|Barbara learned the hard way.|
The daughter of Richard Block – the “R” in H & R Block – Barbara Stanny was financially secure. She’d married, and let her CPA-lawyer husband take control of the finances. It seemed like a charmed life until her husband left the country, leaving her with a $1 million tax bill and three young children. Naturally, she went to her father to bail her out. He said no. She had to pick herself up and learn about money for the first time in her whole life.
“Setbacks don’t get much bigger than that,” Stanny says. “I’ve interviewed a lot of successful women. It was always the setbacks that led to their forward motion. Every setback comes with gift, every crisis comes with a gift.”
Today, Stanny is a 60-something, happy and successful author who has made it her mission to teach women what she wishes she knew so long ago. Your 40s, she says, is the time to really get cracking on your financial life. The first thing she advises is to wipe out any debt that remains from finding yourself in your 30s, or from the recent economic catastrophe. Even if it means a few years of shaving and cutting expenses.
Their 40s is usually when women get really going on their career, Stanny says. “It’s important that the 40s be a stabilizing time so that you can really find your glory and hit your stride.”
Another important step to take is to really start contributing to your retirement accounts. There’s still plenty of time to let that money grow, untouched by taxes, untouched by you, so that you will have accumulated nice retirement. And if you’re married, it’s really important to partner with your spouse on the financial planning. “Especially if you have children. The best way to help your kids is to model responsible, savvy behavior about money. Make it a family conversation. You should all be talking about money.”
She offered these three steps to getting smart about money, and promises a dramatic improvement in your situation if you follow them for just six months.
1. Every day, read something about money, even if it’s just for a minute. It could be perusing headlines in business section, scanning Money magazine instead of People in the grocery store, or reading one paragraph from a financial book before you go to sleep. “It’s amazing how much you can pick up by osmosis,” Stanny says.
2. Every week, have a conversation about money, preferably with someone who knows more than you. If you’re wondering how to start, just ask, “Can I take you to lunch and pick your brain? It’s amazing how much people want to help you,” Stanny says. “We’ve been doing this for generations about raising babies, making pies … we need to start doing this over kitchen tables and back fences.”
3. Every month, save money. You can set up automatic transfers to a savings account for as little as $5. Stanny recalls a conversation with an editor who wasn’t a high earner, but who saved her change in a bowl every night. In two years, she was able to open an investment account.
But the real reason to make money is not to have money. It’s about the power that comes with financial independence. “We’ve reached a level of wisdom and maturity, when we are ready to make a difference in the world. When enough powerful women come together, if we have the resources, values, to heal this planet, save the world. Taking charge of our money forces us to own our power in a way nothing else does.”
WHAT ARE YOUR TRICKS TO GETTING AND KEEPING MONEY?
BUY BARBARA STANNY’S BOOKS
- Overcoming Underearning(R): A Five-Step Plan to a Richer Life
- Prince Charming Isn’t Coming: How Women Get Smart About Money
- Secrets of Six-Figure Women: Surprising Strategies to Up Your Earnings and Change Your Life
- Breaking Through: Getting Past the Stuck Points in Your Life