The Fearless Wallet: Important Money Questions for Women

Is it true that women can’t manage their money as well as men? Or are we just afraid of it?

Placing boys and their pricey toys on the mental shelf for a moment, let’s be honest: How many times have you yearned for that pair of designer shoes when you couldn’t really afford them? The ones with the black lace wrapped around the cream satin toes and the perfect heels – the ones that make your legs look long and luscious. They cost more than your rent and you know you can’t afford them, but as you slip them on your feet, the dialogue of desire begins:

Self: “I know I don’t have the money in my checking account and I need to pay rent with my next check. Hmm…I can put it on my credit card and I will stay vigilant and pay it off next month.”

“Enjoy your new shoes, Miss Smith, and thank you for shopping at Needless Markup!”

A month later, your credit card bill arrives and the warm fuzzy feeling of gorgeous kicks has turned into a full-blown bunion on your bank account. You find yourself crawling under the covers and praying to the gods above that somehow this week you will be the lucky lotto winner.

Women are earning more than ever, yet money is a topic of fear and discomfort for many of our sex. So if it’s any comfort, you’re not alone. (Although I wouldn’t get excited about this because collectively, we are part of a nation that has gotten ourselves into so much debt we’ve been downgraded from a triple A to a double A, and I’m not talking about cup size.)

It’s silliness to think women can’t budget, invest or manage their money as well as a man, but there are very real cultural factors affecting our gender when it comes to cash. As women, we are taught from early childhood to care for others and place ourselves last. Our natural instinct is to give everything we have away, leaving ourselves with nothing. In love, we give our whole heart away and any other organ we have if it means keeping a man. As mothers, we give our children every last morsel even if it means we starve to death. In life, we give away whatever we have as long as we fit in with the trendy crowd.

I counsel women frequently about money, especially in the wake of divorce, and the good news it’s not such a scary topic it’s been made out to be. Let’s talk about ways to avoid a financial disaster so we don’t have to move in together like Bea Arthur and Betty White in the Golden Girls.

If you are a married woman, I hope you stay in marital bliss forever, I do. But the facts don’t lie; up to half of you will end your marriage in divorce. Don’t shoot the messenger. I have interviewed hundreds of women who have gone through divorce and I can’t tell you how many times I have been told:

“I gave up my dream and went to work to support my husband while he finished school.”

The status quo won out, and these women trusted that their husbands would be the greater breadwinner. So, they put their hopes and dreams aside to build a life for their family. You see, we give, give, give. Nearly all of the women I have spoken to post-divorce have told me their financial situations are in dire straights. A woman is far more likely to live in poverty after a divorce than a man; despite expensive child support and alimony, most men eventually end up faring much better financially a few years out from a divorce than do women.

I pose this question to all of you, married (happily or not) or single:

“Why not prepare for war when at peace?”

The infamous Chinese General Sun Tzu famously said, “In peace prepare for war, in war prepare for peace. The art of war is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence under no circumstances can it be neglected.”

 As a married woman, you are an executive in your family corporation and you should be involved in all financial decisions.

If your husband is running the financial side of the household ask him to teach you all about it. Assure him it’s not because you are planning an exit strategy, but rather, a lifelong family strategy that involves being financially responsible.

As a single lady, find ways to save money and put it aside. (This goes for married couples, too.)

Every time you get a paycheck make sure you pay yourself first. A good rule of thumb is to take out 10 percent of your paycheck and put it away. Find an investment services company that offers a money market account where you will accrue interest. Many of these companies offer free classes at their local branches on financial planning, stock trading, and more.

The importance of taking these steps is to release your anxiety about money and get to know it better.

We all have fear that we don’t have enough money and we constantly desire more of it. Either way, money is a scary proposition and we are basically at war with it daily. Sun Tzu is correct; war is a matter of life or death and the journey there is either to safety or to ruin. I choose safety, and therefore, my solution for anything that scares me, is to self-educate. Take online courses about financial planning or basic accounting or just read financial magazines. By taking these steps you will subconsciously become more aware of your money and you will have less fear attached to it. On a higher level, rather than resisting information about your finances (“I’ll just put it on my credit card”) practice non-resistance. Whenever I let go of anything that I am holding on to tightly it turns around and begins to flow to me with great ease. The Buddhist’s have a great way of describing this:

“The ocean waves come crashing upon the shore then silently returning to the sea. If you walk into the wave and resist the swell you will stay stuck in it until you tire out and perhaps die. However, if you let the wave carry you it will wash you ashore safely. Your emotions are like a wave, they come crashing in and then they flow out. However, if you resist the emotion you will hold on to it and it will not leave. You must allow yourself to feel it, observe it, and welcome it. Then, and only then will it wash out of you.”

Ultimately, there is only one person you should rely on to take care of you and your financial future…you. Do it consciously.

Be mentally present every time you spend a dollar. Embrace your fear of money (in fact, embrace all your fears and watch them melt away). Trust that you will always be adding to your abundance and through this practice you will create wealth not just monetarily but spiritually as well.

If you have a story to share or a question you would like addressed regarding your fear of money, please email us at: agismith@comcast.net.

Editor’s note: Agi Smith is a women’s advisor and author. Catch her articles about divorce, women and business, and learn more about her own personal story of triumph, at the Huffington Post.

Image: kevindooley, Kheel Center, sushi ina

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