The Wheel of Life and Making Money

Maggie, Linette, Rachael, June and Sadie and I continued our conversation.

The women wanted to hear more, so I introduced them to the “Wheel of Life.”

The Wheel of Life

How we feel about money, how we deal with it, and how it impacts our lives are directly related to our overall well-being. Our financial well-being is one spoke in the Wheel of Life. Imagine a large bicycle with a huge front wheel and a tiny back one, the old-fashioned kind of bicycle that was so popular in the late nineteenth century. Now picture yourself sitting atop that gigantic front wheel. Without good balance, it’s hard to stay on; and without a solid wheel, you’ll surely take a spill. Now look more closely at the wheel. It has seven spokes, representing the seven main areas of our lives:

green fern kaleidoscope

No one spoke is more important than another, and the key to good living is to maintain good balance among them all. You must have good strategies in all seven areas, and some awareness. Otherwise, your Wheel of Life simply won’t roll along without bumps and thumps, which may give you a nasty fall.

So you’ll want to nurture your financial life, just as you do your health, your family, your career, and everything else that keeps you pumping.

Many women are neglecting this important spoke in their Wheel of Life. One reason is that traditionally, we’ve allowed someone else to take care of our financial life for us: a parent, a partner, a boyfriend, a husband, or even a broker, a banker, or some other adviser. That’s where June is right now, and where Linette used to be. But ignoring our financial well-being or hoping someone else will take care of it hinders self-fulfilment no one else can pedal your bicycle for you. And, because money issues often get tied up with our self-esteem and peace of mind, when you’re not knowledgeable about, and in charge of, your financial life, sooner or later your emotional and mental health begin to suffer.

“I guess that’s what’s happening in my life right now,” said Maggie. “I’m so on edge most of the time because I’m so stressed about money. Let me tell you, finding way out of the hole I’ve dug seems impossible. What really troubles me is that sometimes I get migraines.”

“What a difficult place to be—drags down your self-esteem, too,” Sadie said gently.

“That’s for sure. And I’m a little ashamed to be taking money from my parents,” Maggie confessed. “You know, I’ve been listening to you guys, and you have no idea how much you’re helping me. You see, I’ve never really been on my own. I guess that, deep down, I never even thought of being responsible for myself. My parents have always been there—and I hoped I’d meet some rich wonderful guy and he’d take over.”

But the reality—as Maggie is slowly coming to grasp—is that as women, we have sole responsibility for our financial well-being, whether we’re single, married, divorced, widowed, or partnered. I can’t emphasize that point enough.

Financial Health Tip: POSITIVE MONEYMAKING

Linette and Betty are at the top of their professions. They reflect how women have become proven performers in today’s business world by ascending the career ladder and succeeding. And if corporate America still doesn’t fully embrace us and recognize and reward our accomplishments, we’ve also done well at striking out on our own, creating and managing our own businesses.

Not surprisingly, independent businesswomen tend to have a firmer grasp of financial matters than most other women. “The findings of the first-ever PNC Women Business Owners Outlook show women owners are satisfied with their overall business performance, as six out of 10 say their  companies are currently meeting or exceeding expectations. However, women owners show a reluctance to take on longterm financing or make capital investments in the months ahead.” (Tim Rice. Women Business Owners delay hiring…: PNC, June 2011)

Women and financial healthAs noted in the Huffington Post, Black women-owned businesses skyrocket by 322 percent in 20 years, and are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in America, this is according to the 2015 State of Women-Owned Business Report.  That is a growth of 74 percent between 1997 and 2015.  And this pace is outpacing that of all women-owned firms, the report says. 

The clout of women-owned entrepreneurs is growing.  Women are launching 1,200 new businesses a day in 2015, which is up from 740 a day the year prior, according to the latest OPEN, State of Women-Owned Business report, and revenues have grown consistently since 1997.  Women are emerging as the key drivers in new business creation according to this new research.

“There are substantial differences in the financing utilized by women-owned versus men-owned businesses. Women start with less capital than men and are less likely to take on additional debt to expand their businesses. They are more likely than men to indicate that they do not need any financing to start their business.  It is difficult to distinguish preferences from constraints in this area of data.  For instance, women may encounter less favorable loan conditions than men, or they may be less willing to take on risk by seeking outside capital.” (Women Owned Business in the 21st Century. US Department of Commerce.  Oct 2010. Page 1).

Still, too many women are at great financial risk. Even those who have successful corporate or entrepreneurial careers often don’t make the most of their money by actively growing their wealth. It’s like so many athletes and rock stars, who, like morning glories, blossom overnight, only to lose it all before the next sunrise—they make a lot of money and spend it just as fast, ending up with little to show for their success when their careers are over.

But see what happens when you do make money work for you. A good example is Oprah Winfrey, the popular talk-show host, who is one of the best-known and most admired women in the world. For the past few years, Oprah has been listed in Forbes magazine as one of the four hundred richest people in America. Worth more than $3.2 billion, Oprah is a woman who didnt marry into or inherit her wealth. She earned it.

Three Ways To Come Into Money: Marry It, Inherit It or Earn It

Not every TV star makes the Forbes list. How did Oprah leverage her success as an entertainer into significant long-lasting wealth? Not only did she establish a financial empire based on her lucrative television contracts, but she also founded and built her own production company, Harpo, to further multiply her money and extend its reach. Most admirably, Oprah Winfrey – donated US$10M to build a school for impoverished girls in South Africa. The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls “supports the development of a new generation of dynamic women leaders.“ (OWLA website) Oprah continues to be the school’s benefactor today, actively monitoring the progress of students.  (International Journal of African Renaissance Studies. 2006)

Oprah, women and financial successOprah has used her financial success to create value for society. For example, she donated $750,000 to her alma mater, Tennessee State University, to set up a scholarship fund—her donation was one of the largest contributions in the school’s history. Furthermore, she didn’t just sign the check and split. She followed up by personally contacting the students who received the scholarships and by encouraging them to do well in their studies. That’s what positive moneymaking is all about—serving yourself and benefiting the lives of others.

This opportunity isn’t available only to the rich and famous. Here’s a story about a woman I know in New York—I’ll call her Louise. Louise worked her way through college while helping to support her five brothers and sisters. She went into advertising, and, after a number of years of diligent work, became a successful, highly respected executive at a New York agency. By nurturing her financial life, Louise managed to invest part of her salary, and with the help of some effective strategies, she grew her savings into a few hundred thousand dollars.

This nest egg allowed Louise to dramatically change her life. Because of the income from her investments, Louise was able to quit her advertising job and devote herself full-time to volunteer work at a facility for children with AIDS. Now, every time I see Louise, she’s all aglow, delighted with her good fortune—that she can choose the way she wants to spend her time.

Another woman I knew—I’ll call her Helen—started a garden in her backyard in a small Georgia town. She marketed her crop of onions, garlic, and leeks from a roadside stand in front of her house. Her vegetables were so good that the business grew steadily. Soon, Helen was able to afford a larger plot of land for her produce, especially her sweet Vidalia onions, which people began to recommend to their friends. Now she does a thriving mail-order business in this delicious vegetable, and lots of people around the country enjoy her tasty treat.

But positive moneymaking eludes many of us. Why? Because, as the old saying goes, “Most people major in the minor things in life, and minor in the major things in life.” They often ignore key elements in their lives, throwing their Wheel of Life out of balance.

If you’re especially good at sports, then perhaps you concentrate on this aspect of your life while overlooking your family or financial health. Rachel might be an example. When she’s not working at the museum, doing construction jobs at her house, or entertaining friends with David, Rachel devotes her time to playing tennis and rarely captures a moment to focus on other issues in her life, like when to start a family.

If you’re more family oriented, as June is, you might ignore the career or the social side of life. And we all know highly charged professionals, like Betty, who have put their careers before everything else, including their health. That’s one of the main reasons why Betty came to the Ranch: Her weight was beginning to balloon, and her spirit was suffering from the stress she had imposed on herself by working day and night.

We all tend to focus on certain parts of the Wheel and ignore others. But when we do, all aspects of our lives eventually suffer. If your financial life is troubled, then odds are at some point your health, your social life, your family relationships, your work, and yes, even your sex life will suffer.

Is your life out of balance? If it is, you probably know or suspect it. Check in with whatever part of your body senses your overall well-being. For me it’s my stomach. I get a bad feeling right in the middle when I need to take some action about a situation that could endanger my future or violate my sense of right and wrong— and I’m not doing anything about it. That terrible feeling lets me know that my life is out of kilter; it’s a call for me to get into gear. For you, the signal might be a backache, an awful rash, or a piercing migraine, like the ones that cripple Maggie. Pay attention to those feelings; they’re telling you that things aren’t working so smoothly, and that it’s time to take some action.

Because your financial well-being and all of the your wheel of life are tied together.  Your money, your health, your self esteem — all are in relationship to one another.

Joan Perry is the publisher of www.WomensWealth.money, the national authority site for women and money. She is a Best Selling Author of ‘A Girl Needs Cash’, Random House; and Living Proof, Celebrating the Gifts that Came Wrapped in Sandpaper (co-authored with Lisa Nichols). Joan is also the creator of The Women’s Wealth Model, A Heroine’s Journey to True Wealth,. As a pioneer in the field of women’s wealth, she founded the first female-owned investment banking firm that underwrote and traded municipal bonds for major governmental entities. Now as a women’s wealth advocate, she serves as a teacher, coach, writer and speaker.

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