Written by Pauleanna Reid
Self-made entrepreneur Natasha Koifman understands that when it comes to true success, financial freedom is the name of the game. Starting her full-service public relations agency, NKPR, almost two decades ago, Koifman knows firsthand the savvy it takes to build a thriving business from the ground up. What started as a one-woman operation based out of her home has blossomed into an international digital agency lending carefully crafted storytelling and brand development services to reputable clients including Swarovski, TD, and DAVIDsTEA. Today, Natasha is a known mogul in the PR scene of both Canada and the United States, and has won several awards and honors for her business acumen.
As a young single mother starting out, things weren’t always intuitive. Years of self-education and outsourcing to financial experts helped Koifman build a healthy relationship with money, budgeting, investing, and financial planning. In this edition of “Money Diaries,” we spoke to Koifman about the evolution of her financial know-how, her specific advice for those looking to enhance their money-management skills, her long-time financial goals, and more.
How financially empowered do you feel, on a scale of 1 to 10?
I would say a nine. When I first started my company, I made sure to hire and surround myself with people who could teach me what I didn’t know. Over the past sixteen years of running NKPR, I’ve made it a point to understand exactly where my finances go and the best approach to investing. This was certainly an early lesson for me in the beginning—you can’t be great at everything, so make sure you surround yourself with the right experts to help you.
Can you talk a little bit about those individuals who have educated you financially?
Sure. I have a bookkeeper, an accountant and a financial planner. I’m surrounded by those people regularly and make sure to set yearly planning meetings along with quarterly check-ins to review my progress and spending.
For instance, I love fashion so one of the things that I do is put myself on a yearly budget. This way, I know what to spend for the year and if I spend too much during one season, then I have to cut back a bit on the next.
You can apply this concept to more long term goals as well. Thinking about the next 5 – 10 years, thinking about retirement, thinking about the best ways to actually ensure your dollar goes the farthest it possibly can. Personally, I don’t think I will ever want to retire, I don’t even use the “R” word, but I have to plan for it like everyone else!
How did the women in your family influence your financial mindset?
My mom worked as a bookkeeper, and she managed all the finances in our household, so I was always watching a woman in the driver’s seat. That certainly influenced me and empowered me to learn to understand my finances.
When did you feel like you had truly “made it” financially?
For me, it was probably understanding the burden of debt and not having any. It wasn’t something I was able to do in my early 20’s because I had a small child, but it was always a goal for me to be debt free, and it’s something that I am really proud of. Some people might answer that differently, like when they bought their first home, and I was certainly thrilled to be able to do that, but it’s more important to be able to do that without having outside debt.
Was there ever a point at which you struggled with finances?
I was a young single mother, so when it came to finances, I had to be proactively cautious because I had to think not just about myself, but my son as well. When my friends could afford to party and spend frivolously, that wasn’t my reality, and I had to really be mindful of budgeting. That taught me to really think about how to stretch the dollar.
What advice can you offer our readers about money management?
According to CPA Canada, Canadians are not so confident about their personal finance skills, with 49 percent giving themselves a grade of C or lower. I think it’s important to surround yourself with experts, so you can build that confidence. Read as much as you can about how to take the money you have and turn it—potentially—into more money. Live within your means. I do think that social media makes it challenging. We are in that generation where we want what we see everyone else has, but we need to get real about that kind of stuff. Priorities are the most important thing. We need to be real about what our priorities are. Your priorities are a sound investment, and mine was always my son, so I always put aside the maximum amount every year in my RRSPs and even when my son was born, I created a RESP for him. I think that’s a sound investment, so you have that nest egg for your child’s education.
Can you share some of your long-term financial goals with us?
In the next 10 to 20 years, my goal is to make enough money to be able to continue investing in incredible companies through AN8, working with them to convert their ideas and products into successful and profitable businesses for the people who run them. That, and giving back to causes that matter have always been an important part of my financial planning and the more I can continue to give in that respect will always be a goal of mine. I do think the long term planning is important because it’s about making the money to do what you believe in.
Please complete this sentence. Money may not buy you happiness, but it sure does [fill in the blank].
Buy you peace of mind. It’s one less thing to worry about. I can tell you as someone who didn’t have it, trying to make it isn’t so easy. That is why I look at people who started something from the ground up as a true achievement. If you started with $100 million, and now you have $500 million, that’s definitely an achievement, but when you start with nothing and you build it, that’s impressive!