dollars&sense
But your attitude toward it IS everything! Like success, money is an emotionally volatile issue for most women. It’s probably the most complicated relationship we have — and the one that most controls our lives because we let it. Sarah Ban Breathnach, author, Simple Abundance. So, do we have a complicated relationship with money? Is it one that controls our lives? Where do our feelings about money come from? And why might it be important that we analyze our thoughts, feelings and behaviors towards money?

WHERE DO OUR ATTITUDES BEGIN?
Many psychologists will share with us that our attitudes about money began with our early memories and family discussions about money. The words that we heard in our homes may have set the tone and contributed to the beliefs that we carry with us. Words like abundance or scarcity can go a long way in creating our attitudes toward money. According to money coach Deborah Price, “Money affects career and relationship choices and shows up in issues of control, safety, self-esteem and wellbeing.” She further says that equating love and money is a habit we often picked up from our families: “Rather than saying ‘I love you’ or spending time showing it, parents indulge their children with material gifts as a way of demonstrating or compensating for affection… When these kids become adults, they can feel unloved unless they are being given something.”

So from our early beginnings we develop a money personality. Many times, rather than viewing money as a
tool, we let it become a coping strategy for an emotion or belief, either positive or negative.

Understanding our feelings and beliefs around money is an important step in analyzing our relationship with money.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO ANALYZE?
Statistics from the National Center for Women and Retirement Research 1996 indicate that between 80 and 90 percent of all women will be responsible for their finances at some point in their lives. This can be a turning point for a woman when she is struggling to understand why she is having issues about money or when she tries to comprehend why she is consistently underearning when she knows that she is qualified and worth more. In her book, Secrets of Six-Figure Women, Barbara Stanny addresses the topic of underearning. While her research shows that money does not make you happy, she cites nine traits of underearning women. They:

• Have a high tolerance for low pay.

• Underestimate their worth.

• Are willing to work for free.

• Are lousy negotiators.

• Practice reverse snobbery; i.e., they have all kinds of distorted perceptions about money, such as people who have money are unhappy, selfish, stressed. In this category many women come to realize that they grew up with painful memories of money.

• Believe in the nobility of poverty.

• Are subtle self-saboteurs.

• Are unequivocally codependent. Stanny comments that this is when a woman consistently puts other people’s needs before her own. It is at this point that a women sacrifices personal security and private dreams. She quickly points out, though, that there is a fine line between devoted and loyal employee, wife or mother and sacrificial lamb.

• Live in financial chaos.

Stanny goes on to write that this latter group of women are at great risk because they have high debt and low savings and many times have a disinterest in learning about money.

HOW DO WE BEGIN TO TURN IT AROUND?
First, we can start by understanding our attitudes and beliefs and how our thoughts and actions have influenced our decisions. Second, we may choose to seek out the advice of qualified advisors, read books or attend seminars, all with a view to understanding money and the importance of making it work for us. Whatever we choose to do, there are a few simple steps that we can employ that can turn a situation around. Many a successful person will tell you about the importance of obeying the laws of money. Quite simply, they are:

(1) Spend less than you earn.

(2) Pay yourself first and last.

(3) Put your money to work.

A MOST EXCITING TIME TO BE A WOMAN
The topic of women and their attitudes toward money has received greater attention since many women are now earning higher salaries. In fact, the National Center for Education estimates that by 2010 women will control 60 percent of the wealth in the United States. This change has not escaped the notice of financial institutions, financial advisors and consultants, who are looking to capture the female market. These groups have done extensive research in servicing the financial needs of women. They have found that women consistently choose conservative investments, which have historically produced lower returns than stocks or other types of more profitable investments. Why is this a concern? When women enter retirement, they may not have enough money.

Compound that with the fact that women, according to statistics, live longer than men, and they may enter and exit the work force, thus accumulating less money for retirement. The financial community wants women to be aware that they will need more money for retirement if they are going to live the type of lifestyle they have dreamed of.

WHAT WILL YOU DO?
The question is posed. What will you do? Will you look at your relationship with money? Will you reclaim your personal power? Financial advisors share the view that financial independence epitomizes power. Will you embrace the challenge?

By AUDREY NELSON, PH.D.