Positive Attitude, Positive Change

Financial adviser Manisha Thakor wants to "link women's empowerment and personal finance, so women's voices can soar."

Candice Helfand-Rogers By Candice Helfand-Rogers

Editor’s Note: This interview is part of a project in which we are exploring why many women lack confidence when discussing money. You can read the first installment of this series here

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Early on a recent Friday morning in Manhattan, MoneyZen founder Manisha Thakor stood before a small assembly of women as she told them how to invest and save like a pro. She kept her presentation light, approachable and above all else, positive, while still offering applicable financial advice.

Positivity is, after all, a crucial element of Thakor’s business, because it figured big into how she was educated on money as a child.

“My mom did not say to me, ‘A man is not a financial plan.’ It was not a negative viewpoint,” Thakor says.  Emphasizing how women can have power over their finances is how present and future generations of women should be taught, she says.

Related: Growing Up Comfortable with Money

Strong women have always played significant roles in Thakor’s life — from her feminist mother to the parent of her babysitting charge, who influenced her by encouraging her to attend Wellesley College.

Thakor says of the latter’s input, “I love the way women can be influenced in key decisions by other women taking interests in helping guide them to worlds that they might not have known.”

She focused on economics while at Wellesley, as well as during her year abroad at the University of Oxford. She graduated in 1992, then followed the path her contemporaries also traveled. “The most logical path at that time, if you were interested in finance, was to do an investment banking training program for a couple of years, and then go off to business school,” she says.

In 1997, she earned her MBA from Harvard Business School and began working with money management firms. But ultimately, she found herself happiest when her work positively impacted someone on a human level.

She decided to shift her focus from corporations to individuals in 2009, and embarked upon what she refers to as her “Suze Orman Lite” years — launching her financial education practice, Manisha Thakor Enterprises, LLC, and making on-air appearances while also writing and publicly speaking about personal finance. She even wrote a book — “Get Financially Naked” — and became both a financial fellow at Wellesley and a faculty member of the Omega Institute (a nonprofit holistic learning center in central N.Y.).

Then, as female friends began to seek out her financial-planning services, Thakor found herself at yet another crossroads. She had what she called an “Oprah moment” and decided that “the universe [was] hitting me on the head” to focus on wealth management for female clientele. In 2012, she launched MoneyZen.

The new direction paid off. Now, Thakor says her firm is approximately 90 percent finance management, advising women with at least $3 million in assets, and 10 percent financial literacy and advocacy. She has also since published another book, “On My Own Two Feet.”

She hopes to incorporate education more in her business in the future, and to help even more women. “I view my job as trying to help my client achieve their goals and feel confidence in that process,” Thakor says. “The key part of feeling confident is education.”

For all posts from this project, please click here.

Posted: October 10, 2014

Candice Helfand-RogersPositive Attitude, Positive Change