August 2008

It’s the finale…the last installment of popular questions. I hope they’ve been helpful. And if you have any questions for me, feel free to ask. I’d love to hear from you! So here we go:

Road to financial empowerment for women

1. I’m getting married next year. Should my fiancé and I keep separate accounts or have one joint account?
It’s fine to have a joint account for bill paying, etc, but be sure you have one for yourself too. Every woman needs an account in her own name.

2. How can I stop being such a compulsive shopper?
As my mentor, Karen McCall, a pioneer in financial recovery, always said: “You can never get enough of what you don’t really need.” The problem isn’t the shopping, but the “hole in your soul” you’re trying to fill. I highly recommend attending DA (Debtors Anonymous) meetings, a 12 step program for over-spenders, chronic debtors, and underearners.

3. What is one of the most common money mistakes women make and how can I avoid it?
Without a doubt; it’s doing nothing because you’re afraid of making a mistake. My advice is to spend 3-6 months educating yourself. How?

  1. Every day read something about money, even if it’s just the headlines in the business section of the newspaper, even if it’s only for 1or 2 minutes.
  2. Every week, talk about money, particularly with someone who knows more than you. (taking a class counts too).
  3. Every month, save by having a small amount from your paycheck or checking account automatically deposited in a savings and/or retirement account.

I also encourage women to find a financial advisor they can trust, who will hold them accountable and keep them on track.

4. I’m always worrying about money. How can I calm my fears?

  1. Educate yourself. Knowledge is the best anecdote for fear. The goal is to make financial decisions from knowledge, not ignorance, emotion or habit. Doing the 3 steps I outlined above is an amazingly simple but effective way to conquer money fears.
  2. Join with others. We women are so relationship oriented, one of the best ways to learn is to get support by forming (or joining) a money book club, money study group, or investment club.
  3. Track your spending. Write down every penny you spend for at least a month, then transfer those amounts to spending categories. This exercise allows you to see how/where you can shave expenses, figure out a debt repayment plan, and increase savings.
  4. Create an emergency savings fund with at least 6 months worth of living expenses (a shoe sale is NOT an emergency!)

5. As a young career woman, what’s the single smartest thing I can do with my money now?
Automatic savings. Arrange to have the bank, every month, withdraw money from your checking account or paycheck and deposit it monthly into a personal savings account. Even small amounts ($10 or $20 a month) consistently saved accumulate quickly. It’s money you’d otherwise fritter away. And you don’t miss what you don’t see!! Do the same with your company’s retirement account.

6. My current salary is under 50K. How can I make more money?
If you love what you do, ask for a raise. If you get a ‘no’, ask your boss what you need to do for a pay increase. If you feel dead-ended, or dislike your current job, start looking for a better, higher paying one. Figure out what you’re passionate about and network like crazy. From my interviews with six- and seven-figure women, I discovered that four factors are essential for financial success and quality of life (both are important):

  1. Passion—loving what you do
  2. Audacity—doing what you fear
  3. Resilience—getting back up when you fall down
  4. Community—reaching out for support

I’m back with more questions that I’m commonly asked, and the pithy answers I provided. Let me know if you disagree (or agree) with any of my responses.
1. How does a person, like myself, who is inexperienced with negotiating, learn how to do it successfully?
I’ll tell you how I’ve learned to be a better negotiator: by 1) taking classes, 2) reading books, 3) talking to people who are good at it; 4) learning from my mistakes. If I have to choose the one that’s been the most powerful, it’s #4.
2. I have a lot of external constraints—3 children and an active family lifethat prevent me from achieving my full professional potential. What can I do?
Your external conditions are not actual constraints. They’re excuses…pure and simple. I talk to too many women, with those same constraints, who are succeeding magnificently. And then there are others who don’t have kids or a family, yet have all kinds of other “constraints” as reasons for not acting. More often than not, we use those “constraints” as justifications, so we don’t have to do what we’re scared to do.
3. How can I most effectively teach my children about personal finance?
Whenever anyone asks me ‘how can I get my kids to be smart about money?’ my answer is always the same. Start by getting smart yourself. When it comes to children, you teach best what you model most. Also, I suggest talking openly and consistently (without preaching) to them about money. Include your kids in conversations about the family budget, paying bills, investing, saving for college, the danger of credit cards, etc. Managing money was, and still is, a very common topic of conversation around our dinner table.
4. I am a 50-year-old chronic underearner in a dead-end job with no advancement path. Is there any hope for me?
I was in my 50’s when I finally overcame underearning. And I’ve interviewed women who didn’t start making good money until their 60’s or 70’s. Overcoming underearning has nothing to do with age, lack of education or credentials…or anything else we think we need to make the big bucks. The only requirement necessary is the willingness to do what you fear, including thinking bigger, valuing yourself, and going outside your comfort zone (which may mean finding a new job)
5. Discussing money can be seen as crass, rude, or inappropriate. Until this changes, how can I find support, like you suggest?
I’ll tell you how I found support. I went to networking events, joined professional groups, attended financial conferences…anywhere I could find people who were like I wanted to become. I’d talk to them openly about money. It wasn’t crass. I didn’t ask how much they made, but I’d pick their brain and find out how they got smart. You’d be surprised how people will respond when you’re authentic and sincere about learning more.

So, do you agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Questions. I get a lot of them. I thought I’d share some of the most often asked ones, in this and future blogs. Who knows, maybe you’ve been wondering the same thing. Or, maybe you have a better response than mine. Let me know…

1. How is underearning self-imposed?
If you look at the 10 traits of an underearner—for example, they talk as if they’re trapped; they give away their power; they are self-saboteurs, codependent, vague about money and often anti-wealth—you can see every single trait is a result of a choice we made.

2. What is one thing I can start doing NOW to live up to my full potential and earn what I deserve?
Do what you’re most scared to do. The number one requirement for going to the next level in your life is the willingness to be uncomfortable, to do what you think you can’t do. Don’t worry if you’re not sure what that may be. You’ll know exactly what it is the moment you hear yourself saying “I can’t do that,” or “Oh no, that’s impossible.” Fear always points the way to growth.

3. I’m great at saving, but I shy away from investing. I know a lot of other women do too. Why do we do this?
Because investing seems so complicated and overwhelming! “And we women are so damn busy, who has time to learn?” That’s how I felt—until I realized that it’s a matter of taking small steps, doing a little something every day, like reading the business section of the newspaper, perusing financial sites, watching PBS nightly business report, taking classes, talking to others about money. Watch what happens after 3-6 months. Then find a financial advisor you can trust (I wrote a booklet that tells you how, available on my website).

4. Women entrepreneurs are notorious for not charging what they are worth. How can I overcome this tendency?
By valuing yourself, believing in what you do, then speaking up and asking for more because you know you’re worth it. That’s what I had to do to make six figures. I had to raise my fees, bargain harder, even though I was scared to death to do it. Not everyone agreed to pay my higher fee at first, but enough did that my income went up significantly, without having to work any harder!

5. You say that focus and intention are critical to overcoming underearning. Why?
One of the most “popular” ways intelligent, talented, ambitious women keep underearning is by being scattered, unfocused, pulled in too many directions. They may be genuinely motivated to make money, but they don’t realize that stretching themselves too thin dilutes their energy and is an act of self sabotage.

Does any of this ring true for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!