About Parmesan and Financial Freedom: Our Interview with Financial Coach Franziska Stieber

Philip March 2022 Content Marketing Editor 7 min

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If you start your own business, you also have to deal with your own finances – a fact that sends a shiver down the spine of many budding founders.

To round up our International Women’s Week at Penta, we spoke to a woman who not only gets herself together to manage her finances, but helps others do so with passion and ease.

In our interview, financial coach Franziska Stieber tells us how she discovered her affinity for finance at the age of 15, what role Parmesan cheese played in the process and what prejudices women still have to face when it comes to finance today.

Hi Franziska, please introduce yourself and your business briefly.

I’m Franziska and I founded Finanzen mit Franzi on December 31st, 2019. At the time, I had just finished my studies in taxation and was still employed in a tax consultancy, which didn’t really fulfil me to be honest. Nevertheless, I always found the topic of finance interesting and therefore started blogging about it and running an Instagram channel.

After a while, I received some requests if I’d also offer coaching on the topic of retirement provision. In May/July 2020, I then developed a coaching programme, quit my job as a tax consultant and turned this hobby into my profession. Since I have been passionate about finances since I was 15, I had the necessary financial resources for this.

By now, I am self-employed full time, employ two assistants and have expanded my services beyond retirement planning to include savings, the stock market and business finance, especially for women.

How come you became interested in finance at the age of 15?

My parents are originally from Russia, came to Germany in the early 90s and I was born a few years later. Since they didn’t speak German at the time and their Russian degrees weren’t accepted here, they had to start a new study programme, earn money on the side and raise a child at the same time. It was always very difficult financially. At some point, when I was eleven, I realised this for the first time, and since I went to work at 15, I have been actively dealing with finances and the topic of saving.

There’s a metaphor from that time that I still use today: I love parmesan. However, since we didn’t have that much money in the past, I could only eat it once a month at the most. My goal as a child was: when I grow up, I want to be able to afford as much parmesan as I want. So parmesan still stands for financial freedom in my communication.

What does female finance empowerment mean to you and what aspects does it cover?

At the very beginning, I also coached men and noticed that the demand for knowledge transfer and dealing with finances is completely different for them; they usually just accept technical terms and get started straight away without fear of losses.

In my experience, women are looking for closer support and seek a community in which they can exchange ideas and experiences.

So if you build and strengthen communities of women interested in finance, I think that can also contribute to the financial empowerment of women.

How can your values of ease, passion and independence help women to manage their finances with confidence and expertise?

When people think about finances, they often feel they have to invest a huge amount of time. Ease – e.g. through automation – ensures that manual work and time are kept to a minimum.

Also, a lot of people get all serious when they talk about finance. I think many immediately have the image of the older gentleman in a suit from the bank office next door in their mind. In contrast, here I am sitting in front of the laptop in a hoodie and telling you about parmesan, while I am burning with heart and soul for the topic of finance. This causes people – in my case women – to lose their inhibitions about their finances, approach the subject with ease and develop a passion for it.

And through this interplay of simplicity, growing expertise, and having fun with it, women can set themselves up well financially and become independent.

As a brief insight: I need five minutes a week for my private finances – for my professional ones it’s ten. And that’s where I want to take my clients.

Always keep an eye on your finances – with the Penta Business Account.

Do you feel that women are given the necessary knowledge to be financially successful nowadays?

The offer is getting better and better, but two or three years ago it was really disastrous. My experience is that women would rather receive clear information than being bombarded with technical jargon. This is where coaching should be targeted.

Women are very different in their savings and consumption behaviour, and knowledge transfer must recognise this. Accordingly, courses and coaching should communicate clearly and transparently, especially for women, in order to dissolve inhibitions about finances. In my coaching sessions, participants can therefore ask anything that is unclear in an atmosphere free of pressure and criticism. The feedback I hear again and again is that my clients don’t necessarily buy the knowledge, but the support behind it.

I would just like to see financial education – for everyone, not just women – start earlier, for example at school, and clarify basic questions. Some people graduate from high school, start their self-determined lives and don’t even know the difference between debit and credit cards. The earlier you start with financial knowledge and investments, the better it is – also for compound interest, of course.

What are your personal role models when it comes to finances? What should women pay attention to when choosing their mentors?

Personally, I follow people who are about my level or a little bit further, and I would recommend that to others as well. I don’t like following the big gurus. If you set huge goals right away and compare yourself to the really big ones in an industry, it can quickly become toxic and backfire.

You should always set your own goals and be your own role model. Of course, ambitions and inspiration from others are good and important, but you should not put yourself under too much pressure. So define for yourself what you want to achieve and celebrate your milestones because they are important to you, not because someone else has achieved them in their career.

The motto for International Women’s Day 2022 is #BreakTheBias and aims to break down prejudices against women. What prejudices have you already been confronted with as a woman in finance?

“Pretty, but nothing behind it” – I really only hear this from men. Especially at the beginning of my self-employment, I was often smiled at by colleagues from tax consulting and had to hear things like “Franzi is quite nice to look at, but what does she want to tell people, she’s still so young. 

I still have to deal with things like that today: if I don’t share knowledge on Instagram, but show myself instead…don’t get me started on the messages I receive there. As a woman, you are not directly recognised – especially in the financial sector – no matter what you have studied, what professional background or what references you can show.

Moreover, women are very quickly denied the ability to assert themselves just because they are softer. I think that’s a shame and wrong, because yes, I’m not the kind of person who bangs my fist on the table, but I do it my way – which also works. Also, this prejudice that one should not mix finances with feelings is absolutely wrong and not advisable.

Women should be aware of their strengths and not let prejudices limit their possibilities.

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