By Sandra Finkelstein
I was brought up to believe you never spend more than you have (ok dipping into my dad’s wallet sometimes helped!) I learned to save and make pretty good choices all things considered. Then I met my husband and from the time we started dating until the time we divorced, I allowed myself to make decisions that were NOT in the best interest of myself, nor my family.
Divorce is an eye opener for many women, for you get to see what you really are worth dollar wise $$$! You are required to put together your financial statements in order to do equalization. I always laughed and told my friends, the only person who truly knows a person’s worth are their lawyer and their accountant. Many people appear to be financially sound but aren’t.
My work is about empowerment and one of the drives has been my divorce. I needed to take back my power AND learn to be accountable and responsible for my choices. I could no longer blame anyone else for bad choices. Through my work I became aware that many women are financially unaware of their situation – Why? Many women choose to hand off their finances to their husband and/or significant others, accountants, financial planners or just have no interest. For some it is cultural: the man overseas the finances. For many it is the lack of education, understanding and awareness. One thing is for certain: talking about one’s personal finances is still taboo. Many women are more comfortable talking about their sex life, than about their financial life. This can be dangerous.
This is a self-care website, but financial self-care is just as important as your evening routine.
In my research it became apparent that some women do in fact want to know more but are afraid to ask “stupid” questions and when they do, they are given an answer in financial jargon. I saw a need and thus began a financial empowerment section of my website years ago, which was aimed at breaking things down to the simple. In fact my inspiration came from the movie, Confessions of A Shopaholic – I don’t know if you remember the “the girl with the green scarf” – she wanted to be a writer for a fashion magazine and took a job with a financial magazine and began to write under a pseudo name and relate finances to shopping.
It was brilliant. Many women can relate to shopping. So I expanded the idea and I put together a talk where I liken the organizing of your finances to that of your closet. Some of you love your closet- you take it apart two or three times a year, go through the clothes and see what you want to keep, what you want to get rid of, how you want to organize it, while others struggle with their closet- they cannot find anything (ok every women I know looks in their closet at one point and says, “I have nothing to wear!”), it’s a mess and things are strewn everywhere.
I had the chance to sit with nine women ranging from late-40s to mid-60s and we had “a round-table discussion on financial awareness and empowerment.” I did an exercise using two identical mock closets and asked the women to organize the space using the same items. The results were fascinating. While there were some similarities, there were definite differences. After some discussion, I shared the point of the exercise– to show we are all unique and no two closets will ever look the same. A woman with young children has different needs than the mother working full-time. This truth is the same for your finances. Depending on what stage you are in your life, a person will have different needs and wants: Pay off mortgage, pay for university, child getting married, bar mitzvah, camp, extra curricular activities, aging parent, just to name a few!
The discussion brought out some very good suggestions and I want to share them with you:
- It’s not about trust or love – both parties need to be FULLY aware of their finances at all times, especially in case something happens to the other.
- Create a binder with all of the pertinent information and contact names: executor of will, lawyer, accountant, banking info, etc. and have your safety deposit key taped to the inside of the binder. If something happens to both of you, your children or key person will have all of the information.
- Be aware of your aging parents’ finances – does it impact you?
- All women need a credit card in their name to build their credit rating. Even if your husband pays for “everything,” put a few charges on a month, and pay it off in full if possible, and ON TIME. You never know what life has in store for you, and if you will one day have to stand on your own two financial feet. Lay the seeds early.
- Don’t be afraid to ASK MANY QUESTIONS. This may involve bringing some skeletons out of the closet, but better to know each and every one, than to wake up one day and find yourself in a mess you had no idea was there.
As taste and style changes, so will your financial needs and how you organize your “financial closet.” Start today. It is time to take back your power and become aware… your closet demands it!
I’d love to know, are you aware of your financial situation? Does your partner take care of the finances, or do you do it together? Have you learned anything over the years that you can share with readers?
Sandra Finkelstein is the mother of two boys. They have been her inspiration to become empowered: find and speak her voice. She is an advocate for empowerment and awareness, walking your talk, accountability and responsibility. Her work focuses on women and financial empowerment, a youth movement: Voices of Youth and challenging the corporate culture.
She has been the CEO and founder of 2BeEmpowered.com, VoicesOfYouth.ca, SheEO, and is now President at A Perfect Fit.