Carmen Wong Ulrich

She wasn’t much into professional sports, so TV personality Carmen Wong Ulrich ended up bonding with her dad over lessons on money. Carmen shares a story about how her early exposure to financial knowledge led her to become the financial expert she is today.

Many people ask me — I guess since I’m not a white male wearing a suit — how did I get into personal finance.  The truth is it was a mix of luck, more luck and a very big realization.

The first bit of luck was my mother’s second marriage to the man I call my dad. A Detroit-transplant to New York City, my dad has always been into investing and personal finance.  I wanted to bond with this new ‘dad’ and since I didn’t like following professional sports, the only other topic often on his mind was money.  So, it was a mini-me asking, “What’s a stock?” and proudly going to the local bank with him to open my first savings account at 12 years old.  It was watching ‘Wall Street Week’ on PBS and grabbing the ‘Wall St. Journal’ for him every morning.  My dad taught me a lot about money.  Most importantly, he taught me how to pay attention.  That’s not something handed down to many girls.  Let’s hope that continues to change.

As I career-shopped post college, I found myself at the offices of the Time & Life Building.  Looking to start a stint as a journalist, the only entry-level opening available at the time was not at ‘TIME’ magazine or ‘People’, where I thought I wanted to be, but at ‘MONEY’ magazine.  I grew up with ‘MONEY’ magazine and knew the topic well. Piece of cake.  That was piece of luck number two.

But I didn’t have a passion for the topic—not yet.  The passion came a few years later, once I realize something very, very important.  Something that all of us should realize as soon as possible because it’s a powerful secret that only a fraction of our country
knows:  That knowing how to manage your money sets you apart in life, no matter how much or how little money you have.  I saw my mother, a bright and bold immigrant from the Dominican Republic, not want to learn how to manage money.  That lack of want and
know-how caused her much pain later in life.  I saw members of my uptown community preyed on by predatory lenders, sky-high payday loans and the idea that buying things makes you happy.  And while working at ‘MONEY’, I saw teachers making below average wages saving up six-figures over their careers.  It hit me.  How you manage your money determines your life.  Financial literacy is the key to living life to its fullest — it’s key for freedom, to achieve dreams and build legacies.

I have never been the same since.  I’m on a mission.  Join me.

- Carmen Wong Ulrich

Carmen is a personal finance expert and former host of CNBC’s daily personal finance show, On the Money. Carmen’s second book, “The Real Cost of Living: Making the Best Choices for You, Your Life and Your Money,” was released in December. Read more about Carmen.


Start changing your own financial life for the better! This week, Dress for Success and the Allstate Foundation launched the My Dollar My Life initiative– make a promise to change your own financial future, and Allstate Foundation will give $1 to the Grameen America branch fund.

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