Karen Finerman’s Strategies for Life

by Meg Sheridan

Karen Finerman spoke to the sell-out audience at NYC-Parents in Action’s annual Mother’s Day Benefit held on May 13,2014, on “How to get out of your own way and be the woman you are meant to be.” She is the CEO of Metropolitan Capital Advisors, a panelist on CNBC’s “Fast Money”, and mother of four – two sets of twins.

Ms. Finerman began by explaining that her mother raised her as a Calvinist. That is, her mother bought Karen and her three sisters Calvin Klein clothes. But once they graduated from college, her daughters had to buy Calvin themselves. “I can’t tell you how many people I meet who think Calvinism is something else entirely,” said Finerman, “but the philosophy worked for us.” Karen set out with a goal to be independent, make money, and be a success on Wall Street.

Along the way Karen realized that the lessons she learned on Wall Street could be applied anywhere, in any part of her life. The steps to success didn’t come naturally; Karen admits she had to try, then fail and tried again. She gradually developed principles to add to the Calvinist ethic she got from her mother, and wrote Finerman’s Rules, a uniquely honest assessment on balancing a career, a marriage, and raising four children to be Calvinists themselves.

“Women often get in their own way,” said Finerman. “Women are often suspicious of other women, and can create an unhealthy environment.” Ms. Finerman suggested women could learn a lot from men by watching how they compete, negotiate, and network. “When seeking out a mentor, consider a man who has a daughter,” she said. He will see his daughter in you and be comfortable with your ambition.

At the same time, women should not shy away from using their femininity in the workplace. In a male dominated environment, there is always sexual tension. “Use it to your advantage – be flirtatious – it almost never leads to something bad.” Although there are valid arguments not to flirt, Finerman sees it as a benefit. “Remember, a 6 at a retail conference is a 10 at an industrial conference,” she said. Use your charms to network and negotiate.

A mother of four, Ms. Finerman cheerily acknowledged that working outside the home is easier than being at home raising children and managing a household. In her eyes, compromise is difficult, and working from home is the worst possible solution. The office questions your commitment and your children resent the fact that you are present but not available to them. It becomes impossible to set boundaries.

Try to balance your work life with your “regular” life as wife, mother, and member of the community. Ms. Finerman believes in scheduling everything. If it’s not written down, it won’t happen. She prioritizes everything in the calendar – individual dinners with each of her four children, and date night with her husband. This way, her family can count on her to be there — most of the time.

Ms. Finerman shared that inevitably things will come up – an important meeting, a late plane – that will cause her to cancel. She shared her strategies when she can’t make her child’s theater performance or playoff game:

  • If you’re late to the performance, just lie and say you saw it. Do not retreat.
  • Be honest. Make a big deal about the part you did see.  Your child will recall it as if you were there the entire time.
  • If you can’t go at all, plan to do something special with your child later, like go out for ice cream.

Ms. Finerman parenthetically said that she would never be “the bake sale mom.” In her eyes, this is the worst job to take on. “You’re at the event, but not present for your child – you’re selling the cookies when you could be with your child.” But, be sure to thank the bake sale mom for taking on the job.

Ms. Finerman acknowledged that the problem with a full time job and a full time family is that there is precious little downtime for you. She recommends going home after work and taking a few minutes to decompress. Then greet the family. How to give everyone the attention they need? “Just be where you are,” she said. “It’s not as Zen as it sounds.”

Karen Finerman is the CEO of Metropolitan Capital Advisors, a panelist on CNC’s Fast Money and the author of FInerman’s Rules: Secrets I’d Only Tell My Daughters About Business and Life

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