One of my favorite times of the month is when my husband and I sit down with hot tea and our bills. We lay everything out on the table, papers everywhere and Earl Grey in our nostrils, and then organize our financial structure for the month based on our income. I enjoy this time because it provides us the opportunity to gain control over our resources, set goals for the future, and communicate about our values.
Whether you’re married or not, carving out time not only to pay the bills but actually manage your finances is one of the most important and rewarding things a woman can do. Managing finances is about more than just writing checks – it’s about defining your values and goals, and holding yourself accountable to them. If statistics about the debt of American citizens are to be believed, too few women are taking control of their finances in this way.
However, there is hope. Here are four qualities that can demonstrate the way to successful financial management, along with examples of women who have lived these qualities out.
At the age of 51, Christine Lagarde is at the pinnacle of her financial career. She is the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (the first woman to hold this position) and in 2007 became the first female Minister of Economic Affairs, Finance and Employment in France. She started as a congressional intern while studying in the United States, then went on to earn two Master’s Degrees, and eventually made partner in just six years at a major law firm. Her career is a history of hard work and diligence – otherwise known as perseverance.
Ursula Burns rose out of New York’s Lower East Side to intern for a major Fortune 500 company one summer in the 1980’s. She was dedicated and continued working at this company until she became the first African-American woman to run a Fortune 500 company. It took her 27 years to climb that ladder. Her patience led her to keep her course. She did not stray or lose track and because of that she was rewarded; she is now the CEO of Xerox.
Managing finances is about more than just writing checks – it’s about defining your values and goals, and holding yourself accountable to them.
President of WISER, a non-profit dedicated to improving the stability of women’s finances, Cindy Hounsell has proven that responsibility has its benefits. She has worked tirelessly to educate women around the world about personal financial issues, especially in regards to investing and retirement. She is now known as a “Money Hero” by Money Magazine, served as delegate at several White House Summits and conferences, and has been named one of the 21 Leaders for the 21st Century by Women’s eNews. Her sense of responsibility for women around the globe has garnered worldwide media attention.
Merriam Webster defines resourceful as: having the ability to deal well with new or difficult situations and to find solutions to problems. When I think of resourcefulness, I go back to a woman who cut coupons every week, made a detailed list of purchases, and learned how to manage her finances within her means. She was a minister’s wife raising two young children in the 1960’s, but she managed to make it work for her family. At one point, she was written up in the local paper for her remarkable consistency – the cashiers recognized the same purchases every single week. My grandmother, Arlene Peterson, was a personal example of resourcefulness and financial conscientiousness, and I’m forever grateful for what I learned from her about managing my own financial resources.
Claiming these qualities over our finances will help to instill fortitude within us. When we seek to adopt these traits in dealing with our money, we create opportunities to follow the path that so many successful women before us have walked. We won’t reach perfection, but our progress will benefit our lives and financial pocketbooks. Let’s not choose easy or immediate results when there is real financial freedom to be had through dedication and determination.
Do you possess any of these traits when it comes to your finances? Which one(s) can you grow in?