October 2007


Let me suggest a foolproof strategy for achieving financial savvy…especially if you’re having a hard time doing it. Think big. Act small. And never, ever stop until you reach your goal.

One reason so many have trouble with money—saving more, investing wisely, or paying off debt—is because it seems so overwhelming. And indeed it can be. But I truly believe the secret to success is this: small steps consistently taken create remarkable results.

I am convinced:

  1. It doesn’t take a lot of time to get smart.
  2. It doesn’t take a lot of money to create wealth.
  3. It’s best to begin when you’re young, but it’s never, ever too late to start.

A big part of attaining financial freedom is simply changing your habits.

Early on, I devised a 3-step plan for myself that was amazingly effective at changing my habitual avoidance. Try these 3 steps for 4 months, and see what happens:

Reading up1. Everyday, read something about money, even if it’s just for a minute or two, even if it’s only the headlines of the business section of the newspaper, or a money magazine while you’re waiting in line at the grocery. So much of getting smart or smarter about money is understanding the jargon and the current trends.

2. Every week, have a conversation about money, especially with someone who knows more than you. I learned this from my interviews with financially savvy women. Whenever you meet anyone who knows more than you, ask them how they got smart, the mistakes they made, and what’s worked best for them. I think it’s our secrecy and silence about money that keeps us stuck.

3. Every month, save. Automatically have money transferred from your checking account or paycheck to your savings account. How much? Better to save say $10 a month, than try to put aside too much and eventually give up because you feel the pinch. Small amounts really do add up surprisingly fast. And as the saying goes: it’s easier to find 500 ways to save $1 than it is to find 1 way to save $500.

Taking ChargeI just had a long conversation with Robin Tennant, who teaches negotiation skills to women. My question to her: What’s the biggest mistake women make in asking for more money?

Her response: Women give away their power before they even open their mouth.

How do we take back our power? I wondered. Here were her tips.

  1. Take credit for your ideas. You must toot your own horn, brag about your successes. Let the powers-that-be know precisely what your contribution was to a project or the team. “Men are taught to showboat. Women are taught to be submissive. We need to learn to say, ‘damn I’m good.’”
  2. Take responsibility for your mistakes. Your boss never wants to hear “yes…but” or any explanation. Instead, say ‘I made a mistake and I will fix it.” Robin tells me about a terrible mistake she once made, that lost business for the company, but she took responsibility, dealt with it professionally, and won her superiors’ respect. “It came a badge of honor by the way I handled it.”
  3. Be prepared. Bring a list—that you’ve worked on for a least 3 weeks to a month—of what you want and what you’re willing to give up. For example, Robin says, “I may not need my name on the stationary, but flexibility to go to my kids activities is really important.”
  4. Don’t look or act scared…even if you’re a quivering wreck. See yourself as an equal, adding value, deserving respect.
  5. Ask for what you want firmly, confidently, and allow for silence. Women often talk too much when they get nervous. Listen to what they say, even if its criticism, without interrupting or justifying your actions.

I liked her advice. Especially the part about taking credit for your successes and responsibility for your mistakes. What do you think?

If you want to get a hold of Robin: robintennant@mac.com

You know what I’ve come to believe is the biggest pitfall to making more money? It’s simply this: We think we have to have it all figured out first. Yet that’s exactly what slows us down, or keeps us stuck.

I realized this after giving two Overcoming Underearning workshops back to back. When it came to setting financial goals, the women who had the most trouble thinking bigger were the ones who kept trying to figure out exactly what they needed to do to get there. If they couldn’t figure it out, they tended to lower their sights.

That’s not the way it works at all…at least not for the thousands of successful women I’ve interviewed. What these women did was:Reach

1. set a goal,

2. commit to reach it (without having to know exactly how),

3. even if they had a plan, they took advantage of unexpected opportunities that fell in their lap.

A commitment is like a magnet…it attracts coincidences. I always say, once you truly commit to a bigger goal, and you don’t experience coincidences, then you need to go back to the drawing board. You’re obviously not totally committed.

That’s the way it happened for me. I decided to earn $125,000 in the year 2000. As a chronic underearner, I had no idea how I was going to do that. But as I learned from the six-figure women I was interviewing, I didn’t need to figure it out. I just needed to take advantage of synchronicities. Of course, these opportunities always lay right outside my comfort zone.

That’s the real secret to overcoming underearning. It’s not about trying to figure out how, but being willing to let go of control and do what comes next, especially if it’s something you’re scared to do.

My new goal is: Make Millions, Help Millions, Give Millions. Believe me, I have no idea how I’m going to reach that. But once I declared that intention, the universe started tossing synchronicities my way. I’m not there yet, however I’m spending a lot of time in my discomfort zone. I’ll let you know what happens.

Heart in the cold snowA recent NY Times article has created a lot of buzz. Young women, working in major cities, are surging way ahead of men in terms of earnings. This is a great news for a gender that’s long been on the short end of the income stick.

Still, this trend is bound to play havoc in some relationships. For centuries, men’s self esteem has been heavily linked to their financial success…just as women’s sense of femininity has been connected to being taken care of. Sure times have changed radically…but some egos are having trouble making the transition.

And it’s not just men who are having a hard time…women are too. I’ve talked with a lot of women, ambitious as they are, who secretly resent their husband’s inability to bring in the big bucks.

Jean Chatsky wrote a terrific article on keeping your relationship intact when your man earns less. She offers 5 tips:

  1. Talk and listen
  2. Be his biggest cheerleader
  3. Open yours, mine, and ours accounts
  4. Focus on the endgame (i.e. your dreams and goals)
  5. Recognize that marriage changes things

Excellent advice. Of the 5, I believe #1 is the critical piece. Especially the listening part. We all know it’s important to communicate. But fearful people can be vicious. Not because they’re mean-spirited, but because they’re scared. Make no mistake—role reversal can be scary because it threatens the status quo.

Successful communication means allowing anger, even rage, to be expressed…without taking it personally. It requires the willingness to tell your truth, blow off steam, express your fear and anger without the other person getting defensive, but listening with compassion and nonjudgement. Not easy, by any means.

I’d love to hear from those of you who have had these kind of discussions…what’s worked and what hasn’t??