Mistress of Financial Affairs

May 6, 2011

Mistress of Money

retired woman discusses her financesThere is a Mother’s Day gift I wish I had the power to give to all the women I love and even to those women I’ve never met. I would give them the gift of a title and all the qualifications and knowledge to go with it – “mistress of financial affairs”. Now I must admit the English language gives the term “master” a much more powerful and commanding sound of authority than “mistress” but I want my gift infused with feminine, not masculine power.

What did you learn about money from your Mother? I’m so grateful to my Mom, a fiscally prudent depression era Scot, now in her 90s who raised her four daughters to take an active interest in managing their own financial lives. Mom was always a believer that a woman should have money to call her very own and used to squirrel away a few dollars from the household allowance provided by my Father, a man of his times. Mom carefully read the business news and over time built quite an investment portfolio!

The White Knight

In my years as a financial advisor I saw women too often abdicate responsibility for their financial life. They told themselves creative stories such as “I just don’t have a mind for that stuff and my husband, boyfriend, or father just does a better job”. Some singletons believed there was a white knight out there, just around the corner, who would arrive to change or improve their financial situation. Many were understandably exhausted with all the other work and household responsibilities they carried or they felt that if they managed the day to day bill paying they could leave the bigger picture financial decisions to their partner. Please don’t do it – off load laundry or cooking or toilet bowls – not money management. A “right relationship” with money is too important – and it’s never to late to acquire it

Pick a Label

We women hold many titles or labels throughout our lifetime – this month, of course, the first to come to mind is mother but we may also be a daughter, sister, wife, friend, teacher, student, employee – the list goes on and on. So many roles and their associated responsibilities! As we age, some of these labels fall away. We retire and are no longer identified by our work role, our parents pass and we are no longer someone’s daughter and as our mates pass or perhaps we divorce and we are no longer a wife.

The loss of these roles brings with it a lessening of some responsibilities but the responsibility to manage our own right relationship with money gets even larger. Some long-established truths about women and money:

  • You will have fewer financial resources at retirement than a male counterpart.
  • You will live longer and will undoubtedly spend a portion of your retirement life alone.
  • You will be retired for more years.
  • You will take on greater emotional and possibly financial responsibility for aging parents, adult children and grandchildren

A Game Changer

Let me ask a question. If you continue to tell yourself your current story about your relationship to money and finances, will that story take you where you want to go in your life? If your current story won’t take you there, what needs to change? How do you get there proactively, before you are faced with a financial game changer?  It starts with a road map. Where are you today? Know all of your household’s financial assets and liabilities and yes, your partner may well feel you are looking over his shoulder. Let’s reframe that for him – you two are a partnership and you choose to accept your share of financial responsibility.

It’s a Trade

Together develop a sustainable lifestyle – what are you trading your life energy for?

Dennis and I often go for runs along the river pathways in our city and we run past some beautiful homes situated right on the river’s edge. I love to see the gardens and homes but I never see their owners out enjoying them the way I am. I’m sure they are too busy earning the living to support this lifestyle to actually enjoy the fruits of their labour. Stuff doesn’t have a lot of staying power. Experiences do.

As mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends we know and value the returns we enjoy from an investment in our relationships. Let’s invest some of that time and nurturing attention to our relationship with finances. It will pay dividends and we will model a right relationship to money to our adult children and grandchildren. Your gift from a loving Mother.  Happy Mothers’ Day!

About the Authors: Heather Compton has presented seminars on financial and retirement lifestyle issues for over 30 years. She retired as Vice President and Senior Investment Advisor with a major financial services company. Heather and husband Dennis Blas co-present retirement seminars for a variety of corporate clients and are the co-authors of Retirement Rocks! Canadian Boomers Invest in Life. You can find their book online or in independent bookstores. See more of their advice at Retirement Rocks.

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