NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sallie Krawcheck may be one of the most powerful women in American finance, but the former head of Citigroup and Bank of America's wealth management businesses hates doing her own financial plan. Like, really hates it.
"Everything else in life is more interesting than doing a financial plan," Krawcheck, 48, told Reuters. "On my own, I would never do it, ever. For instance, I would never have that awkward conversation with my spouse about what happens when one of us dies. I would live to 457 years old before that would happen."
Still, her financial advisers - she keeps pots of savings with a few different institutions - force her to make those key money decisions.
In terms of investing temperament, Krawcheck describes herself as having moderate risk tolerance, with a penchant for a bucketing approach that targets savings for different purposes.
About 30 percent is her "can't-lose" money, which she keeps in cash or conservative fixed income investments. Roughly 65 percent, where she hopes to rack up long-term growth, goes into diversified equities and alternative investments. And about 5 percent is speculative cash, often angel investing to support young startups.
Her favorite investment vehicle is the exchange-traded fund because its fees are significantly lower than those of traditional mutual funds. She also fancies herself a bit of a contrarian, which she attributes to the tutelage of former boss Lew Sanders of Sanford Bernstein & Co.
She also has an affinity for deploying alternative investments, from art to gold, to construct a truly diversified portfolio (She is an advisory board member for precious metals provider Gold Bullion International).
"There is always a raging debate about gold, but it is an excellent long-term store of value," she says. "I heard a saying once and stole it for myself: The gold of the Pharaohs is still worth something, but their bonds aren't worth a lot."
Krawcheck sees money as a highly emotional issue - "anyone who says it isn't is not being truthful" - and makes sure to set aside funds for purposes close to her heart. That includes college savings for her children and scholarships at her old prep school, Porter-Gaud in Charleston, South Carolina.
Krawcheck learned many of her lessons about money at a little Charleston clothing retailer called Jack Krawcheck. The owner was her grandfather, and - perhaps most fascinating to young Sallie - her grandmother, Esther, worked for decades right alongside him, fitting young men with their first suits.
"Frankly it was a little scandalous back then, in the '40s and '50s and '60s, for a woman to be in that position," says Krawcheck, who started working at the store herself at age 14. "But I always thought she was super cool. I still do."
From that family store she learned that money never comes easily and that it is completely natural for a woman to run the show.
Those lessons may be why she has embarked on her newest venture: the purchase of 85 Broads (85broads.com), a 30,000-member networking site that aims to launch and support women's careers and reshape a corporate landscape still dominated by men.
This latest move follows on Krawcheck's time with Citigroup Inc and Bank of America Corp, overseeing the wealth management divisions at both. She has even been spending time in Washington, informally advising politicians on financial reform issues. Not bad for someone whose first job was in the third grade, filing in her father's law office for 25 cents an hour.
One of her biggest financial home runs might be in real estate. She and her husband, financier Gary Appel, have an apartment in Manhattan's Upper East Side, which they bought 20 years ago, and a summer home in Quogue, Long Island, purchased nine years ago. Both serve as home bases for a family that includes two children and two stepchildren.
The couple almost did not get the beloved vacation house, though. When negotiations came down to crunch time, they were still about $20,000 apart from the seller.
"My husband was very upset, and said 'I'm done, I'm walking away,'" she remembers. "My point to him was, 10 years from now we'll never remember this negotiation, but we'll still have this home for ourselves and our children and grandchildren."
Given that Hamptons real estate is now so richly valued, it looks like Krawcheck made the correct call. So how often does she remind her husband of that fact?
"All the time," she says, laughing. "All. The. Time.
"When we're sitting on the porch, watching the sunset over the local fields, I say to him: 'Boy, if we just had that $20,000, wouldn't we be happy?' He says: 'OK, you made your point.'"
Follow us @ReutersMoney or here. Editing by Lauren Young