December 2007

credit cardListen up, all you single gals looking for a rich guy. I have a word of warning for you. Beware the Big Spender. He might be a Kook.

What’s a Kook, you ask? “Someone you shouldn’t date,” explains Adryenn Ashley, who wrote the book on Kookiness, Spotting the Kooks.

Adryenn knows what she’s talking about. She’s a forensic accountant and certified divorce financial analyst who’s witnessed too many marriages go awry. “I saw a lot of people who got married and shouldn’t. I wanted to get to them early before they fell in love with the wrong guy.”

The Big Spender is often that “wrong guy.” He’ll woo you with expensive gifts, lavish meals, exotic vacations. Problem is, says Adryenn, Big Spenders, as seductive as they are, can often be heartbreaks waiting to happen. To him, you’re simply another possession. He values money far more than intimacy. When he does something wrong, his first response may be to give you a string of pearls. But don’t expect a heartfelt discussion or a genuine apology. Five years down the road, he probably still won’t know your favorite color or remember your birthday. And if one day you leave, he likely won’t even notice.

Sure, I may be stereotyping. But ever since my conversation with Adryenn, I think it’s a potential problem worth pointing out. Especially since I know the Prince Charming syndrome is alive and well.

“It’s so easy to get blind-sighted by bling,” Adryenn told me. So what do you do if you’ve got a big rock on your left ring finger, given to you by your beloved Big Spender? Take precautions, Adryenn urges. Get an “airtight prenup.” Or better yet, consider one of her workshops: A Man and A Plan. The workshop sound fabulous…even if you aren’t engaged to a Kook. She guides you and your man through those difficult financial discussions so they become collaborative, not adversarial. Then she has you both writing a prenup that’s based on your marriage vows (not your worst fears). How cool is that?

Spotting the Kooks won’t be out until July, but you can learn more about her workshops or other offerings at


Not long ago, BusinessWeek ran a cover story on Women and Power. They featured a series of women that ran the gamut of economic status and job titles. It immediately reminded me of an important lesson I learned from successful women:

Money does not give us power

Power comes from the choices we make. That’s a very important distinction. Not all high earners are powerful women.

In my research, successful women fell into two groups. The Successful High Earners and the Hard-driven High Earners.

The Hard-driven ones are  superwomen on steroids, classic workaholics.  They are NOT powerful women. In fact, they have more in common with underearners than their higher paid peers. They live in deprivation…not necessarily money, but time, joy, freedom, and control of their life. They feel trapped, often by the money itself.

You know what makes Successful High Earners so powerful? Conscious choices based on self awareness. Most of these women actually take time to for self reflection, to figure out what was really important to them.  Their decisions are based, not on fear, but on their priorities, their most cherished values.

One of the most poignant examples was a woman who went to a workshop where she was asked this question: If you were on your deathbed, looking back at your life, what would make you feel happiest and satisfied with how you lived?  From that came a list of her top 5 priorities. Soon after, she was asked to be on the board of a business start-up in China. The meetings would be all expense paid weekends in SF. There was a time she would’ve jumped at the chance, but, she realized, Chinese business wasn’t one of her priorities.

“It would’ve been fun,” she told me. “I would’ve met interesting people, but it would’ve taken me away from my partner, the book I was writing, all those things that are really important.”

Spoken by a truly powerful woman. How about you? If you were on your deathbed, looking back at your life, what would make you feel happiest and satisfied with how you lived? When was the last time you identified your top priorities, your deepest values? More importantly, are you living them now?

Men vs. Women?I actually believed it was fading. But I guess I was being naïve. A lot of high earning women (and not-so high-earners as well) are still contending with gender bias and sexual harassment. Not all successful women have to confront these problems. But for those who do, they tell me it’s one of the most frustrating challenges in their career. Maybe you know what I’m talking about.

“I wish we were all treated equally, but that just isn’t the case,” one woman told me, and she went on to say. “The guys will get asked by the people who run the firm to go golfing but they won’t ask me because I’m a woman. So my peers are hanging out with the decision makers on weekends and I’m not invited. “

When I asked her how she lived with that, she just shrugged, “I’ve grown to accept it. I don’t like it but what can I do? I counteract by not messing up, not making mistakes, and working harder.”

The women I’ve talked to seem to have found a recipe for coping that relies heavily on recognition, not resignation—acceptance, not anger, and a large dose of humor. When they’d give me examples of obvious unfairness, I’d shake my head and wonder how they handled these situations. Their responses were remarkably similar. “I just have a good laugh,” they’d say, “otherwise I’d go crazy.”

I’d be really interested to hear from those of you who’ve experienced gender discrimination. What has kept you from going crazy?

Glass wall - ResistanceYou know the feeling. You finally decide to take charge of your money. You’re going to get smart. You’re going to pay off your debt. You’re going to invest regularly. Off you go…when suddenly, you run smack dab into resistance.

Resistance, by the way, is the psychological term for “I don’t want to do this!” You don’t feel right. You get scared. You want to quit. Resistance, more than anything else, is what stops women from taking the financial reins.

Trouble is, resistance is very subtle and easy to justify. To help you identify when you’re in it, I’ve come up with Twelve Signs You’re In Resistance

1. YOU’RE TOO BUSY (“I have no time.”)

2. YOU PROCRASTINATE (“I’ll do it later.”)

3. YOU’RE SCARED INTO INACTION (“Omygawd, what if…?”)

4. YOU DEFER DECISIONS (“You do it, you decide.”)

5. YOU LOSE INTEREST (“This is boring, it’s not my thing.”)

6. YOU’RE FORGETFUL (“Oh, I meant to, but I forgot.”)

7. YOU’RE DISORGANIZED (“Where did I put that…?”)

8. YOU FOG UP, SPACE OUT (“What are you talking about?”)

9. YOU FEEL PARALYZED (“I just can’t think or get going.”)

10. YOU FIND REASONS NOT TO ACT (“I can’t because…”)

11. YOU’RE IMPATIENT (“This is taking way too long.”)

12. YOU KEEP RUNNING INTO NAYSAYERS (Other people say, ‘You can’t do that,” “That’s not possible.”) This form of resistance is especially sneaky. You project your own fear out onto others.

How do you get past resistance?

  • Understand that resistance is normal. It simply means things are changing, not that something is wrong
  • Do not let resistance derail you, at least not for very long
  • Whatever it is you don’t want to do, that is exactly what you need to do next