Empowering Women: Four Ways to Improve Your Financial Well-Being

By Rita Cheng, CRPC®, CFP®
CEO, Blue Ocean Global Wealth

In March, we celebrate Women’s History Month, and this year’s theme is: “Women inspiring innovation through imagination.”

As a financial planner, I look back at the generations of women who throughout American history have drawn on their intelligence, imagination, and sense of wonder to make extraordinary contributions, and I am awed.

I’m also not surprised at how far we have come.

Currently, women outnumber men in American colleges and universities. This reversal of the gender gap is a recent trend, noted in 2009, when 57 percent of bachelor degrees, 60 percent of master degrees, and 52 percent of doctoral degrees were awarded to women.

Fortunately for women, this increase in education translates into increased influence—and affluence.

Women are attaining individual wealth through corporate employment, as well as entrepreneurial pursuits. In fact, women-owned business are growing at twice the national rate, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research.

As a working professional mom of three children, I understand that women often have the best of intentions in managing their wealth, but often put themselves last.

The reality is that many financial advisors do not invest the time or energy in attempting to understand the differences in how women view wealth. While it’s not true for everyone, men tend to associate wealth with prestige or power. Women tend to associate wealth with security and peace of mind.

Here is list of strategies that I use with my female clients to help them become more engaged and empowered about their financial well-being:

1. Raise your voice. There is no such a thing as a dumb question. There is no need to talk over people or down to people. Case in point: One of my female clients approached her tax advisor about wanting to pay off her mortgage prior to retirement. Instead of letting her finish her question, he quickly responded, “Why would you think of such a dumb idea?” Fortunately, she decided to fire this gentleman, I wonder how many women have encountered such a negative experience, and stick with advisors who are not listening or paying attention to what they want for their financial futures.

2. Value all of your contributions in the household, not just the financial/economic ones. I will never forget one couple, where the wife was a highly specialized nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). She asked me why an advisor once told her that she and her husband should only buy extra life insurance for her husband. She said that I was the first financial professional to validate her many roles of mother, wife and daughter, and started crying. “At last,” she said, “I have financial peace of mind.”

3. Don’t make assumptions or generalizations. Don’t assume that all women are spenders, or that all women are conservative investors. Don’t mistake silence for lack of influence. As an example, in Japan, women usually manage the family’s finances and give their husbands an allowance.

4. Look back with pride. We gain strength and inspiration from the amazing women who came before us. We can thank them for paving the way for us to embrace our growing financial power. Let’s wield it well.

I explain to my children—two daughters and one son—that I am inspired to help women improve their financial confidence. Working with my clients in a financial planning relationship is intellectually stimulating, emotionally gratifying, and socially rewarding. Even though the theme for Women’s History Month in 2012 was Education and Empowerment, the idea of financial education and empowerment is truly timeless.

Marguerita M. Cheng, CFP® is the CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth, which provides corporations and institutions with portfolio construction, investment due diligence, and risk-management consulting services. The firm works with families, entrepreneurs, and executives to help them identify and achieve their financial goals. As a CFP Board Ambassador, she helps educate the public, policy makers, and media about the benefits of competent, ethical financial planning.

A Financial Planning Association (FPA) National Board Member and member of the finance committee, Cheng served eight years on the Board of Directors of her alma matter, The Robert H. Smith School of Business at University of Maryland, where she collaborated to increase alumni engagement and developed asset management education programs. She is also the President of the Blue Ocean Economic Empowerment Fund.

Cheng says her greatest joy and passion is touching the lives of others so that they may achieve their “personal financial success.”

For more information, visit www.blueoceanglobalwealth.com.

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