I recently attended a women’s luncheon roundtable in an elegant midtown restaurant. Invited guests included entrepreneurs, business owners and financial executives.
The subject was investing your money, but the comments that emerged as the microphone was passed around the room revealed an unintended subtext. One of the presenters, a well-established banker, referenced her recent divorce and admitted that she had had no knowledge of the investments and property she jointly held with her husband. In the course of her marriage she had ceded all financial responsibility to him.
Woman after woman echoed her story.
Intelligent, educated, accomplished women, first shyly and then with increasing confidence, admitted that they really never wanted to know their financial details — they trusted their spouse to handle money matters, they were shy around numbers, they were busy with jobs, home, childrearing.
In some cases, a price was paid – literally – if the marriage dissolved. Or they remained married, but the husband turned out to be less than trustworthy with financial decisions. Imagine assuming your child’s college education has been saved for, only to discover that the funding was never set aside.
Dirty little secrets that are hard to admit. Even women who manage other people’s money for a living just didn’t want to look at their own finances. An old-fashioned gender role acceptance that defies the independence women have fought for and won.
It’s never too late – or too early – to take charge:
- Ask your spouse for access to all financial accounts and create your own passwords. Open the mail – open your eyes.
- Hire your own professional to walk you through what it all means.
- Open your own bank account that only you are able to access.
- Even if you’re married, it’s perfectly acceptable — and common – for spouses to keep their money separate.
- Teach your children responsible money management starting in middle school. Give a weekly allowance and help them manage it. If they spend it all on day one, oh well, there’s no more until next week. (I know from firsthand experience that this works.) Go to the bank with them to open their own accounts and let them enjoy the feeling of making deposits and watching their money grow. You may be pleasantly surprised when you see how much of that weekly allowance gets deposited.
I passionately believe that we owe it to ourselves to know where our hard-earned money is kept, what assets are attached to our name or our spouse’s name, and to participate in decisions about investments, savings and spending.
About the Author:
Dolly Hertz is a real estate broker in NYC, an empty-nester, a mom and a grandma. She is a single woman of a certain age, trying to live her best life humbly and authentically. Her greatest pleasure is to be of service wherever possible. You can follow Dolly on Instagram; connect with her on LinkedIn and check-out her real estate website Engel & Volkers.