't mean you need to max it out.

LIERSCH: Yes.

RUHLE: It means it is available if you need it. And I think it's really important to understand that relationship.

LIERSCH: So, credit, budgeting and saving.

RUHLE: Yes, because this just goes right back to when you say--and I know we have to be conscious of time. What gave me the ability, the power to make a leap into a different industry? When I, and I'll try to tell the story as quickly as I can. I, after the financial crisis I thought a lot about also the difference between a career and a job.  I had two kids at the time and I only wanted to have a career.  Because if I'm not going to take my kids to school or pick them up, I needed to be doing something of impact.  And I had done some television.  And one day I was giving a speech for a non-profit.  

And after the, the founder had--it was a women's group and the board all having lunch--and she said women and minorities always get lumped together.  And she said, but if you take the 50 most powerful black men in the United States, they do more for one another than the 50 most powerful women.  And it's not that women are out to get one another anymore, but we're just not thinking in that way.  We need to help one another as senior women in different industries to think about how we can promote one another; the 50 of us.  And she said, each one of you is senior in your industry.  What do you want to do next?  Someone else at the table has to raise their hand and get you there.  

And I said, I think I've always wanted to work in the media.  And there happened to be a woman at the table who ran Human Resources at Bloomberg.  And she said it's me, I'm going to get you there.  And two days later I went out to lunch with Andy Lack who now is the chairman of NBC News.  But at the time, he ran Bloomberg TV.  And he said in the new world of media there won't be any teleprompter readers.  You have to know the content, love the content and hopefully have an audience that connects with you.  And I said, I have no idea about number three, but I definitely have one and two.  And this, I say this because I want to get back to my third piece of advice.

LIERSCH: Yes.

RUHLE: Everything is about risk management.

LIERSCH: Okay.

RUHLE: I knew that I wanted this job. I knew that I had no experience.  So, I had to figure out a way how to make this the least risky proposition for everyone.  So, for me, I lowered my risk because I had saved money for years.  So, if I went and took a job that was going to pay me 90% less--I took a 90% pay cut when I changed jobs.  I had worked for so many years.  So that cushion wasn't going to hurt my family, right?  If you are the sole provider for your family, and you haven't saved any money, taking a giant career risk is enormously scary.

LIERSCH: Yes.

RUHLE: And when you enter into something and you're completely scared, you're probably not going to be that good at it. So, I risk managed myself to a place where the risk was so much less.  And then I made the risk low for them.  So, I said to them, you can hire me for the lowest amount of money of any person that works in this building.  And you can give me no contract, which means you can fire me on any given day.  But I need you to give me a television show to anchor and I need you to hire somebody to be on TV.  So, for me, yes, I was taking a 90% pay cut but then I was going to get a TV show.

Because if I took that pay cut and ended up sitting in a newsroom and maybe I'd get on TV one day, that would have been a horrible risk reward for me.  And for them, if they would have taken the risk and hired this person and been stuck with me for years if I was terrible, that would have been a bad trade for them.  So, my advice is you want to do something, do everything you can to narrow the margin of error, right?  We cannot control the weather, time or our health.  Everything else that we want to do in this world, we can evaluate and risk manage it down to remove as much error as possible to make it the lowest amount of risk.  And I did that, and they hired me.

LIERSCH: So, risk, class and prosper in a lot of ways.

RUHLE: Yes.

LIERSCH: And to that end, you did the third thing, which I think is connect with an audience.

RUHLE: I hope.

LIERSCH: And so, just to share before we all part ways tonight, you have a podcast. Correct?

RUHLE: I do.

LIERSCH: Can you share with people how they can access that podcast?

RUHLE: Yes. So, I, when I was at Bloomberg, I obviously, covered business. At MSNBC, I anchor a morning show that's mostly politics.  And I do a lot of business for NBC news.  But about 10 months ago, I started thinking a lot more about culture because we are super divided.  People are not going home for the holidays.  They're de-friending their best friends from high school.  We're not talking about really basic things with our friends and family.  And I think that's a huge mistake.  Or the news is so divided, we're staying in these echo chambers.  So, we decided to make a podcast that's about culture.

LIERSCH: Yes.

RUHLE: And it's called Modern Rules, Compelling Conversations and Culturally Complicated Times. And the idea is we can talk about things like masculinity and femininity and feminism, the power of social media, forgiveness, life after MeToo.  We can cover a lot of these hot button issues that people don't want to talk about because in cancel culture, if you say something that could slightly offend me, then I'm banishing you forever.  But if you and I respect each other, if we know that one another is coming from a good place, we can actually start to ask questions that might be uncomfortable. 

And we're not having some really important conversations because they seem offensive or they're just taboo.  But what if nothing was taboo and we believed that everybody is really trying to be better and smarter and live their best life.  If you believe that people are good, then I actually think we can progress.  And I leave you with this one sentiment.  And I guess it was one that really stuck with me.  There is a woman named Dana Canady and she was on the episode we did about race.  And she's an incredible woman.  She runs the Pulitzer organization.  She has a 13 year old son and I have a 13 year-old son.  She's African-American, and she talked all about what it's like when her son leaves the house, the advice she has to give him versus the advice I have to give my son.  

And it's just about being culturally aware of people in other situations.  And she told me one story that I thought was really interesting.  You know, I said to her, I asked her, I said, you know, why is it offensive if I were just--I said to her, I said Dana, you are one of the most articulate people I've ever met.  And I said, I want you to tell me because I honestly don't know.  Why is it offensive if I were to say you're articulate?  And she said, I'm going to tell you exactly why. 

And she said, because the three people that have had my job before I did, were well educated white guys, and nobody ever said to them, and you definitely wouldn't say to them after they presented, you're very articulate.  And she said, and you don't mean anything by it, Stephanie, but you're saying that I'm articulate because it's a surprise to you.  And that's a problem.  And she's right.

LIERSCH: So, when you think about this podcast, you're trying to reveal cultural issues and taboos and really hit them head on. And I would say we actually have a podcast called My Next Move that's trying to do the same thing for a money decision-making, hit on those money taboos head on and make everyone comfortable to talk about things that aren't comfortable.

RUHLE: Because they're not, they're just sticking their bills under their beds. Take them out from under your bed.  You don't want to be in debt.  I don't want to offend someone.  I want my children to live in a better, smarter place than I do.  You know, nobody wants to talk about privilege because I promise you nobody feels privileged.  And when you say, oh, well you know what you're just a person of privilege that offends someone; it shouldn't because being--giving up your privilege doesn't mean you have to give up your seat at the table.  It means you have to examine your privilege and build a bigger table.  And I promise you, we can build a bigger table.  We just have to think about it.

LIERSCH: Well, thank you Stephanie so much for sharing your perspectives.

RUHLE: Thank you for having me.

LIERSCH: Thank you so much. We appreciate it.  We know you need to get back on TV.

RUHLE: Thank you.

LIERSCH: Thank you very much.

RUHLE: Thanks for having me.

LIERSCH: Stephanie, a sincere thank you for being so candid and sharing your personal stories and experiences with us. And I can't help myself, but Stephanie you rule.  That's it for this episode of My Next Move produced by J.P. Morgan.  If there is a topic you human beings, want me to discuss, email it to my next move dot podcast at JPMorgan dot com.  I read all of the suggestions myself and there have been some very interesting ones so far.  Please keep them coming.  If you like My Next Move, please tell your friends and rate the show wherever you listen.  I'm Michael Liersch reminding you to make your next move today.

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A savings cushion is what allowed NBC Senior Business Correspondent Stephanie Ruhle to take a huge career risk—leave Wall Street for television—she tells Michael Liersch in part two of a very personal My Next Move conversation. She covers women’s career networking, why “You're very articulate” is deeply offensive, and the upside of paying children for chores. 

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