This double bind causes little girls to limit their interest in acquiring wealth and ultimately their capacity to acquire it. They don’t aspire to get rich, they can’t see themselves as rich, or they reduce their opportunities to get rich. As a result, they frequently lack the skills needed to create wealth. Getting rich requires you to do two things: financial planning and financial thinking. If you’re like most women, you don’t “think” rich—and if you don’t think rich, you certainly don’t consciously engage in behaviors that will contribute to getting rich. The point at which you call yourself rich is determined by your values, your lifestyle, and your risk tolerance. It’s not determined by someone else’s definition, needs, or expectations of you. Being rich is about having the ability to live your life abundantly—however you define abundance.
Although I realize that life can be rich in many different ways, for the purposes of this book when I use the term rich, I refer to the acquisition of financial wealth. Most of us already know that one can be rich in love, work, family, and so on. You don’t need another book to tell you that. Defining rich in financial terms is another thing. The actual number, the point at which you consider yourself rich, is something only you can decide. Most of us will never be as wealthy as the people on Forbes magazine’s annual list of the richest people in the world. Yet you may aspire to more than you currently have. Therefore, throughout this book when I use the term rich, I am referring to the ability to live your life as you want to free from financial constraints.
Speaking with women around the world about getting rich, I got the distinct feeling they were uncomfortable talking about money. It was as if rich was a dirty four-letter word. Whereas a woman may be called a “rich bitch,” there are no similarly pejorative terms to describe a man. And Lord knows we avoid the b-word even more than we avoid talking about money! It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re twenty-five or fifty-five. As a woman you are less likely to focus on methods for becoming rich and more likely to focus on “doing good.”
Having been raised as a typical “girl,” I spent the first half of my adult life believing that doing good and doing well were mutually exclusive. Whereas my two brothers were encouraged to pursue college degrees that would lead to high-paying professions, I was encouraged to go into a helping field—preferably teaching so that I could be home with my hypothetical children during summer vacations. While I was working as a clerk in the radiology department of the local hospital during high school, my mother (the director of nursing at this same hospital) was introducing my younger brother to doctors at the hospital and encouraging him to become a physician. Although I worked my way through master’s and doctoral degree programs, I only recently discovered that my mother offered to pay for my younger brother’s graduate education if he would consider becoming a lawyer. Is it any wonder that both my brothers became independently wealthy at a far earlier age than I did? While they were thinking about making money, I was thinking about “doing good.”
“Nice girls” don’t get rich in large part because of the social messages they receive when they are growing up:
* Money is power, and most little girls are not taught to be powerful—they’re taught to be “nice.”
* Girls are socialized to be caretakers, nurturers, and accommodators in society—not necessarily breadwinners.
* As child bearers and caretakers women often work jobs discontinuously and are penalized for it. Alternatively, they’re put on something demeaningly referred to as “the mommy track.”
* Women are more likely to spend their income on their children and the household, whereas men are more likely to be prudent about investing.
* Women are reluctant to ask for wages, perks, or raises reflective of the value they add to their organizations because they’re not sure they “deserve” it.
Need I go on? It is abundantly clear that women don’t get rich because (1) we don’t envision ourselves getting rich, (2) we are more concerned with playing our social roles in a way that others consider appropriate, and (3) we don’t develop the skills needed to make wise financial decisions. Does this mean we can’t acquire wealth on our own? No! It means that what you focus on is what you get, and it’s time to focus on getting rich. Just as in my previous book getting the “corner office” was simply a metaphor for achieving your professional goals, being rich is a metaphor for living the life you want to live free from concerns about money. It’s not the amount of money you have that matters, it’s the ability to act with independence that defines a rich life. And you will never have it if you don’t start thinking and acting like a rich person.
Given these parameters, a woman who owns her own home free and clear, does work that she loves, and knows she has enough money to live comfortably for the rest of her life could be considered rich. She would be no less (or more) rich than a woman who lives in a home with a $500,000 mortgage, has $3 million in the bank, works so she can afford to travel, and wouldn’t be worried if she were to be laid off tomorrow. What point would that be for you? Envision yourself living that lifestyle. If it’s not where you are now, then this book was written for you.
WHY AREN’T YOU RICH?
I’ve been asking women around the world about why they don’t have the amount of money they require to feel comfortable making the decisions needed to live their lives free from concerns about money. More specifically, I asked them to finish this sentence: “I would be rich today if I had . . .” I phrased it that way so they would share the behaviors they ignored early in their lives. Here are just a few of the responses I heard:
* “If I had taken risks and not procrastinated.” A sixty-three-year-old executive from Paramount Pictures.
* “If I had a better understanding and appreciation for the value of creating a savings account from the start of my career thirty-six years ago.” A fifty-year-old administrative assistant.
* “If I had not stepped aside, walked away, or ignored being taken financial advantage of. Not worried so much about being seen as too aggressive or unprofessional.” A fifty-three-year-old professional services manager.
* “If I had been more assertive.” A forty-eight-year-old artist.
* “If I had dared to take high-risk chances, which I didn’t take because I had to juggle between raising a family and my career.” A forty-three-year-old accountant.
* “If I had kept my life simple—not moved to a big house with a big overhead and a lot of maintenance.” A forty-nine-year-old executive with Prudential Securities.
* “If I had not been afraid of the stock market and invested ten years ago.” A fifty-five-year-old independent graphics consultant.
* “If I had utilized my potential to the fullest and been more proactive in planning my future and not depended on someone else to actualize my hopes and dreams.” A sixty-year-old real estate agent.
* “If I had not listened so closely to the advice that my father told me when I was young that I would inherit all that I would ever eventually need.” A sixty-year-old diversity consultant.
* “If I had someone who told me that I could aspire to being rich.” A forty-three-year-old dental assistant.
* “If I had done things that I really love to do.” A forty-three-year-old business consultant.
If you can relate to any one of these messages, you’re not alone. The reasons why women aren’t as rich as they’d like to be are as varied as the women themselves. Sometimes it’s the messages they received in childhood about money. Other times it’s because of social pressure related to “nice girls not worrying their pretty little heads about money.” And nearly always it’s because they don’t engage in the behaviors that will ultimately lead to wealth. Before you can become rich—and you can become rich—you have to know what holds you back. Let’s begin with a self-assessment inventory.
NICE GIRLS DON’T GET RICH SELF-ASSESSMENT
Consider each of the following statements and answer True if it describes you or your behavior all or most of the time and False if it rarely or never describes you or your behavior.
____ 1. I have a concrete financial goal (an actual number) toward which I am working.
____ 2. In the past year I have attended at least one seminar or workshop related to financial planning or investing.
____ 3. I carry no credit card debt from month to month.
____ 4. I balance my checkbook each month.
____ 5. I have investments in my own name (whether you are married or partnered).
____ 6. I take advantage of my company’s perks. (If you don’t know what they are, answer False.)
____ 7. I turn down personal loan requests to people I think aren’t likely to repay them.
____ 8. I know my (or my family’s) net worth.
____ 9. I have a plan in place for how to survive financially if something catastrophic were to happen (sudden loss of a job, loss of a spouse or partner, etc.).
____ 10. I shop on the Internet only when I have a specific purchase in mind.
____ 11. Even if I don’t prepare them, I review tax returns before signing them.
____ 12. In addition to any retirement accounts held by my employer, I have a retirement savings account. (Answer True if you and your partner hold one in joint names.)
____ 13. I’m comfortable asking for the salary or fee I deserve.
____ 14. I advocate loud and clear for myself when I feel I’m not getting my fair share.
____ 15. I’m executing a plan to live a rich life.
____ 16. I regularly read newspapers, magazines, or articles that help me stay abreast of financial planning developments.
____ 17. I don’t feel as if I have to match the monetary value of a gift to me by giving one of similar value.
____ 18. I know what my monthly discretionary spending budget is, and I stick to it.
____ 19. I have taken calculated or advised risks to maximize my financial portfolio. (If you are not involved with helping to manage your family’s portfolio, answer False.)
____ 20. I make a profit on the products or services I provide to friends.
____ 21. At the beginning of each year I plan my charitable giving.
____ 22. I play the financial game to win.
____ 23. I would have no problem requesting a prenuptial agreement that would protect my assets (or I have already done so).
____ 24. I avoid shopping when I’m feeling down or blue.
____ 25. I regularly analyze my spending habits.
____ 26. When it comes to my money and investments, if something doesn’t make sense to me, I ask probing questions.
____ 27. I work in a traditionally high-paying field.
____ 28. When I loan money to family or friends, I clearly state when it is due back and follow up if it’s not back by that time.
____ 29. I consciously explore ways to get rich other than from my current income.
____ 30. Before getting married or living with someone, I had (or would have) open discussions about how we would manage money and finances.
____ 31. I don’t buy things priced higher than what they’re worth just because it’s convenient or saves me time.
____ 32. I read the investment statements I receive each month. (If you don’t get any, answer False.)
____ 33. I make the maximum allowable contributions to my retirement plan each year.
____ 34. I typically use all the vacation days to which I am entitled each year.
____ 35. I’m a good negotiator.
____ 36. I don’t let people dissuade me from pursuing moneymaking plans.
____ 37. My financial well-being is among my top three priorities.
____ 38. I’m good at controlling the urge to buy something I want but don’t need.
____ 39. I meet regularly with an investment adviser (alone or with a partner) to keep a check on my financial health.
____ 40. I own my own home (either alone or in joint names).
____ 41. I ask my company to pay for training programs that will enhance my earning capacity.
____ 42. I take full advantage of all lawful deductions on my income tax return.
Continue to Page 2 for Score Sheet
Copyright © 2005 by Lois P. Frankel, PhD