Women in The Money

October 23, 2021

I recently attended a conference called Women In the Money, sponsored by the Utah State Treasurer. Mostly women from all walks of life gathered to talk about... you guessed it, money. Topics ranged from investing to small-business finances to budget hacks to emotions of money to the effects of COVID-19 on the workforce.

Every single woman there had a money story, and I found each of the speakers to be very generous in how they shared the ugly parts and lessons learned with a room full of hundreds of strangers. If you were to come across these women in passing, you might guess that they are financial wizards, have never gone without, and never stress about money. And yet, most of them have experienced debt, financial emergencies that depleted savings, life with no savings, chapters earning low incomes, and periods low in hope. 

We heard a very successful vice-president share how even she moderates how many times per week she goes out to lunch. She appreciates that even though she makes really good money, small, unintentional expenses add up.

Another shared how her divorce left her with nothing and how she had to learn to stop comparing herself to others and to stop looking backward. She learned to tell herself all the reasons she could be different with money, and she is different today. 

Another shared her experience learning unhealthy habits of financial self-sabotage, shopping with money she didn’t have for things she couldn’t afford. This particular speaker began her session by showing us an expensive vase that she thought she had to have and bought. When she got home, however, she realized she honestly didn’t even like it. I bring the latter up only because it reminded me of a wild dream I had the night before the conference: I had gotten a ginormous tattoo of a fruit bowl covering my entire shoulder. I am not remotely into tattoos and also, even if I was, a fruit bowl is the last thing this incredibly-picky-fruit-eater would ever have permanently depicted on my body. My dreams are wild, let me tell you! But I digress...

5 lessons from the conference stand out:

  1. Fixed vs. growth mindset is real, and certainly affects all of our life opportunities. One participant described a fixed mindset as “stinkin’ thinkin’” and it really is that! Better quality thoughts lead to better results.
  2. The things that have helped me and every woman at that conference are equal opportunity. Things like having at least some savings, spending less than you make, or figuring out how to make more than you currently make, living by a budget, etc. will bless anyone who does them.
  3. Our state treasurer shared that the average age of widowhood is 59. That may be a Utah-specific statistic since my research indicates nationally it is closer to 56. Either way, that is a sobering statistic. He further shared that 3 out of 4 women are widowed by age 75. Not included in these statistics are the women who never marry or those who lose financial security and income in divorce. Considering that the great majority of women will be managing money on their own for at least a time, learning to manage it now seems prudent, don’t you think?
  4. Give yourself a baby emergency fund as a buffer, then focus on paying off debt. That was advice repeated by multiple smart people throughout the conference, and something that I have learned from first-hand experience and walked clients through. It is game-changing to have even $1,000 in savings to cover things like car repairs or new tires or the things that simply come up.
  5. Embrace your limits. Understand what those limits are—meaning, figure out how much money you actually have or make, how much life costs you, etc. Instead of resenting these facts, understand them clearly and then embrace them and work within them. Exercise choice where you can. This is an act of empowerment! You start to feel and know that you have control over it instead of it having control over you. And that makes a world of difference. 

And because I can't help myself, here is one more parting thought from my favorite session of the conference: if you’ve made mistakes—I certainly have—could you replace thoughts like "Mistakes are bad" with “Mistakes are an important part of learning.” If you’ve made mistakes, might it mean that you are that much closer to capitalizing on all the learning? This woman for sure thinks so!

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