A man is not a Financial Plan (from a woman who learned the hard way)
Most of us don’t like to admit it, but many of us have been there. You know, madly blowing all our cash while secretly hoping that the right bloke will appear and save us. Where old-school fairy tale princesses were on the look-out for princes on white horses, modern gals are keeping their eyes peeled for princes in white collars. But ladies, it’s time to get real: a man is not a financial plan.
But dad said not to worry about money
Just ask Barbara Stanny, writer, teacher and wealth coach. “I grew up wealthy,” she tells. “My father was the ‘R’ in H&R Block. But the only advice he ever gave me about money was, ‘Don’t worry’. Under that was the unspoken assumption that, obviously, a man would take care of me. I thought that was great advice! I didn’t understand money. I didn’t know anything about it. All I wanted to do was spend it!”
So, what happened next? Barbara snagged some guy with mega bucks and spent the rest of her life lazing by pools, drinking martinis and shopping for shoes, right?
When Prince Charming has a gambling problem
Wrong. “The man I married was a stock broker,” she continues. “Sure, I thought he’d take care of me. But then I found out he was a compulsive gambler. And, here’s the interesting part. Over the course of our marriage, I let him manage all the money. He paid the bills; he did the investing; I just signed whatever he wanted me to sign. Because that’s how terrified and intimidated I was by anything financial…
“But now I have this theory: If you don’t deal with your money, your money will deal with you.”
After 15 years, Barbara, who by then had three daughters and was working as a journo, called a divorce. Which was when she discovered her ex, who had left the country, had also left a parting gift: US$1 million in tax bills. And no, her dad wouldn’t bail her out. “That’s when I knew I had to get smart,” she says.
Learning from the pros
At the time, she was hired for an assignment, interviewing money savvy women. She says, “Those interviews changed my life. I not only got smart in a very short time, but I also wrote my first book, Overcoming Underearning, and suddenly I had this whole new career.” Since then, Barbara’s written five more books and built a highly successful business, travelling around the world teaching women how to take control of their finances, while doing what they love.
Prince Charming is not just a man
So, if you’ve been harbouring rescue fantasies, how do you go about replacing them with rich, independent visions of yourself? Well, first it’s worth considering why Prince Charming is still starring in your future film.
Barbara says, “Prince Charming is not just a man. Prince Charming is anything you think will rescue you financially… be it a lottery or an inheritance… We still have this rescue complex. It’s part of our collective unconsciousness. It’s the way we’ve been raised over centuries. Men were the bread winners. We were the nurturers and caretakers… Our difficulties with money have very little to do with money and have everything to do with our fear of – and ambivalence about – power. It wasn’t until I started looking at my attitudes, beliefs and decisions about myself and money and the world, that things really started changing.”
Confronting your rescue complex in three simple steps
As is the case with executing any change, the key to success is taking baby steps. Good habits replace bad habits through an accumulation of small wins – not sweeping, overnight reforms.
To get you moving, Barbara has three handy tips. Try them for four months.
- Every day: read about money. Size doesn’t matter. Whether you browse headlines, skim paragraphs or pore over an article, reading will help you gain confidence.
- Every week: talk about money. You can chat to anyone, but it’s even better if you find someone smarter than yourself and pump them for advice. Alternatively, join – or form – a female-only meet-up.
- Every month: save. Ask your bank to transfer some dollars from your regular account to an inaccessible emergency account. Note that shoe sales don’t count as emergencies.
“It wasn’t until I was 45 years old that I started getting really serious about money,” says Barbara. “It doesn’t take a lot of time to get smart. It doesn’t take a lot of money to create wealth. It’s never, ever, ever too late to start. It’s just small steps, consistently taken.”
Your own goals on your own terms
Once you’ve begun work on your head and habits, think about the bigger picture. Coming up with your own goals and figuring out how you’ll achieve them on your own terms is empowering – and fun.