Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I'm my own PG & E

I recently attended the YWCA of Berkeley/Oakland's Young Women and Money Conference on December 5. I'll share what to do before you say 'I do' in a later post, but I first wanted to share the great stuff I learned (or reaffirmed), especially since money is such a touchy issue in marriage:

What comes to mind when you think of women and money?

Prince Charming.
I can save later.
I don't have enough.

That last one is sticky. How many times have we heard it, from ourselves or from our friends and family? The reality is, we all do have enough and are in position to be prosperous if we think about money differently.

That's what was so empowering about this conference. We heard from three distinguished and inspiring keynote speakers throughout the day: Veronica Dangerfield (Inspirational Speaker and Marketing Manager at Patelco Credit Union), Valerie Coleman-Morris (former Business Anchor at CNN) and Kathleen Ronald ("Queen of Business Networking" and founder of Speakacular). The overall theme woven through each of their "pep talks" was that we all have the power within ourselves to take control of our money and that saving money is easier than you think -- as long as we put our minds over matter.

For some of us, dealing with money is like dieting. You slip up once and say to yourself, "Well, I screwed up so I guess indulging again today isn't going to make a difference -- I've already lost the battle." To make yourself feel better, you treat yourself to a new purse, a $30 meal, or a pair of jeans "on sale" and charge it to your card. Emotional spending, like emotional eating, is dangerous! Before making any impulsive purchases, ask yourself, do you really need it, or do you want it? Why do I want or need this?

By being honest with yourself, you will be taking the first step towards sound financial health. Even more importantly, if you do make a mistake, don't beat yourself over it. Forgive yourself for missing a credit card payment or opening another store credit card. Many women beat themselves over failure and fall into a vicious cycle of letting the failures pile up instead of looking at mistakes as guidelines to success. It's never too late or too early to start a healthy financial life, so don't sweat the small stuff. Just learn from your mistakes and move on.

Another recurring theme was self-reliance: "Pay yourself first." For every paycheck that you earn, be sure to put a percentage of it directly into a savings account that you cannot easily withdraw from. That way, you can start building your savings without really ever knowing you "had" that money. Or you can start as simply as saving all your loose change or a $1 a day. When you pay yourself first, you are investing in your future financial success. And yes, you can maintain a separate account for yourself from your husband's; open a joint account to pay the fixed expenses but continue to hold onto your personal one.

Valerie Coleman-Morris shared these guidelines, which she called "Muddisms," or pearls of wisdom from the mothers in her life:
  • Be deliberate
  • Set small goals
  • Achieve a them and set bigger ones
  • Learn to function in chaos and you will finish in style
Valerie's tips coupled with Kathleen Ronald's advice to dare to dream, build a team (such as recruiting the support of friends and a certified financial planner)  and have faith, were very inspiring. It all went back to what Veronica Dangerfield called "ashay" -- we've all got the power within to make our dreams come true. If you want to own your own home, build your business, or have a great nest egg when you retire, it's all possible as long as you realize you are your own "PG & E." Money doesn't give you power, rather you give it power to achieve your dreams.

If you missed this conference, don't fret. Go out and get a certified financial planner, open a savings account (separate from your checking), start saving, be conscious of your spending habits, and dare to dream and reach for them. With faith in yourself, you'll begin to live a prosperous life.

Here are some additional resources:
The Thin Pink Line
Practical Money Skills
Jean Chatky's: The Difference

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