How to Start Building Wealth with Therese Nicklas

In our 35th episode, Sofie is joined by Therese Nicklas, a financial planner, money coach, and success principles coach, to delve into the practice of building wealth. Throughout the episode, Therese emphasizes that financial success is not dependent on the amount of money you have, but is instead determined by how well you manage the funds available to you. She explains, for instance, that investing surplus funds in savings and emergency accounts is crucial for achieving financial security. Therese also highlights the importance of developing an attitude of gratitude, which is essential for cultivating a positive and productive money mindset.

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About the Guest

Therese Nicklas

Therese Nicklas is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, Certified Money Coach(CMC)®, and Certified Success Principles™ Coach. She specializes in helping executive women who are at a crossroads and feel uncertain about their next steps. By empowering them with their life purpose, they’re inspired to build their big, bold life with certainty, clarity, and confidence. She is passionate about inspiring women to design a fulfilled, intentional life. “True wealth – true financial freedom – is being free to focus on the things that matter most to you – what money can’t buy.” Her motto – “live your life by design and not by default”



Sofie: Hello everyone and welcome back to Claim Your Potential, the empowerment podcast. I’m your host Sofie and in this episode we are joined by special guest, Therese Nicklas, to discuss how to start building wealth. Therese Nicklas is a certified financial planner, certified money coach, and certified success principles coach, specializing and empowering executive women facing crossroads to build a big bold life with certainty and confidence. Her passion is inspiring women to design a fulfilled intentional life and achieve true wealth and financial freedom by focusing on what truly matters with her motto: live your life by design, not by default. Please welcome, Therese Nicklas. Thank you so much for being with us today.

Therese Nicklas: Well, thank you for having me.

Sofie: We’re so excited to have you on and I love starting episodes hearing a little bit about your journey and what led you to where you are. So what led you to pursue a career as a financial empowerment expert and wealth coach?

Therese Nicklas: Well, that’s an interesting question Sofie. I kind of fell into it. I have been in financial services my entire career and a little more than probably close to twenty five years ago, I was approached by a colleague who told me about financial planning. And I had never heard of it, so I looked into it and one thing led to another and the next thing I knew, I was licensed to sell financial planning type products. And as I progressed in the industry, there was something that turned me off and that was most companies offered financial planning were insurance companies and the reason that they offered the plan was as a way to sell insurance. And I felt like that was really disingenuous, so over the years I’ve developed my own process which includes financial planning but it incorporates life coaching beside it because I found that when I’m working with people, if I can give them more of a foundation, more of a life foundation, like understanding that what important to them, understanding their purpose, that inspires them to take the action, to build wealth in a way that is more intentional, it’s not just for, you know, filling up a big bucket with money but it’s really understanding what the money is for. And by doing that, I find that they create that big bold life that they’re dreaming about.

Sofie: Yes, absolutely. And I feel like your motto: live your life by design not by default really ties in there and so I’m curious as to how do you apply that model to women, you know, aligning their financial aspirations and personal values?

Therese Nicklas: Well, do we start by helping them discover their purpose? I find that a lot of women, especially, very busy executive women that might be running a family, the folks that I work with, tend to be in the gen x range that are like, you know, between forty and late fifties, early sixties and often they’re not only trying to balance their career and create some sort of work life balance but they’re also taking care of an elderly parent or they just have a lot of different things going on in their life. And they feel like they just jump on the hamster wheel, run like crazy, then jump off at the end of the day exhausted and I think that with COVID it triggered a lot for a lot of people. I know it triggered a lot of things inside of me which made me personally question, is that all there is to life. And as I went through my own personal thought process with that I found that other folks were on the same page so by taking life coaching, helping them understand what’s really important to them and then creating the means so they can have a life of meaning just brought them so much more happiness. And I think at the end of the day Sofie, what we’re all really looking for is to feel happy and for some of us they think, oh if we had more money, we’ll be happy if we had this, we’ll be happy. When we go inside, when we go within we learn that none of those external things will make us happy, the thing that really brings us joy is knowing why we will put on earth.

Sofie: Yes, and thank you for sharing that there because I absolutely agree with you that there’s so many people that I see that, you know, go for what they think that they need in life to make them happy. Whether it’s, you know, the fancy car or the fancy house or, you know, having that giant stack of cash all the time and when it all comes down to it, they’re not happy

Therese Nicklas: Right.

Sofie: Because they perhaps don’t have that purpose figured out yet. And so I think and you might agree with me on this, I think money great yay, we all need it to live. But at the same time, we want to be able to, yes, have that financial security but be able to connect it to what we want to do as a person in this life that gives us meaning and — and purpose. And so I think that’s — that’s so powerful to share there.

Therese Nicklas: Well, I think Sofie if you’ve ever spoken with anyone who knows that they have like six months or less to live, they’re not going to tell you that they need to spend more time in the office or that they need to, you know, make one more big deal. They’re going to tell you that they want to leave deep footprints in the sand before they leave this earth and there’s nothing wrong with chasing a dream and there’s nothing wrong with, you know, making a good living and all of that but you don’t want that to be the end all be all. Connecting the means, which is the money, to a sense of meaning is what’s going to make you happy when you have that connection and you know that you are striving towards something. That’s what gives you that sense of purpose and fulfillment and when you have that, that’s when you’re happy. And I don’t know what the number is. I don’t know what the magic number is for everyone because everybody is different and it really depends on the impact that you want to leave. But once you have that personal connection between your means and life of meaning, that’s when you begin to feel fulfilled.

Sofie: Yeah, and — and going back to that — that means and we’ve — we’ve mentioned mindset a little bit here and I know that — that addressing that money mindset is something that is so key to be able to truly get there when it comes to that financial freedom. And so what advice do you have for our listeners to really improve their money mindset, allowing them to break free of those limiting beliefs and embrace a more abundant outlook on wealth?

Therese Nicklas: Well, the best step, the first step is gratitude. Developing an attitude of gratitude is the key to all of that. When you are grateful for what you do have and you focus on what you have rather than what you don’t have, that shifts your whole mindset around money. That one step, that one thing will make a dramatic transformational shift in your mindset around money because that’s when you realize that we live in an abundant world. There’s plenty for everybody. You know, it doesn’t make any difference if your next-door neighbor has more than you. You just look the other way and you’ll find somebody that has less than you and none of that matters. What matters is what are you doing with what you have between time, money, and all the other life resources.

Sofie: Yeah. I could not agree more there. I think, oh my goodness for sure gratitude plays such a, ah, large role in — in everything we do and especially when it comes to creating that wealth. Right? Being thankful and understanding of, here’s how far I’ve come already. I’m so thankful for what I have had. I’m so thankful for, you know, the wealth I’ve already created and, you know, I’m so thankful for the people that I have in my life to share that wealth with. So absolutely gratitude plays such a large role there and before I jump into more of the, well specific questions, really want to make sure that we are understanding some of the misconceptions and myths first. And so in your experience, what are some misconceptions or myths about building wealth and how do you help your clients see past these barriers to unlock their full financial potential?

Therese Nicklas: Well, I think one of the myths is that people think that building wealth is all about a number and it isn’t. So when we go back to even the gratitude conversation, you think of any day in your life Sofie when you — you got out of bed and you know you bumped your toe and you — you just felt like, oh my god this is going to be a crappy day.You know, we all have those days but if you can hit pause and think about something positive think about, well hey I get to put my two feet on the ground. You know, that’s — that’s not so bad or you — you just start thinking about something that you’re grateful for, something that you do have, it changes your whole attitude. It changes your whole how you show up. And it’s the same thing when it comes to money. If you can shift your thought process around the number, like looking at, you know, how much you have to being grateful for what you have, that alone will make a huge difference for you. That will transform the myth that I’m only wealthy if I hit a certain target, because that’s not what wealth is all about.

Sofie: Yes. I love that comment there on it’s not about the number. I think that’s probably the biggest misconception that I’ve heard everywhere. When you read anything on retirement, anything on building your investment profile, all of that for some reason gets attached to that idea of building wealth. And so when, especially young women, read that it’s like, oh my gosh I have to have, you know, this big hefty number in order to call myself successful, in order to call myself, you know, wealthy. Even though I might have this great life and people that love me in a good job, but I just need to have that big number to get there.

Therese Nicklas: Exactly. And — and yeah we don’t need a big number. It’s not what you have, it’s what you do with what you have and that’s what defines wealth for you. So Emerson, Um, probably more than one hundred hundred years ago wrote a great poem and it’s called, I know the first line of it I — I might not have the correct title but it starts off with, “That Man is a Success Who” and like dot dot. And then it goes and gives a few examples and it’s somebody who appreciates nature, makes the world a better place. It goes on with this whole list of things that a person does and that makes them successful and I think that’s a good thing for people to read, especially if they have that tendency to focus on a number or measure themselves against someone else. Go back and read that. Go back and look at that and say, “what have I done to make the world a better place? What have I done to put a smile on someone’s face?”

Sofie: Yes, and for our listeners that are listening right now that are feeling a bit overwhelmed just by this conversation or the idea of building wealth because it can feel like such a daunting concept for so many as a financial empowerment expert, how do you simplify the process and guide your clients towards achieving their financial goals with confidence?

Therese Nicklas: Well, um, we start with the exercises that I’ve just mentioned so helping them shift that mindset away from just focusing on numbers, that’s step number one. And then what we do going forward is we do have to obviously look at the numbers. So I look at, you know, what is it that you actually bring home. A lot of people don’t know that number, a lot of people are really not aware of what their actual paycheck looks like, they don’t pay attention to it. So helping them pay attention to that bottom line, your net, say your net monthly income and then understanding that number against what you’re actually spending and if any adjustments have to be made. We point those out. Having a surplus, building a savings account, having an emergency fund, those are all the basics, that basic foundation to building wealth because if you’re always stressed about paying your bills or wondering if you’re going to be able to pay your bills, you’re never going to be able to get it. It’s going to be very difficult to get out of that cycle so helping them shift from there to understanding what they actually have to work with, making whatever adjustments they need to make so that they can have a surplus and start building a savings account whether it’s an investment account or just your emergency fund, when you have that cushion that is, it’s almost like seeds to a money tree. It’s really amazing that when you get out of that mindset of paycheck to paycheck because that again is a habit and it’s something that you’ve told yourself that you live paycheck to paycheck and that becomes your reality. When you can see that you don’t live paycheck to paycheck because even if you’re saving ten dollars a week, then you’re not living paycheck to paycheck because you do have a surplus. Might not be very big, but it’s the principle. It’s — it’s the habit of building that savings and that’s where we begin is having that understanding of cash flow, knowing that as you improve your cash flow, then you improve your net worth. And what I see with a lot of folks is when the net worth gets improved their self-worth gets improved.

Sofie: Yes, oh my goodness. I’m thinking back to all of the financial advice I was ever given and one of the biggest ones was always to have that — that back pocket, that little bit of cushion, that emergency fund. And yeah, absolutely I think that a lot of the time we see it as it, oh it has to be this big number and as you said, if you’re not there yet, that’s okay. It’s, you know, about building that habit and getting into the habit of putting a little bit aside each month even if it is as you said ten, fifteen dollars, a month. It’s still that habit of okay, I’m not fully living paycheck to paycheck and each month let’s say I’m going to increase that amount that I set aside by another ten, twenty dollars and it’s — it’s building up from there. And so absolutely I think that’s something that I find very helpful. Having that — that small step. It’s more actionable than when I hear financial advisors say, “oh my gosh, you need to have, you know, right off the bat for your emergency fund, six months of your — of your living expenses set aside.” Which I think is — is great. I think that’s, you know, they’re trying to make you as financially secure as possible but the same time as you said, that’s not feasible for everyone to have. That six months set aside already, it’s just in the process of building that habit.

Therese Nicklas: Right? And it all comes down to the habits because you’re either in the habit of living paycheck to paycheck or you’re not. And the way that you if you are in that habit and you can tell that you’re in that habit would you like to know a tip and how to know if you’re in that habit?

Sofie: Absolutely.

Therese Nicklas: So if you get a raise, let’s say you get a raise of like I don’t know what’s an average raise? About three percent say for example and if you see that that three percent is not going into a savings account whether it’s your retirement account or basic savings, then you know that you’re living paycheck to paycheck. Because anytime you get an increase in income, you ratchet up your lifestyle. And you’re probably ratcheting it up in ways that you don’t even notice. Like it isn’t like you took that money and you set it aside because you have a dream vacation that you want to take or, you know, you want to replace your car or do something that’s tangible, but if you’re, oh now I can, um, instead of going out for lunch three times a week, I’m going to go out for lunch five times a week. Or when I go out for lunch, it’s going to be twenty dollars instead of ten dollars, if you’re doing those kinds of things you’re living paycheck to paycheck and that is a habit that you have to break. And I have seen people living on what I would call a pittance and I don’t mean to sound judgmental, I’m not, but when I look at their expenses and what they have for income and I see that they can still save money, I know that if you really want to do it, anyone can do it.

Sofie: Yeah and I will definitely admit, I have done that a few times where I got a little bit more than I was expecting one month and rather than putting it away in savings, I said pretty much the same thing. I was like, “oh I can go out to dinner three extra times this month” and no I’m not going to go to the less expensive restaurants. I think I can afford to go eat some really nice sushi. And that was definitely a big mistake and looking back on it now, such a big mistake because it got me into that habit of when I got extra amounts of money, when I got that surplus rather than putting it aside to save for vacation or putting aside in case, you know, I lost my job, I was immediately going out and spending it on something that was a momentary piece of what I thought was happiness. So definitely something that I think so many of our listeners, especially our younger women listening to this podcast, can truly take away. And tying that in there, I feel like many people really do struggle with balancing those immediate financial needs with those long term goals and so do you have any other strategies that you would recommend for really striking this balance and ensuring a secure financial future?

Therese Nicklas: Yes. First I’d like to recommend a book that I read recently that I found super helpful and it’s like something you can read in a couple of evenings. The name of the book is, Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg. I don’t get any commission or anything for recommending the book, I actually got it out of the library but it’s a great, very, very simple easy to digest book that shows you how to build important habits in a really small way. And the way that you do that is you tie one habit to something that you’re already doing like, you know, after I brush my teeth I will meditate for five minutes. Or after I do what I already am doing, I will do something else. So like after I get my paycheck, I will put a hundred dollars in my savings account. You know, doing things like that will help you build so just forming those little habits. But to answer your question a little clearer, understanding that long-term goals take a long time to build. Not beating yourself up over, oh I don’t have that six-month savings account now, by getting in the habit of just chipping away at things and very, you know, slowly and methodically. Like having a system for how you’re saving, put it on autopilot, that will really help you build your wealth if you’re not thinking about it and having to physically do something to make it happen, if you have money taken out of your paycheck going into a savings account for example, before you know it, you’re building up an account. I can give you an example of one client that I started working with and she had nothing saved. I mean nothing. I mean she was in negative numbers and she was making a pretty good income. She was one of those people, came to me and said, “I have no idea where my money goes.” I said, “well, we’ve got to find out where your money goes.” So we, you know, created a spreadsheet and we looked at everything that she was spending and I had her track it for thirty days and she was appalled when she saw how much money she was spending on fast food like, you know, picking up a pizza on the way home from work or because you know she was tired she didn’t feel like cooking. But when she looked at what that added up to at the end of the month, she was shocked. So I think one step is awareness. Creating a way for you to be aware and don’t stick your head in the sand, just be aware of where your money is going so you can make better decisions. Once she did that and I encouraged her to have a certain amount of money taken out of her check to go into her retirement account, it didn’t take her long to amass this six figures in that retirement account and she was like, “how did this happen so fast?” I said, “because you weren’t thinking about it. You weren’t withdrawing. It was just sticking the money away and set it and forget it.”

Sofie: Yes, oh my goodness. Yes, I was listening to that and I was thinking back to my own experiences with trying to just build up that savings because I feel like I was definitely in a similar position where it was, I had absolutely nothing saved and then I remember this one month I had worked a lot less hours because I was being paid hourly at that time. And I had been sick and then I — I went on vacation and then came back to realize oh my gosh, my monthly income just got cut in half. Uh, oh. I don’t have anything saved. Uh, oh.Where do I go from here?

Therese Nicklas: Right. And when you think about that experience Sofie, when you think about yourself in that moment and you knew you had to make a change whether it was to change your career, get a new job or whatever. Let’s say you’re in that moment and you’re realizing I can’t go on like this. I need a new job. How do you think you show up at that job interview? How do you think you show up looking for a job when you’re in that mindset?

Sofie: Oh my gosh. So stressed. It’s all connected because you need that job and so you’re just kind of like, oh my gosh I have to get this, I have to get this. If I don’t get this and I’m going to go under credit card debt and then oh my gosh, I don’t know what I’m going to do. So I would imagine that you’re showing up to work not your best self?

Therese Nicklas: Exactly and you spiral and how attractive is that to a future employer?

Sofie: Oh, not at all.

Therese Nicklas: Right. So not only does having your finances in a good place help you for obvious reasons, but there are some intangible benefits because you show up differently when you need to get that better job. You don’t feel like, oh my god if I’m out of work for a week or two I’m cooked. No. You know, you’ve got that backup plan, you show up differently in all aspects of your life.

Sofie: Absolutely and I’d love to connect everything together for our listeners here and ask what is one thing that our listeners should take away from this conversation?

Therese Nicklas: Well, one thing is if you’ve been struggling to do this on your own and you have failed or you don’t feel like you’ve succeeded, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You will be amazed even if you hired someone, whether it was me or somebody like me and you think, wow I’ve got to pay them, you know, a certain amount of money, that can save you money in so many ways in the long term. You’ve got to see the big picture when you’re looking for help.

Sofie: Yes, most definitely reach out to someone. I’ve also found that sometimes reaching out to parents can help just because they are able to give you some of what worked for them. What didn’t work for them. So for our younger audience out there if you’re connected with your parents or a guardian or someone that you know is pretty good with their money, talk to them. Maybe you can walk through a little bit of your finances if you’re in that a trusting relationship there. But also yes, absolutely as — as you said, Therese, reaching out to an advisor if you have the means to — to get one because it could save you so much money in the long run. So most definitely there. And for our listeners that do not want to just stop hearing your amazing wisdom that you’ve shared throughout this episode, how can our listeners connect with you?

Therese Nicklas: They can connect through my website which is wealth coach for women dot net. I also have a gift that I’m offering to your audience that’s a financial planning toolkit that has a lot of goodies in there that I think they will find helpful. One of them is my super simple budgeting plan and as I mentioned, you know, near the top of the call talking about getting an awareness of where your money is going this very simple tool will help you do that. One thing that drives me crazy when I look at things like this, it’s like they always have to make them so complicated. I made a decision that life is not that complicated, money is not that complicated. This tool is so simple you could be in the fourth grade and figure out how to use it.

Sofie: Oh, I love that there. Oh my goodness. I think that is so true, the amount of — of financial resources I’ve seen that I cannot figure out and I’m like, I’ve been managing my own money for a while now. Why can’t I figure this out? So thank you so much for sharing that with everyone. And thank you so much for coming onto the podcast and sharing your wealth of wisdom about wealth.

Therese Nicklas: Well, thanks Sofie. I’m thrilled to be here. I love your message and I’m so happy to be a part of it and, you know, for me it’s always been about simplicity. Your message is very simple I think mine is as well. So I felt that there was a synergy and money isn’t complicated, we just make things complicated. So my mission has been to try to make it simple.

Sofie: I love that. Absolutely, love that. Thank you so much for coming on to the podcast series. It’s been an absolute pleasure.

Therese Nicklas: Thank you, you too Sofie.

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