It’s not that women consider their financial lives unimportant, I’d say. Nor do they purposely shirk responsibility. But centuries of cultural biases, misconceptions, and fears conspire to hold us back. We are not supposed to be interested or involved in money matters is some of what the culture has told us; thus many of us are unprepared to tackle the issue of our financial security, and we put it out of our minds.
Financial Security Is One Of The Scariest Issues Women Have
Money In A Woman’s Life
As Women, taking control of our financial lives is part of our natural evolution in the journey that we’ve made for the progress of women, and it’s the last step in our liberation as women. This is good.
The freedom we enjoy today came in stages: from education to the vote to control our health to increased employment opportunities to more power in our relationships. Most of us have gone to work, and some of us have made a lot of money in these changing times; others have remained at home, working in concert with a partner to raise families and run households. In either case, today’s generation of women has greater freedom and opportunity than previous ones. But have we made this new freedom work for us? The truth is, regardless of age, occupation, marital status, or future promise, we must all go to the next level and actively develop our financial well-being.
Certainly, like so many passages in life, taking charge of your financial life is a path to new challenges. (Plenty of men are intimidated about money matters, too—even if they’re too macho to admit it.) But becoming financially savvy is also one of the most enjoyable things you’ll do because it calls you to your care for yourself. Watching your money grow for you is a singular treat, one that can give you pleasure as it raises the quality of your life. How can you envision financial opportunity? Begin by understanding and dumping the influences that keep you from this very important stage in the cycle of life.
The Stakes Are High When Securing Your Financial Future
At stake is financial security for yourself and your family. The bottom line—for you and me and everyone—is that you will probably have to manage a large sum of money—by the time you stop working if you hope to live as well as, if not better than, you did during your working years. So if you don’t begin the process of learning about your money now, you can’t be certain of a healthy—and happy—financial future.
On this website, you’ll meet other women whose lives and money matters just might mirror your own. I’ll also share my personal investment and professional experiences with you. I’ve learned a lot from life experiences, and perhaps you might avoid some of my trials and tribulations.
Thinking back to my early life, I can tell you that it was in athletics that I honed the competitive skills I later needed to survive as a woman in the investment banking world of Wall Street. I spent my childhood competing in diving and swimming meets, and in the 1960s, I even won Illinois state diving championships. Those competitions provided valuable life lessons for the working world—how to hang in there, how to move toward what I wanted to achieve, and how to make it happen. Competition taught me that nothing was really out of my reach; all I had to do was the focus and rely on my own effort and skills, not someone else’s. And I learned to compete for not only against others but also against myself, to strive always to improve the results I achieved. That spirit toughened me for the investment world, where only one word seemed to matter: win.
After graduating from Denison University, I entered business school to earn my MBA (Master of Business Administration). It was the early 1970s, and I was one of just five women in my class at the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Several of us were athletes who had developed a thick skin from putting ourselves out there in public to test our skills. I was proud of myself and my female classmates, and certain I had what it took to compete, advance, and prosper in the dogfight that was business as usual on Wall Street. I was also very curious about what I could learn. I took on the toughest of challenges to be there in those times.
My self-confidence and my excitement at being in the female vanguard seemed well placed at first My career on Wall Street progressed as I’d hoped and planned. Within a decade, I had established the first female-owned municipal bond brokerage ﬁrm in the United States. My business and my life were exciting, proﬁtable, and full of possibilities. I did all the things smart, successful, dynamic young professionals did: I bought a car and a wonderful house, I wore lots of great clothes, and I was dating a delightful man, who was charming and who had made big money.
Still, something was wrong with this picture.
Trouble was, despite my success as an investment banker, I didn’t have a whole lot of cash. I had the investments in my business, but no real personal investments. And to keep up with all my various lifestyle choices—and the credit card debt they created—I was living on cash ﬂow virtually month by month. As a result, I was financially and emotionally insecure. I was also, at a gut level, angry that, despite working hard and gaining a lot of professional skills, I didn’t feel safe or affluent because I was basically starting over each month. There was the pain, frustration, and fear because I knew that without any real investments, I was close to the brink. I didn’t choose to cut back because I was wedded to my lifestyle.
But what did I have to complain about? I was doing what I had always imagined myself doing, and having a terriﬁc time. Until, in the kindest way possible, the man I had been dating told me it was over between us. He walked out of my life, and the bottom fell out of my world.
The real shock wasn’t that this man left me. It was what I discovered about myself after he was gone. For all my apparent independence and competitive edge, for all my business training and knowledge of how money can bring security, for all my financially savvy . . . I suddenly felt that the man who was going to take care of my long-term financial future had ridden off into the sunset, leaving me completely—intolerably!—on my own.
I was left with a horrible feeling in my stomach. Suddenly, I realized that I was flying alone without a safety net. I was living month by month, and unless I got it together, I was always going to live this way. Nobody was there to work out a plan for me; if I were to have any sort of financial future, I was going to have to make one for myself. It was fear and insecurity and self-doubt that were making my stomach do somersaults, and I didn’t like that feeling at all.
I realized that certain beliefs were handicapping me—beliefs I’d sheltered so deeply that I hadn’t even realized I had them. I had been harboring a destructive, self-deprecating fantasy: This man— and, I guess, any man who entered my life on an intimate level— was going to take care of me and my financial security. I was a victim of the “White Knight Syndrome.”
Once this realization hit me, I took the problem like a terrier to a bone. Curious about where I stood, I began to ask my female colleagues in the brokerage world and elsewhere what they were doing about their financial futures. I found an epidemic of the White Knight Syndrome, and a weird repetition of my own circumstances: house, car, credit card debt, and virtually no investments.
Even more surprising were the answers I elicited from my male colleagues on Wall Street. For the most part, they, too, admitted to the house-car-credit-card triangle. In the lives of these financial professionals, investing seemed to be way down the list of personal priorities. Their firms were bringing in all kinds of financial experts and economists to make presentations that gave them an accurate picture of the global scene, and I’d assumed that, unlike me, they were putting their growing sophistication to use in developing their personal portfolios. But at home, after working hours, these folks, like me, were right there with the rest of the population, living in the moment and preparing very little, if at all, for the day when their earning years would be changing.
What was going on?
I concluded that the combination of our youth, our culture, our crazy work pace, and our single-minded competitiveness was making us believe—perhaps unconsciously—either that we’d keep earning forever, or that we’d never live long enough to have to worry about the days when we’d no longer be working.
When we start working, many of us use our first paychecks— which seem so big at the time—to buy an array of goodies: cars, stereos, computers, clothes, jewelry, sporting goods, CDs, books, videos. And advertisers and retailers, who try to make us believe that we’ll have a good life if we buy their products, constantly nudge us to keep spending. But how often do you see commercials or ads telling you about the joys of keeping some of your money and building your own wealth?
Because we’re young, we feel invincible. We naively believe we don’t have to squirrel away anything for the future because “there’s plenty of time.” And so we put off engaging in our own financial life and instead indulge our whims.
Later, after we’ve accumulated all the toys and luxuries we can ﬁt into our homes or our lives, we get caught up in the whirligig of career and continue to delay making any real inroads toward building our financial security. Finally, when we become “women of a certain age,” we think it’s too late to begin, and so we don’t bother.
Once I realized how my attitudes stood in the way of my financial progress, and that I had to take action, I started to wise up. Because of the business, I was in, I knew how to make investments work for me; the challenge was to slow down long enough to set them up. So I devoted time to thinking about my life and where I wanted to be five, ten, twenty, and thirty years from now. I developed an investment philosophy grounded in the basics of financial life, along with a personal investment strategy designed to generate a steadily producing, low-maintenance “Money Machine” in order to yield the cash I’d need down the line when I was ready to ease out of working. This didn’t happen overnight. It took several years of careful planning, assessing, and soul-searching.
I had a mission, to sort out the best ways in the universe of financial options for women to take charge of their money lives and financial security and to build the wealth they’ll need for their futures.
The information and insights you’ll find here can mean the difference between poverty and security in your future. So join us here for a little first aid for your spirit and soul and also your wealth. I think you’ll find that if you slow down, take a few deep breaths, and let your financial insights grow, that you’ll sense new strength in your power as a woman living in the best of times.
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.