Kate WhiteKate White knows a few things about getting ahead. During her 14 years as its editor-in-chief, Cosmo grew to 3 million in the U.S. and expanded into 64 countries. While helping to turn Cosmo into the most popular women’s magazine on newsstands, she raised two children and authored several books of business advice for women and a popular series of mystery novels.

Since leaving Cosmo last fall, Kate has been sharing her expertise about leadership and success through speaking engagements, career columns and her most recent New York Times best-seller: I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know.

Her next novel, a psychological suspense novel called Eyes on You, is scheduled for release in June 2014.

Kate sat down with GoGirl Finance to dish about asking for the money, daring to be a hard-ass and affording trips to Africa.

What are you hearing from the younger women attending your speeches?

“How do I set myself apart from the pack?”  It’s a competitive marketplace and women coming out of school are anxious to get into the right spot. They realize if they don’t start strong, their careers may never take off the way they want. I really believe that networking your butt off is the best way to find that great first job. Online with things like Linkedin but also in person.

What about women in their 30s and 40s?

A common concern is how to ask for the money they feel they deserve.  Men are more likely to negotiate better starting salaries and raises for themselves. Women often know they should ask but they feel anxious about doing it.

So what do you advise about asking for money?

The most important thing you have to know is that you MUST ask and you MUST negotiate.
Because asking is scary for women, they find excuses: “This isn’t a good time. It’ll annoy my boss.” Or “They probably don’t have the money or else they’d give it to me.” KNOW you must ask! And don’t get into a snit about the fact you have to ask. Just do it.  And always ask–nicely– if they can do better than the starting salary that’s stated when you’re offered a new job.

Studies show that much of your salary growth occurs during first 10 years of your career and then that becomes the platform you build on. And every bit counts. If you negotiated a starting salary offer to $55,000 from $50,000, that has the potential to be worth $600,000 over the course of a career if you factor in raises and the like.

What other advice can you offer about negotiating for a better salary?

Do everything to let them name the number first. It might be higher than what you were expecting. After you’ve said something like, “I”m so pleased to be offered the position and I’d love to join your team, but I was hoping for x amount,” just be quiet and wait. Don’t undo the ask.

And don’t worry that asking for more will make you come across as a hard-ass. Guys don’t fret about that. Sure, as a boss I would sometimes be irritated when someone got more money out of me than I’d planned, but my annoyance lasted 45 seconds.
Do younger women handle negotiating differently?

Young women have been told to ask but they don’t always ask in a strategic way. They sometimes make it about their personal needs. This is  just one anecdote but I once had someone ask me for a raise because she said her husband decided he wanted to try a new career and took a pay cut.  The main concern of the person on the other side of the desk is the job and not your college loans or new condo. Those matter to you, of course, but keep them to yourself. Always make it about what you have to offer, or in the case of a raise, what you’ve done over the previous months.

What’s the most common mistake you see in young women in the workplace?

Gen X members of my staff sometimes complained that Gen Y job candidates were guilty of overfamiliarity  They would say things almost peer-to-peer. In one interview, a new college grad asked one of my editors a question about how we covered celebrities and after the editor responded, the job candidate told her, “Good answer!”

The second thing is bad manners. It’s essential to write a thank-you note. Send a thank you by email but it’s also great to follow up with a handwritten note in some professions.

One of the most common mistakes in your 20s is that you’re so focused on your own needs, so tangled up in your questions about work and life, that it never occurs to you to ask, “What do they need?” Or “What is the problem here that I can solve and  make my boss go, ‘Wow!’”

What is the best piece of financial advice you’ve ever received?

My dad told me when I came to New York, “You need to start saving for retirement.”  I was like WHAT? I was only 22. But his advice stuck. I became a great saver right from the start.

Also, early in my career, there was a very elegant young woman, slightly older than me, who worked in my department and she took these incredible trips, like a safari in Kenya and another to the Yucatan in Mexico. I thought she had a trust fund. One night over drinks, I finally confessed to her that I was dying to know she went to such amazing places. Well, there was no trust fund. She had a certain amount automatically taken out of her paycheck each week and put in a saving account. That’s how she built her nest egg. I began doing the same thing and a year and half later I took my first big trip on my own–a week in San Francisco followed by a week in Hawaii. I went on many wonderful trips after that. She’d  taught me the value of forced savings.

In addition to saving, what other financial advice can you share?

It’s very important to be the Bossy Pants of your own finances. Knowledge is power. Part of reason I could leave Cosmo before so-called retirement age is because I got my financial ducks in a row.

And if you marry, it really helps if your partner is on the same page with you about financial goals and strategies.

I once heard an expert say, “You can’t have something unless you envision it first.” My husband and I always envisioned having a winter place in some kind of exotic spot, which we now have in Uruguay.

If you knew 30 years ago what you know now, what would you have done differently?

I wish I had allowed myself to see the humor and absurdity in some of those work crises and not fret so much. In hindsight, what’s the worst that could have happened? I would have gotten another job.


Check out part two of this interview to hear Kate’s tips on salary negotiations and the best piece of financial advice she ever received.