It’s never too late to take ownership of your finances. Do what you can, when you can—the sooner you get started, the better. All clichés, and all true, as I’ve learned through my own life as a professional, wife, mother, and woman.
The Path to Financial Empowerment Is Not Always Straight
My experience mirrors that of many women. Fresh out of school, I took all the personal financial steps advised: I opened new checking and savings accounts, got life insurance and health benefits through work, made regular contributions to a retirement account, and put any extra money into mutual funds and CDs. Since I worked as a lawyer in mergers and acquisitions and wanted to avoid conflicts, I did not invest directly in the stock market.
When my maternity leave for my third child ran out, I made the choice to stay home fulltime until my daughters were older. At that point, I tried to remain involved but became more focused on reading to my girls than building my financial base. After a few years, I started a not-for-profit and always balanced its budget, but I didn’t take a paycheck. What I did do: Try to watch my personal pennies, tuck away at least $100 each month into a savings account, learn about long-term care insurance, and get a will in order. I read articles and news about finance and the economy. Yet, I did not feel very financially “empowered.”
Back on the Paid Working Track
I reentered the paid workforce a year and a half ago, and have once again begun to take charge of my fiscal self. Like many other women who have passed the half-century mark and have older children, this is a time of transition, change, promise, and renewal. Finances take on new significance, too. For me this is especially true, since I have been working with Karen Finerman at her woman-owned investment firm, Metropolitan Capital Advisors.
Financial Responsibility Isn’t a Choice
It shouldn’t be a matter of choice to be engaged in finance and investing. After all, 90% of women become responsible for their finances at some point in their lives, according to Linda Descano, founder of Women & Co. Yet, I know so many women who have all kinds of reasons for not taking ownership of their finances—and I have used them, too. They are too busy. They lack financial education. They suffer from fear and insecurity that the topic is too complicated. Their financial advisors talk to their spouses and exclude them. They don’t want the responsibility because they prefer to be dependent on their spouses. Their spouse has and controls the resources. They believe the topic of money is distasteful, unseemly or unromantic.
Women Want to Talk About Investing
This past March, as the world began to feel like it was finding new economic legs, Karen and I started to speak about taking financial ownership to groups of women in settings in which they felt comfortable asking questions about investing. The goal has been to help women become more educated, active, and strategic about a topic that for too long has been off-limits in polite company. The response has been enthusiastic, with women hungry for more.
Let’s Learn Together
To take your full seat at life’s power table—making your voice heard, protecting and providing for your interests politically, economically, socially and philanthropically—requires that you become comfortable with finances and investing.
I hope that you’ll get started on your own financial journey by taking full advantage of the LearnVest website, including its Personal Finance Basics Bootcamp. Educating yourself is the most important step, once you resolve to act— whatever your age.