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Several years ago, I attended a two-day conference on women’s empowerment at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. It was a heady event bringing together speakers from all walks of life: humanitarian workers, corporate titans, young entrepreneurs, sports coaches, philanthropists and innovators. I had just left a 15-year career as a producer at CNN and was there to get ready to hone my new financial planning skills as a solopreneur, and the friend who came with me had just left her job at Bloomberg News to launch a new career in corporate real estate. We were both seeking inspiration, adrenaline, and a shot of confidence, and we were excited to be surrounded by smart, successful women.
At the end of the conference everyone was invited to an onsite happy hour, and as is my tendency, I found a room full of people networking overwhelming. Sponsor tables lined the room, and I sauntered over to the Merrill Lynch table, figuring that my recently completed certificate in financial planning would make them an easy conversation.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
A twenty-something perky blonde, head seemingly permanently cocked to one side, bounded over immediately and introduced herself in a sing-song voice. I was a bit taken aback by her enthusiasm but proceeded to introduce myself. Nothing prepared me for the next excruciating ten minutes during which she asked me if I knew what Merrill Lynch did (yes), if I had a job (yes again) and if my daddy managed my investments (WTF?). I was in some kind of anti-female empowerment alternate universe! I listened to her go on and on about what Merrill Lynch could do for me as a woman, never revealing that I was an advisor myself, and I recall my mouth dropping open when she slipped a soft pink folder into my hands, cheerfully informing me that I now had “all the information I needed to get started.” The whole approach felt condescending, based on an assumption that grown-assed women need someone to rescue their finances. And this syrupy woman was sent by her employer to engage damsels in distress. Ick.
It’s true that women have a different relationship with money than men. We are typically better savers than investors — daunted by risk and put off by the jargon used to report on the stock market. We earn less than our male counterparts and aren’t as comfortable talking about our finances with girlfriends over drinks. But that doesn’t mean we require infantile-like handling when we decide it’s time to talk about money.
According to the Bank of Montreal Wealth Institute, women already control more than 50% of the personal wealth in the United States, or about $14 trillion dollars in total, and they report that we’ll control around $22 trillion dollars by 2020. Despite these stats, the financial industrial complex in this country hasn’t figured out how to speak — and listen — to our gender. And that’s because it’s overwhelmingly male.
I’ve heard time and again from wealthy female clients that they used to loathe going with their spouse to meet with their former advisor because he (it’s almost always a he) never looked at them during the entire meeting or thought to ask if they had any questions.
These are smart women with advanced degrees who are working professionals and business owners. But they were given little attention and their questions and concerns often left unaddressed.
Why are we being ignored, at best, and dismissed, in many instances, by our financial advisors?
You may be single through choice or otherwise. You may be the breadwinner in your family or the SAHM who isn’t really sure what’s going on. Maybe you feel like you can’t ask questions because you’re afraid you might not understand the answers. Whatever the case may be, there is so much shame, fear, and mystery around money — especially for women — and it’s time for us to throw off the veil of secrecy.
If “the future is female,” as we all want to believe, we need to become more comfortable getting naked with our money and talking about finances in trusted circles.
So, get ready for my Kitchen Table Financial Talk with NYC Woolfers on Tuesday, November 27th from 7-9 p.m. The cost is $20 (includes wine and light food) to be there IRL (in real life) and $5 to click in and watch the streaming version. The best part? Shit is about to get REAL. Everything is on the table in this judgment-free zone.
Here’s what we’re going to get down and dirty with:
- Credit Card Debt – why it happens, how much it’s really costing you, and the way to deal with it.
- Saving – how much should you have in cash, where to keep it (not under your mattress!), what it’s for.
- Retirement – why you need to save for it now, how much is enough, how to you get there.
- Investing – why it’s not as hard as you might think, a few basic concepts, and what risk really means if you are doing it right.
- Home ownership – why it’s actually the dessert of your financial life — not the appetizer, the real cost of home ownership, and how to prepare for it.
In addition, we’ll pay tribute to the psychological aspects of money — known in the field as behavioral finance — to help you get out of your own way and take the necessary steps to make you feel more confident and in control. A little knowledge goes a long way when it comes to taking charge of your money. Ready, set, let’s get started!
Stephanie Genkin in a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and the founder of My Financial Planner LLC, a NY-State Registered Investment Advisor. She is an adjunct instructor at New York University and frequently quoted in the media (Yahoo Finance, USA Today, CNBC.com, Huffington Post and AARP, among others). Prior to a mid-career change, Stephanie was a news producer at CNN for 15 years and before that a foreign correspondent in the Middle East. She earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in Journalism and Hebrew Literature from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and two master’s degrees in Modern Jewish History and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Oxford, St. Antony’s College in the U.K. She was a Fulbright scholar in Amman, Jordan.