I grew up relying on my father (the "R" of H&R Block), then my husband, to manage my money. Finances intimidated me. But my husband turned out to be a compulsive gambler who lost a fortune of my inheritance. After our divorce, I got tax bills for over a million dollars, and I didn’t have the money.
My husband had left the country. My father refused to help. I had three daughters depending on me. I knew I had to get smart about money, but I was a mess.
I know now this was the best thing that ever happened to me. I’ve come a long way since then. I came to understand that financial success, for women, is a rite of passage into our power, becoming all we can be, staying true to our authentic selves. My ongoing goal in life is to help other women create financial miracles each and every day. Here are 12 things I want every woman to know about money:
1. Think beyond being a wage earner to becoming a wealth builder.
Wealth has nothing to do with what you have. Wealth comes from what you do with what you have. You create wealth by investing, or putting your money in assets that will grow faster than inflation and taxes take it away.
2. Don’t wait for a crisis to get started.
Research shows that most women don’t get serious about investing until they hit a crisis, which is the worst time to start anything. You can’t think straight. You make terrible decisions. You leave yourself wide open to financial losses. Instead, make a conscious commitment to take the financial reins.
3. Realize, with total conviction, you must do it yourself.
Dispelling the myth that “someday my prince will come” is the most important financial decision you will ever make. Prince Charming need not be a man, or even a person. Your “prince” could be an employer, insurance settlement, or a lottery jackpot — anything you fantasize will save you financially.
4. But know that you don’t have to do it alone.
Of all the women I’ve interviewed, the ones with the highest net worth didn’t necessarily earn (or inherit) the most money. The whopping majority worked with financial professionals. But keep this in mind: financial professionals make lousy Prince Charmings. Don’t ever hand over your money, close your eyes, turn your back, and hope they’ll take good care of you.
You need to be educated and involved. A good advisor will make sure you are. How do you find a trustworthy financial professional? Ask for referrals from people who are happy with their advisors.
5. Never invest in anything you don’t understand, whether it’s a stock or bond or the market itself.
Not only don’t you understand what you’re buying, but also you aren’t able to properly evaluate information to know when to sell.
6. Take baby steps to get smart about investing. You'll be amazed at how much you'll pick up.
Every day, read something about money, even if it’s only for a minute or two, even if it’s just perusing the headlines of the business section of the newspaper. So much of getting smart about money is learning the jargon and current trends.
7. Commit to building your wealth.
Without fail, the moment you start learning about money, resistance, like a growling dog guarding the gate, is there to block your way. You don’t feel right. You get scared. You want to quit. To stay on, you need to follow three rules: (1) Just start, (2) Keep going, and (3) Never give up.
8. Know that it doesn’t take a lot of money to create wealth.
Every month, automatically have small amounts transferred from your checking account or payroll check to a savings account. Just $5 is good; $25 to $50 is even better. When you accumulate adequate savings (say 6 to 8 months worth of living expenses), then you can start automatically investing money into mutual funds. Through the “magic” of compounding, you can accumulate a surprisingly sizeable nest egg in a relatively short period of time
9. Do the inner work to avoid sabotaging success.
If you find yourself fogging up or spacing out, if you can’t seem to apply the information you learn, or resist learning it in the first place, then chances are, psychological factors are impeding your progress. Once you identify your internal blocks, financial savvy can come spontaneously, almost effortlessly.
10. Understand what “risk” really means.
Risk in the market refers to volatility and volatility refers to price swings. The more a stock moves up and down, the riskier it is. But those fluctuations only matter when you sell your holdings. The longer your time horizon, the less important those ups and downs are. If you’ve got say, 10 years, those fluctuations are irrelevant. The truth is, the biggest financial risk you take is to do nothing at all.
11. Talk to others about money.
Our secrecy and silence regarding money keeps us stuck. Talk to your friends, family, and colleagues, especially those who are smart with money. You can learn so much from their mistakes and draw inspiration from their successes. You can use each other as sounding boards, role models, and sources of encouragement, advice, and information.
12. Recognize that creating wealth empowers you personally.
Taking charge of your money can be a transformational experience that enriches you financially, emboldens you personally, and endows you with enormous clout. When you combine your check with others — be it a charitable donation, a political contribution, or an ethical investment — you have the ability to create widespread social change.
To learn more about how to move from stability to affluence, check out Barabara's new book Sacred Success®: A Course in Financial Miracles.