It's hard for Lauren Simmons to answer the question: "What do you do for a living?" Between clinching speaking engagements, brand partnerships, TV appearances, a book deal and executive producing a movie about her life on Wall Street, Simmons's expertise spans far and wide.
And thanks to that business prowess, along with a dogged work ethic and some savvy money moves, in 2022 the 28-year-old continued to build her financial empire and hit her goal to earn $1 million within a year.
It's a major milestone for the ex-New York Stock Exchange equity trader, who at 22 years old became the youngest and only second Black woman to trade on the floor — and was severely underpaid while doing it, earning just $12,000 a year while male colleagues made ten times as much.
Fresh off the accomplishment of buying her first home in the Los Angeles area, CNBC Make It caught up with Simmons for the best work and money lessons she learned this year, and some advice to those worried about a bumpy financial outlook ahead:
Americans have been hit hard all year by sky-high inflation, rising interesting rates, a volatile stock market and supply chain issues that continue to throw the supply-demand cycle out of whack. Looking ahead to 2023, Simmons says she's reassessing her risk tolerance and urging caution against uncertainty.
It comes down to being intentional with how you spend your money, she says. For example, she's looked to Treasury securities, which are backed by the government, as a safer vehicle to park cash. While they may not have major return potential like investing in the market, U.S. Treasury yields are on the rise (the 2-year Treasury sits at 4.391%) as investors seek greater stability in 2023.
Other lessons Simmons is keeping top of mind in the new year: Don't make impulsive decisions with your career, like quitting your job without another one lined up. And continue to work on your side hustles, whether to supplement your income or replace it if need be.
Speaking of risk, Simmons considers herself a conservative investor and has never waded into the cryptocurrency market, even though plenty of people told her to consider it.
Given the headline-making chaos coming out of the market this year, from a $2 trillion crypto market crash to the November collapse of FTX, Simmons continues to feel confident about her decision to stay out of crypto for now.
"I don't want to be that person who says 'I told you so,' and listen, I love everyone's input," Simmons says. But, "What I tell people is, I'm a data and numbers girl. If the data and the numbers don't support it, or there's been no historical trends ... it's not something that I can put my money into. That's just the way I invest."
She knows not everyone will agree with her, which is fine, but she lives by a principle that'll outlast any financial craze and economic cycle: "At the end of the day, people have to really understand what their risk tolerance is, what their goals are, and make the smartest money moves they can."
Each person will invest differently depending on their income bracket and means, but one universal lesson is that "diversifying your portfolio really is the name of the game, and diversifying your portfolio is not just investing in the stock market," Simmons says, pointing to alternative assets like investing in real estate and fine arts (even owning fractional shares of works).
When it comes to investing, "I'm a big proponent of developing a relationship with yourself and understanding what your likes and your dislikes are, and understanding what you're absolutely not going to tolerate," Simmons says. That understanding helped her stand firm in her belief to stay away from crypto, "even when there were millions of people saying otherwise. And at the end of the day, you have to understand where you are willing to compromise on things."
With all that said, she's not against learning more about crypto and other financial trends that crop up, as long as she measures them against her core values: "You definitely should continue to grow and learn."
Simmons's career may be thriving, but it hasn't always been straightforward. For those thinking of a job or career change in the new year, her biggest piece of advice (in addition to staying level-headed) is to be open.
"We get so fixated on what we think our talents might be," she says. Using herself as an example, "I was the girl who went to school for genetics, and prior to that architectural engineering. I never thought my thing would be finance. But be open to opportunities to figure out what you like, what you don't like, and then take it from there."
You don't have to have all the answers about what you want next in order to start taking steps to change your work situation, she says, "but I think the more open you are the better, and don't get so fixated on what you think might be the answer, because that could always change."