Today I speak on a panel at the Feminist Majority’s Women, Power & Money Summit held in partnership with the YWCA. My job is to represent the business side of things. Aside from selling Amway when I was 11, or picking baby bell stocks with my mom at the kitchen table when Ma Bell broke up, and teaching women about entrepreneurship at the George Washington University School of Business… financial literacy took on a new meaning for me when a new person walked into my life: My husband. Sharing. Money. Did this mean I gave up some of my power? Did it mean more power? I was sort of confused, quite frankly. So, as we stood up there, saying our vows, at the Mayflower Hotel (where the Women, Power, and Money Summit is taking place) I had no idea the following words would soon be coming out of my mouth:
There is no way I am co-signing loan documents for your business.
What you don’t do is important, like signing stuff. And, thus was one of my first lessons in shared financial power. When you’re married to an entrepreneur, and the bank lends them money, how does the bank protect its investment? Collateral. Do the banks want more collateral, or less? Duh. Right? So, you – spouse – represent more collateral. If I signed, and something happened to the business, the bank could come after EVERYTHING. Sometimes, lessons about power come from the strangest places: What you DON’T do.
Save. Share. Spend. The KISS Theory still holds with financial literacy. It doesn’t have to be the Pythagorean theorem here folks. Carrie Schwab Pomerantz spoke at GW one time about “Save Share Spend” as the corner stone to a family discussion about finance. I loved it. I turned right around and spoke with my kids, and husband, about what we were going to save, share, and spend. It really can be that simple to get started. (P.s. In truth, the Pythagorean theorem is actually really simple, and based on the three sides of a triangle. Go figure. Save. Share. Spend.)
Get started early. Carrie Schwab Pomerantz speaking at GW led to the Hot Mommas Project Financial Literacy Award (see links at bottom). We’re the world’s largest collection of women’s case studies. Said in “normal person terms,” this means digital/online stories about your mom, your sister, your daughter, told in a way that teaches others – used from bookclubs to boardrooms across the world.
Not learning, not an option. I used to work at the National Council on the Aging and in the aging industry for 20 years. But, it doesn’t take that, to know this: Ladies, we live longer. About 10 years longer (due to estrogen). So, figure it out, because you’re going to have to deal with it all – the debt, the riches…you’re inheriting it. So will your daughter.
Know your power. So, onto the POWER part of this. Women have a lot of power. Aside from the fact that we are now about half the work force, earn the majority of all degrees, and inherit everything, there are financial MOVEMENTS happening which are chanelling massive quantities of money to causes that matter for women. Why does this matter? As our fun Women’s Business Fact Sheet shows, women are more likely to re-invest their dollars into their communities and families. So, it’s like a double investment. Governments, businesses, NGOs around the world are sitting up and taking notice. Who are the dollar channelers in your area? A couple conversation starters:
- Women’s Funding Network – Umbrella organization for foundations and wealthy individuals globally who contribute 60% or more to women’s causes.
- The Washington Area Women’s Foundation – right here in DC! A member of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation. I like to regularly check in on them and their grantees.
Know your value. Do a value spreadsheet. On a piece of paper write down something that you do really well in your job. Then, quantify it. Are you the best and most efficient at something? About how much more efficient? How much time does that save? What is your salary and the salaries of those whose time you save (or other measures)? What do you do with that time, does that create value? Do the math, and show it to your boss. (If you are the boss, show it to yourself!). I teach this to my students at the George Washington University School of Business. Sometimes, we just need to see it right there in front of us. Sometimes, other people do to. No one else is going to do it. It could mean a raise and – more likely than not – it will mean a raise since women have historical communication patterns of NOT ASKING as often as men. Let the spreadsheet do your talking for you ladies. Also, Catalyst shows us that Fortune 500 companies with formal programs promoting women to executive leadership are more profitable across every measure. Value YOU. Value US.
Rich Sister, Poor Sister 5 tips to save money
Carrie Schwab Pomerantz – Ask Carrie – The Personal Side of Money
Washington Area Women’s Foundation – Personal story write up
ABOUT: The award-winning Hot Mommas Project is housed at the George Washington University School of Business, CFEE. On January 31 of 2010, the project became the world’s largest women’s case study library providing free, online, global access to stories of female role models and mentors. The result? Measurable increases in self-confidence among women age 18 and older. Get on our mailing list by emailing us (periodic updates, no digital harassment).