I am part of a women’s group – The Spirituelle Divas – and one of the woman of that group asked me to speak to them about Empowerment. We chose the topic of financial empowerment.

I created a “fun” presentation where I liken the organizing of your finances to that of organizing your closet. I do this because women, whether they are cognizant and aware, are consistently organizing – the home, the food shopping, scheduling the children’s events, their closets – and these skills which women do on a daily basis are no different from the ones needed to organize their finances. It is about asking good questions and being aware so that we can make good decisions.

This was an interactive presentation where I spoke and the audience participated, drove discussion and asked questions not just to me but to one another. To give you some background there were 9 women and the age ranged from late 40s to late 50s – maybe early 60s. I talked about how many women hand off their finances to their husband, significant other, their children, their financial planner and/or bank manager. Why? For some women it is because of fear – they do not understand financial jargon and terms – for others they do not care and some their husbands have taken over the role. In this group it varied – there happened to be some of the women are in finance and some, their husbands and children are in finance – that was interesting. There were divorced women and married women. The divorced women really had no choice but to take some responsibility for their finances. Through their divorce they would have had to go through their financial situation. What came out, and I concur, is that often before the divorce happens women tend to or need to think about certain financial issues – for instance, are you a supplement to your husband on his credit card? Do you have your own chequing account?

I asked two women to take identical laid out cork boards in which I divided up the board into spaces. The women were given the exact laminated picture of items and asked to create their closet. I asked them to go to different areas of the room so as not to influence one another. I also chose a woman who worked and one who was not (let’s clarify right now that stay at home moms work!). While they worked on their boards I spoke with the remaining women about their “feelings and thoughts around finance”. I wanted to know their relationship – were they part of the financial decisions or not? This group was interesting – there were not only age differences, rather cultural and different financial levels – some had no choice to work and others had the luxury to choose. As each woman spoke I realized that, like all of us, they spoke about finances in regard to money and attachment. What came out of this is that for some they trust their husbands and do not want to know, for others they felt their husbands may be offended and feel that they were not trusting them and one woman really bore the financial pressure of the family. There was no judgement, just sharing.

What did come out of the discussion is a couple things and that is that the choice to be aware really is not about trust or lack of it, it is about being responsible – not only to yourself but to your children. What if something happened to both of you? Do your children know where your will is? Who are your executors? Who is your lawyer(s), accountant(s), financial planner, bank, and bank manager? Do you have a safety deposit box key? For which bank and what box number?

These are some of the concerns and questions that were raised. One woman presented what her and her husband do, they have a binder with the safety deposit key taped in the front of this binder. In this binder there is a list of all contacts and pertinent information if G-d forbid something happened to the both of them. This way, their children will know where everything is – their will, their important documents, contact information for the lawyer, accountant and so on. I think that this is an incredible idea and highly recommend it to others.

Everyone loved this idea. We also talked about aging parents and the fact that not only do we need to know our financial situation, rather, that of our ailing parents. For some, having an aging parent can become a financial responsibility to you and your family. Being aware of their financial situation is very important. From this understanding – as a women, mother, sister, daughter – know that you too will age and being aware is important for yourself and for other family members that will end up being your caregivers. Expressing your desires when you are healthy and of sound mind alleviates decisions later on and makes it clear what your intentions and desires are so there is no room for misunderstanding. For instance, sharing your will with family members when you are lucid and aware can alleviate any legal actions questioning your estate. It also allows you time to think about how you are dividing your estate amongst family members.

Back to the “closets”
We turned to the 2 woman who organized their “closets” and looked at them. There were some similarities and some differences. One women put all the clothes away, the other only selected some of the pieces. One women focused more on the dressier side of things while the other had a large array of clothes. What was the point of this? I shared that the idea was to really show us that not two closets are the same. We are all unique and our needs are different from one another. As well, these needs change over time. So how does this reflect in your closet? For those working you may put your work clothes near the front and your casual clothes near the back. You may divide them by colour, texture – who knows. For those not working your more casual clothes may be near the front with jeans, t-shirts, shirts, etc. What was most apparent was that each closet is different and it is up to you, the individual, to make choices that MAKE SENSE FOR YOU and where you are at in your life. I asked how many like to clean out their closets twice a year to know what they have so they can decide what to keep and what to get rid of? How does this relate to the financial closet?

The financial closet is no different. Each person and family is unique. Some closets will be more organized and some less. Some will empty their closets twice a year and take a look at what they have and consider where they are in their life. As we said needs change – working vs. not working. Financial needs change too depending on the age of your children, the markets, do you have a job? Laid off? Retiring? There are many things to consider. Your financial needs and how you organize your closet will depend where you are in your life and what is impacting it. Are you children going to be attending University in the next year? Are you children getting married? Does you child need braces? Are you paying for rep hockey/baseball/soccer? All of these are financial considerations. For me having young children my main costs are mortgage, their programs, braces and camp. Thus, “cleaning out” your financial closet and asking your advisor good questions about YOUR FINANCIAL INFORMATION keeps you informed, aware and thus allows you to make better financial decisions for you and your family. KNOW THAT YOU CAN FIRE YOUR ACCOUNTANT, YOUR LAWYER, YOUR FINANCIAL ADVISOR IF YOU FEEL THEY ARE NOT RESPECTING YOU, NOT MEETING YOUR NEEDS AND/OR LEVEL OF INFORMATION, JUST PLAIN NOT RETURNING YOUR CALLS. YOU ARE THE CLIENT AND THIS IS YOUR HARD EARNED MONEY! THEY ARE PROVIDING A SERVICE

One conversation that came up was from a lovely woman who talked about loving that she works as she shows her daughter a very empowered woman – one who makes her own money. What was really fascinating that – and maybe because she not Canadian originally and is not fully aware of the Canadian laws/systems – is that she and her husband combine their money in one account. She thought that by paying the bills – credit card and so on, it was building her credit rating. I told her that is not true- you are building your husband’s credit rating for the credit card and accounts are in his name. This is very important for women, in fact, all people to understand, and I can speak only for Canada however I believe the US is the same, that in order to build your credit rating – and we all have one – is that an account, a credit card, must be in your name and your name only. Being a supplement to your husband does not lend you any credit. If your husband dies and you have been a supplement on his credit card – even a Platinum American Express, and then you go into a bank or apply for a credit card – even after all these years – you may find yourself in a situation where the banks are reluctant to give you one – especially one with a lot of credit on it – for you have not proven yourself in the credit/financial world.

This woman who felt empowered suddenly understood that she needed to truly empower herself and get a credit card, simply for the purpose of building credit. I suggested buying small purchases on this – even just $20/month and then paying it off on the due date. Overtime you will establish yourself as a good credit risk. When the woman left that night she had a list of things she wanted to do. She also knew that this is something that she will share with her children, especially her daughter.

The night was wonderful and the women walked away more aware and thinking. I wanted to share this story the one I call The Financial Round Table Talk to give know that you are not alone. Of the 9 women I am sure that you can relate to many if not all of them.

Read this a number of times for there is a lot of information. I have just given suggestions, ultimately it is your life and your choices, I am asking you to make good ones based on awareness and knowledge. Please know that there is NO STUPID question when it comes to your finances. A great teacher/advisor is one who can take the most complex concept and idea and break it down to the simple – in a language that all can understand. Those people that feel the need to speak in their jargon so as to remind you they know more – it is not true, it is just an ego thing! Force them to speak to you in a language that you understand and one that is not condescending. Their response may show you that this may not be the right advisor for you.

Have a wonderful weekend. For those in the U.S. enjoy your Columbus Day. In Canada we are celebrating Thanksgiving.

There is much to be thankful for. Surround yourself with love: family and friends (ok so some family can drive you crazy!) Take a walk and just enjoy the sites of Fall.

Have a wonderful long weekend and for those not celebrating – enjoy every minute of your weekend.

All my love,

Sandra

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