“Who could have predicted such rapid, dramatic change in such a short time? At work, we have overthrown traditions that were centuries – millennia – old. So why is it that we haven’t made the same evolutionary leap when it comes to our personal finances?”
– Suze Orman, Women & Money
Women have achieved a great deal over the last century including the right to vote, own property, and obtain credit to start a business. In the past 30 years, we have significantly increased our presence in the professional arena, increased our education and career choices, increased our leadership in political positions, and increased the amount of wealth we control in the country and around the world.
Consider the following (Source: Women Want More. Michael Silverstein, Kate Sayre, and John Butman. New York: HarperBusiness, 2009.)
- Women own or co-own 40 percent of all S. businesses.
- Women-owned businesses are growing at twice the rate of all U.S. companies (and faster than male-owned businesses).
- Women hold half of the university slots in the world, and they represent 57 percent of the S. undergraduate population.
- Women control half the wealth in the United States.
- Women control spending in most categories of consumer goods in the S.– including food, clothing, personal care, household goods and services, travel, healthcare, financial services, and education.
- One billion women
- Over the next five years, there will be an increase of 200 million women in the working
- Over the next few years, women will drive an incremental increase of up to $5 trillion in global.
- Today, women control $12 trillion of the overall $18.4 trillion in global consumer spending, and they will have their hands on an even bigger share in the coming.
Kate Sayre and Michael Silverstein, financial experts at the Boston Consulting Group, have dubbed this dramatic growth in women’s economic influence as the rising “female economy.” However, there is one problem that they recognize: “Even with the remarkable increases in market power and social position women have accomplished and enjoyed in the last century in the United States and elsewhere, they still find themselves undervalued in the marketplace, underestimated in the workplace, and underappreciated in the social arena.” And I have found one more problem … the figures above aren’t telling the whole story!
The Other Side of The Story.
In 2006 Allianz Insurance commissioned a survey asking women how they felt about their finances. The survey revealed that 90 percent of women who participated rated themselves as feeling “insecure” when it came to their finances, and nearly half of the respondents said that the prospect of ending up “a bag lady” had crossed their minds. In a Prudential financial poll taken that same year, only 1 percent of the women surveyed gave themselves an “A” when they rated their knowledge of financial products and services.
“There are women who are smart, competent, and accomplished that present a face to the world that is pure confidence and capability and yet are in the dark about their own finances. Clueless. Or, in some cases, willfully resisting doing what they knew needed to be done,” says Suze Orman, women’s personal finance expert in her book Women and Money.
On one side women have achieved a lot and have managed to change much of the outer appearance of things. They have gotten out of the house, created a career, accumulated wealth on their own (as opposed to inheriting it), climbed up the corporate ladder, and
gained political power. On the other side there seems to be a totally different, internal story – a gap between how we present ourselves to the world and how we really feel about ourselves inside.
Many Women Suffering From the Same Syndrome.
After my first wake-up call at Findhorn when I realized that money triggers people, I thought that my unconsciousness about money was just my own thing. In other words, I thought that my story with money was different than others and that most people were not totally blind to the fact that money is a powerful part of our lives. Although I was starting to wake up to the power of money, I kept quiet on the subject.
It wasn’t until my second wake-up call in Seattle, ten years later, that I started to share my story with other people. When I returned from that workshop, I started to talk with my friends at home about my money issues. I quickly saw that I was not alone.
Have you ever had the experience that when you decided that you wanted to buy a certain car, suddenly you saw that car everywhere? This is what happened to me.
Now that I was awake and committed to resolving my own money issues, I was seeing women’s money issues everywhere. I discovered that there are many women suffering from the same syndrome, but in different ways.
About six months after I had returned from the course in Seattle, my friend and neighbor Yvonne came to me crying saying that she was getting a divorce. Divorce is always a painful thing to go through, but what happened a few months down the road after Yvonne got the divorce papers was devastating.
Yvonne discovered that her husband, who had been in charge of all the financial issues when they were married, dumped all his debts on her. What happened is that her ex had put all the bills in Yvonne’s name, but had not paid any of the bills on time for two years! He was now declaring himself bankrupt so the debts were being assigned to her. Yvonne was being asked to pay 300,000 euros (close to US $450,000) for all his late payments. On top of this, because she and her ex had a joint bank account, the bank was demanding that Yvonne pay all of his other debts.
When I sat down to talk to Yvonne about all of this, she told me that she was in shock because she had no idea about his debts. I said, “You have been living with him for 10 years, how could you have not known?” She said, “He took care of everything.” In other words, he was in charge of the money.
A few weeks later I was talking with another friend about Yvonne’s situation. I concluded: “The solution to all of this is that women need to get a higher education. If they get a higher education, they will become more powerful and take more charge of their lives. As a result, there will be fewer cases like Yvonne’s.”
My friend Anna laughed bitterly and said, “This has nothing to do with a formal education. It has nothing to do with how many diplomas she has, how many years she studies, or what occupation she is in … It has to do with the mindset of women.”
Anna was a financial planner and was just recently divorced herself. Her ex-husband owned a construction company, and Anna was the one in charge of running all of the finances. “However, when it came to the home finances, I left this in his hands,” she said.
Anna now was facing a serious situation. “Although I knew he was not good at running the finances, I still let him run them,” she said. “The result is that today I probably have to sell our house because I need to pay some of his debts on his business because we had a joint bank account.”
Ingrid is a top director in one of the biggest banks in Holland. When I asked her who takes care of the finances in her home, she responded, “Richard of course.” When I asked her why this was the case, she said, “I don’t want to be bothered by the finances and also it gives him a feeling that he is important.”
After talking to more and more women, I started to see that the attitude of Yvonne, Anna and Ingrid is one that many women share. It goes something like this: “Since my husband is the breadwinner, he should know how to run our finances. He should be the one who takes care of our bank accounts, the bills and the investments.” In other words, the common line is: “He’ll take care of it.”
As I listened to more and more stories from women, I started to wonder what in the world was going on. Why were these smart, talented, and seemingly independent women acting completely dependent on their spouses when it came to running their family’s finances?
Going from Single To Married.
When I was single I thought that I was financially independent without really knowing what “financially independent” meant. Although I had the old tape playing in my head that said, I’m not good with numbers, it was important to me to be able to do whatever I wanted without having to depend on anyone to pay for my lifestyle. So I took care of things. There was no one to take care of me … except me.
This changed however when Nisandeh came into the picture. As I mentioned earlier, I was operating from the mindset that he is the businessman so he should take care of the finances.
A few years later, however, Nisandeh lost his company in Israel and we were in debt over our heads for more than a million dollars. Nisandeh decided that he wanted to begin a new chapter in his life. He decided that he didn’t want to work with computers anymore (he had worked in technology for many years). He now wanted a new challenge and wanted to learn to work with people. He decided that he wanted to become a therapist – and the best institute for his studies was in Holland.
Around the same time we were discussing this move, I got an offer from my previous boss to open a training center for him in Holland. So it seemed as if the Universe was telling us, “GO!”
We moved to Holland and were now in a new country with new rules, new laws, and… without any money. In fact, we were broke.
For the first three years of our life in Holland, I was the main (and for the most part only) breadwinner in our family. The traditional role of the man as the breadwinner was broken. Even so, I still allowed Nisandeh to tell me what to do with the money! If there was any decision that had to do with money, I turned to him – and when it came to taking care of the money, I expected him to do it.
I was operating under an old code of behavior called “being the dutiful wife.” At the time, I wasn’t even conscious about what I was doing. It wasn’t until the workshop in Seattle that I could see what was happening.
Old Code of Behavior.
I was talking recently with a friend Marianne about who handles the money in her relationship. Marianne is forty- two-years old and before this recent relationship, was single for many years. When she was on her own, she handled her finances just fine. For the last three years, she has had a boyfriend. They recently bought a house together. Ever since they moved in together, Marianne stopped being involved in any of the money decisions. “He is taking care of them,” she said. When I saw what was happening, I brought the issue up to Marianne. She was stunned to see what she was doing. “I wasn’t even aware of it,” she said.
I have seen what happened to Marianne and me – happen to many women. When we are single, we handle our money. We may not handle our money to the extent of becoming financially free, but we are involved with it and take care of it. We manage it in our daily life. BUT the minute a partner or husband shows up in the picture, we let go of that area of our life. We turn it right over into the hands of our partner. It’s as if we think Prince Charming walked in and we say to ourselves, “Of course he will take care of us!”
“Males are educated for independence from the day they are born. Just as systematically, females are taught that they have an out – that someday, in some way, they are going to be saved. This is the fairy tale, the life-message we have ingested as if with mother’s milk,” says Collette Dowling in her book The Cinderella Complex.
Could we be caught living in the dream of this fairy- tale? Why else would smart, talented, and seemingly independent women be acting dependent and helpless when it comes to running their finances?
Science today can show that beliefs and concepts are stored in our body and in our cells and are actually transferred from one generation to another.
Dr. Candace Pert, former chief of brain chemistry at the National Institutes of Health and author of Molecules of Emotion, says that certain beliefs that we have are so old that they are installed in our DNA – and we are not even aware of them anymore. Because of old programming, sometimes we don’t even see what is in front of our eyes. “The way our brain is wired up, we only see what we believe is possible,” she says.
Deepak Chopra, M.D., a renowned endocrinologist and expert in mind/body medicine, discusses in his book Quantum Healing how memories are stored in our cells. He has commented on Dr. Pert’s work saying: “Her pioneering research demonstrates how our internal chemicals, the neuropeptides and receptors, are the actual underpinnings of our awareness, manifesting themselves as our emotions, beliefs, and expectations, and profoundly influencing how we respond to and experience our world.”
Although on the exterior we’ve come a long way as women, deep down inside we still operate from old definitions of womanhood, femininity, and our role in relationships.
Think about it: Why else would there be a huge disconnection going on between what we know and how we act; between our ability as achievers and our financial underachieving; between how we present ourselves to the world and how we really feel about ourselves inside; between the power we have within reach and the powerlessness that rules our actions?
Some of the women that I’ve met who are highly professional – sometimes top managers at big corporations who run budgets and balance sheets in their work – feel that when it comes to their home finances, they let their husband deal with it.
These old programs that are running in us are mostly unconscious. From all my years as a personal development trainer, I know that in order to change them, we first need to bring them to a level of awareness. My aim with this book is to help you wake up to them and then give you simple steps and tools to take action for change.
I’m not saying that from now on you fire your husband or your boyfriend from your family’s financial life, and you do all of the finances. I know you have enough responsibilities. I know many of you are working double shifts – both at work and at home – so it’s not about you taking it all on. However I am suggesting that you become involved in your finances and learn about money so that you can be a true equal partner in the job of handling your financial life.
Now some of you might be saying that so far what I have shared in this book is not applicable to you. But let’s do a quick checkup.
Please be honest and check how many of the follow- ing statements are true for you:
- You often don’t really know how much you have in your bank.
- You tend to avoid asking questions concerning money.
- You tend to think that dealing with money is beneath you.
- You feel uneasy negotiating prices.
- You’d rather go without pay than remind clients to pay you for your services.
- You grow restless about or even hate the thought of money management.
- You hardly know anything about your retirement funds or life insurance policy.
- You keep saying that money is not that important as long as you are comfortable and enjoy what you’re doing.
- You let your partner take care of all the financial issues such as your income tax and tax.
- It’s hard for you to say ‘NO’ to people who ask you for money.
- You feel you don’t really need as much money as other people need.
- You’d rather work at a non-profit organization than at a business that makes money.
If any of these statements sound like you, keep reading!
New World – Old Habits.
It is evident that over the last 100 years, there has been a huge change in relationships between women and men. Most modern women can choose their partners and they expect their partners to treat them as equals. Women have a lot more freedom and independence than ever before.
As a result of all of this change, roles have shifted in relationships and they are not as clear as they once were. All of this progress is a great thing – but it also brings a new challenge: How do we combine our expanded independence with the concept of relationship with a loved one? What is the role of our husband, boyfriend or partner in this relationship and what is our part in it?
Some women who I have spoken with have asked to be equal in their relationship – but their behavior doesn’t match their request. Some women expect their spouse to help them in the house and help them with the children, but when it comes to financial issues, they still fall back on the dream of a girl in romantic love. There are some women I know (including myself), who earned more than their spouse, but they still considered him the breadwinner. Ally McBeal, the young TV lawyer working in a fictional Boston law firm, calls this “the double standard of women” where we on one side expect our partner to treat us as an equal and on the other hand we want them to play the knight in shining armor!
“Historically, money was melded with being provided for and taken care of. Thus it’s a challenge for women to separate out love and money,” says Stephen Goldbart, psychotherapist and expert on money in relationships.
The connection between love, romance, and money is an important issue. I think as women we need to look long and hard and be honest with ourselves about whether we are trapped in an old romantic view of what it means to be loved. Are you still dreaming of being saved by a handsome knight?
I think the time has come to choose. Do you want to be a “damsel in distress” following the old conditions that we were raised upon, or become the powerful modern woman that you are?
If you choose powerful modern woman, then you are going to need to start taking care of your money. I promise you it will be worth it. You will find that there is an incredible amount of power waiting to be discovered within you when you commit to mastering your money.
For many centuries women were not allowed to be involved in financial matters. This has certainly changed. Now that the outside limitation is out of the way, the only limitation is inside – our internal story. We need to recognize that there is old programming running at deep level in our cells. This programming creates a paradigm from which we live. If we don’t recognize this, it will be impossible to change. Once you understand the way the old programs have affected you and why you have been making certain choices that are not serving you, you will be free to make other choices.
Exploring the roots of your inner world is key to helping you make changes in your outer world. If you want to succeed in the world of money and finance, it is necessary for you to face the internal obstacles that are keeping you from achieving what you desire. When you face the obstacles, you give yourself the opportunity to overcome them. If you never face them, you’ll remain stuck in the same old patterns. You have a choice. What will it be?
Questions for Reflection:
- If you are in a relationship, who handles the finances and why?
- Whether you are single or in a relationship, do you know how much money you have? Do you have a pension plan or retirement fund? Do you have life insurance? Do you have savings?
- Are you in any debt? If so, do you know how much you owe?
- Do you know how much money you need monthly to cover your expenses?
- Do you have a money management system? If so, what is it? How do you track your income and expenses?
Commitment to Yourself:
The most important person to commit to is YOU. When you commit to an attitude or to one small action a day to take you closer to your goals, you will develop self-trust. As you increase your self- trust, your self-esteem and confidence will grow. This will have remarkable effects in your financial life. When you commit to yourself and stick with it, amazing things can happen.
I am commit to my own complete development as a financially independent woman.
Affirmations are positive statements that are expressed as if they are already happening. They are very powerful in re-programming your subconscious. By saying affirmations, you are choosing to make your life better. Say these affirmations out loud as often as possible. The more often you hear the words out loud, the more you will internalize them.
I am a capable and smart woman who manages her finances skillfully.
I am confident in my abilities to manage money and create a prosperous future for my family and myself.
I am a powerful woman.