Blind-sighted by Bling

credit cardListen up, all you single gals looking for a rich guy. I have a word of warning for you. Beware the Big Spender. He might be a Kook.

What’s a Kook, you ask? “Someone you shouldn’t date,” explains Adryenn Ashley, who wrote the book on Kookiness, Spotting the Kooks.

Adryenn knows what she’s talking about. She’s a forensic accountant and certified divorce financial analyst who’s witnessed too many marriages go awry. “I saw a lot of people who got married and shouldn’t. I wanted to get to them early before they fell in love with the wrong guy.”

The Big Spender is often that “wrong guy.” He’ll woo you with expensive gifts, lavish meals, exotic vacations. Problem is, says Adryenn, Big Spenders, as seductive as they are, can often be heartbreaks waiting to happen. To him, you’re simply another possession. He values money far more than intimacy. When he does something wrong, his first response may be to give you a string of pearls. But don’t expect a heartfelt discussion or a genuine apology. Five years down the road, he probably still won’t know your favorite color or remember your birthday. And if one day you leave, he likely won’t even notice.

Sure, I may be stereotyping. But ever since my conversation with Adryenn, I think it’s a potential problem worth pointing out. Especially since I know the Prince Charming syndrome is alive and well.

“It’s so easy to get blind-sighted by bling,” Adryenn told me. So what do you do if you’ve got a big rock on your left ring finger, given to you by your beloved Big Spender? Take precautions, Adryenn urges. Get an “airtight prenup.” Or better yet, consider one of her workshops: A Man and A Plan. The workshop sound fabulous…even if you aren’t engaged to a Kook. She guides you and your man through those difficult financial discussions so they become collaborative, not adversarial. Then she has you both writing a prenup that’s based on your marriage vows (not your worst fears). How cool is that?

You can learn more about Adryenn’s books, workshops or other offerings at

How Powerful are You?

Not long ago, BusinessWeek ran a cover story on Women and Power. They featured a series of women that ran the gamut of economic status and job titles. It immediately reminded me of an important lesson I learned from successful women:

Money does not give us power

Power comes from the choices we make. That’s a very important distinction. Not all high earners are powerful women.

In my research, successful women fell into two groups. The Successful High Earners and the Hard-driven High Earners.

The Hard-driven ones are  superwomen on steroids, classic workaholics.  They are NOT powerful women. In fact, they have more in common with underearners than their higher paid peers. They live in deprivation…not necessarily money, but time, joy, freedom, and control of their life. They feel trapped, often by the money itself.

You know what makes Successful High Earners so powerful? Conscious choices based on self awareness. Most of these women actually take time to for self reflection, to figure out what was really important to them.  Their decisions are based, not on fear, but on their priorities, their most cherished values.

One of the most poignant examples was a woman who went to a workshop where she was asked this question: If you were on your deathbed, looking back at your life, what would make you feel happiest and satisfied with how you lived?  From that came a list of her top 5 priorities. Soon after, she was asked to be on the board of a business start-up in China. The meetings would be all expense paid weekends in SF. There was a time she would’ve jumped at the chance, but, she realized, Chinese business wasn’t one of her priorities.

“It would’ve been fun,” she told me. “I would’ve met interesting people, but it would’ve taken me away from my partner, the book I was writing, all those things that are really important.”

Spoken by a truly powerful woman. How about you? If you were on your deathbed, looking back at your life, what would make you feel happiest and satisfied with how you lived? When was the last time you identified your top priorities, your deepest values? More importantly, are you living them now?

Is Gender Discrimination Still a Problem?

Men vs. Women?I actually believed it was fading. But I guess I was being naïve. A lot of high earning women (and not-so high-earners as well) are still contending with gender bias and sexual harassment. Not all successful women have to confront these problems. But for those who do, they tell me it’s one of the most frustrating challenges in their career. Maybe you know what I’m talking about.

“I wish we were all treated equally, but that just isn’t the case,” one woman told me, and she went on to say. “The guys will get asked by the people who run the firm to go golfing but they won’t ask me because I’m a woman. So my peers are hanging out with the decision makers on weekends and I’m not invited. “

When I asked her how she lived with that, she just shrugged, “I’ve grown to accept it. I don’t like it but what can I do? I counteract by not messing up, not making mistakes, and working harder.”

The women I’ve talked to seem to have found a recipe for coping that relies heavily on recognition, not resignation—acceptance, not anger, and a large dose of humor. When they’d give me examples of obvious unfairness, I’d shake my head and wonder how they handled these situations. Their responses were remarkably similar. “I just have a good laugh,” they’d say, “otherwise I’d go crazy.”

I’d be really interested to hear from those of you who’ve experienced gender discrimination. What has kept you from going crazy?

A Sure Sign You’re in the Discomfort Zone

Glass wall - ResistanceYou know the feeling. You finally decide to take charge of your money. You’re going to get smart. You’re going to pay off your debt. You’re going to invest regularly. Off you go…when suddenly, you run smack dab into resistance.

Resistance, by the way, is the psychological term for “I don’t want to do this!” You don’t feel right. You get scared. You want to quit. Resistance, more than anything else, is what stops women from taking the financial reins.

Trouble is, resistance is very subtle and easy to justify. To help you identify when you’re in it, I’ve come up with Twelve Signs You’re In Resistance

1. YOU’RE TOO BUSY (“I have no time.”)

2. YOU PROCRASTINATE (“I’ll do it later.”)

3. YOU’RE SCARED INTO INACTION (“Omygawd, what if…?”)

4. YOU DEFER DECISIONS (“You do it, you decide.”)

5. YOU LOSE INTEREST (“This is boring, it’s not my thing.”)

6. YOU’RE FORGETFUL (“Oh, I meant to, but I forgot.”)

7. YOU’RE DISORGANIZED (“Where did I put that…?”)

8. YOU FOG UP, SPACE OUT (“What are you talking about?”)

9. YOU FEEL PARALYZED (“I just can’t think or get going.”)

10. YOU FIND REASONS NOT TO ACT (“I can’t because…”)

11. YOU’RE IMPATIENT (“This is taking way too long.”)

12. YOU KEEP RUNNING INTO NAYSAYERS (Other people say, ‘You can’t do that,” “That’s not possible.”) This form of resistance is especially sneaky. You project your own fear out onto others.

How do you get past resistance?

  • Understand that resistance is normal. It simply means things are changing, not that something is wrong
  • Do not let resistance derail you, at least not for very long
  • Whatever it is you don’t want to do, that is exactly what you need to do next

The Road to Riches is Often Paved with a Higher Purpose

Have you ever taken time to figure out your purpose in life? Maybe you should…if you’re trying to increase your income.

Road to higher purposeI’ve been interviewing women who make millions for a new a new book I’m writing. Like all high earners, these seven (and eight, nine, ten)-figure women clearly had a very strong profit motive. But what pushed them to even higher levels was not the money, per se, but this profound sense of a higher purpose. Making millions may have been the stated goal, but what deeply motivated these women was what they could to do with those millions to make the world a better place.

When I asked a successful financial advisor how she went from six figures to seven, her response reflected this common theme: “It happened when my mentality shifted to making a difference. You get to a point where you have more than you need, so you start thinking how you can help others.”

These women possessed a “fire in their belly” ignited by an almost a divine sense of mission, a transpersonal commitment to something larger than themselves . What struck me was how this combination of a lofty purpose with a clear profit motive created a really powerful alchemy. Here’s why:

1. Their strong sense of a higher purpose fueled their unwavering perseverance. As one told me: “Having a big vision creates the drive to something meaningful in a big way.” And another added: “I have such a deep sense of mission and purpose, that I go into full throttle, even in volunteer work.” Still another said, “When you’re on fire with a higher purpose, all you need to do is move through your self imposed blocks.”

2. Their strong sense of purpose bolstered their courage. Whenever they were scared, stymied, or facing a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, they immediately went back to that purpose. “When in doubt, I revisit my mission. I know that’s why I’m here and I know I have to act.” said a multi-million dollar earner.

3. Balance and sanity are by-products of a strong sense of purpose. There’s a significant difference between drive and addiction. Addiction arises from feelings of inadequacy, pain, and fear, inevitably leading to burn out. Drive comes from a vision that nourishes one’s soul and enriches their life. As one young woman told me, “I had a massive inner critic and I’d push myself until I broke down.” Her solution: “I did lots of self improvement work and started to focus on achieving my purpose without killing myself.” The results: a significant increase in earning and decrease in stress.

To all those underearners who think there’s nobility in poverty, think again. As successful women have taught me, prosperity paves the way for generosity.

What’s With the Fear Tactics?

Maybe I’m over reacting. I just heard yet another conference speaker warn me, along with a few hundred other women, that unless we take action, most of us will never retire because we can’t afford to.

Enough with the bad news already! The financial industry, along with the media, seem to believe that the best way to motivate women is by frightening us with scary statistics, alarming statements, and worse case scenarios. But clearly fear tactics haven’t worked. Women hear these gloomy statistics and instead of taking action, just get depressed and go into avoidance.

I would love to see the financial industry/media do away with (or at least down play) those depressing statistics. And instead, talk about how financial success allows women to help her kids, her parents, people she loves. Tell us stories about the joys of philanthropy, the thrill of leaving a legacy. Give examples of how proper financial planning will give her the resources to contribute to causes she feels passionate about.

To most women (and I suspect some men), helping others and making a difference is what financial empowerment is all about.

Does anyone else feel as strongly as I do about this?

Think Big, Act Small

Let me suggest a foolproof strategy for achieving financial savvy…especially if you’re having a hard time doing it. Think big. Act small. And never, ever stop until you reach your goal.

One reason so many have trouble with money—saving more, investing wisely, or paying off debt—is because it seems so overwhelming. And indeed it can be. But I truly believe the secret to success is this: small steps consistently taken create remarkable results.

I am convinced:

  1. It doesn’t take a lot of time to get smart.
  2. It doesn’t take a lot of money to create wealth.
  3. It’s best to begin when you’re young, but it’s never, ever too late to start.

A big part of attaining financial freedom is simply changing your habits.

Early on, I devised a 3-step plan for myself that was amazingly effective at changing my habitual avoidance. Try these 3 steps for 4 months, and see what happens:

Reading up1. Everyday, read something about money, even if it’s just for a minute or two, even if it’s only the headlines of the business section of the newspaper, or a money magazine while you’re waiting in line at the grocery. So much of getting smart or smarter about money is understanding the jargon and the current trends.

2. Every week, have a conversation about money, especially with someone who knows more than you. I learned this from my interviews with financially savvy women. Whenever you meet anyone who knows more than you, ask them how they got smart, the mistakes they made, and what’s worked best for them. I think it’s our secrecy and silence about money that keeps us stuck.

3. Every month, save. Automatically have money transferred from your checking account or paycheck to your savings account. How much? Better to save say $10 a month, than try to put aside too much and eventually give up because you feel the pinch. Small amounts really do add up surprisingly fast. And as the saying goes: it’s easier to find 500 ways to save $1 than it is to find 1 way to save $500.

When She Makes More Than He…

Heart in the cold snowA recent NY Times article has created a lot of buzz. Young women, working in major cities, are surging way ahead of men in terms of earnings. This is a great news for a gender that’s long been on the short end of the income stick.

Still, this trend is bound to play havoc in some relationships. For centuries, men’s self esteem has been heavily linked to their financial success…just as women’s sense of femininity has been connected to being taken care of. Sure times have changed radically…but some egos are having trouble making the transition.

And it’s not just men who are having a hard time…women are too. I’ve talked with a lot of women, ambitious as they are, who secretly resent their husband’s inability to bring in the big bucks.

Jean Chatsky wrote a terrific article on keeping your relationship intact when your man earns less. She offers 5 tips:

  1. Talk and listen
  2. Be his biggest cheerleader
  3. Open yours, mine, and ours accounts
  4. Focus on the endgame (i.e. your dreams and goals)
  5. Recognize that marriage changes things

Excellent advice. Of the 5, I believe #1 is the critical piece. Especially the listening part. We all know it’s important to communicate. But fearful people can be vicious. Not because they’re mean-spirited, but because they’re scared. Make no mistake—role reversal can be scary because it threatens the status quo.

Successful communication means allowing anger, even rage, to be expressed…without taking it personally. It requires the willingness to tell your truth, blow off steam, express your fear and anger without the other person getting defensive, but listening with compassion and nonjudgement. Not easy, by any means.

I’d love to hear from those of you who have had these kind of discussions…what’s worked and what hasn’t??

Powerful Giving

GivePhilanthropy is usually the least thought out, most disorganized part of our financial activities. We know charitable contributions save us taxes.

But the question we rarely ask is: How can I maximize not only my tax benefits but the power that philanthropy gives me?

The more thought and planning you give to your charitable donations, the more—so to speak—bang you get from your buck—financially, socially, emotionally.

To this end, I put together Six Principles of Powerful Philanthropy:

1. Educate yourself financially. The number one reason women don’t give more is lack of knowledge. No matter how much money a woman has, if she’s afraid, insecure, and/or ignorant around money, she’ll be restrained in her giving . In a recent study, 73% of women felt that passing money to children and causes is important, but only 14% have conducted detailed financial planning to ensure an effective wealth transfer.

2. Get your financial house in order, with your spouse. Review your finances regularly. Smart money management follows 4 rules:

  • Spend less
  • Save more
  • Invest wisely
  • Give generously

These rules must be followed in this order. Giving without following the first three rules is an act of self sabotage. Not only do you jeopardize your future security, but you diminish the impact you can make with your money.

3. See yourself as a philanthropist in your own right. Too many women think it’s their husband’s money, so charitable donations are his responsibility. But women outlive their spouse and will ultimately be in charge of the family estate. Another reason women don’t engage in planned giving is because, if they’re not a Carnegie or Rockefeller, they don’t think they have enough. Not so. Small amounts can add up to big changes.

4. Give serious thought to the legacy you want to leave. I once saw a poster with the word: “will it matter that I was?” Ask yourself: How do I want people to remember me? What changes would I like to see in the world. What do I value most? Does my giving reflect my values?

5. Work with professionals. Figuring out how much is possible and advantageous to give is a complex issue. It should be a team effort. Find reputable estate planners, attorneys, financial advisors, accountants. Studies show, however, 9 out of 10 people don’t mention charities in their will. So if a professional doesn’t bring it up, you be sure to.

6. Make it a family affair. Use philanthropy as a way to teach kinds about values, money management, and life goals.

The most powerful philanthropists are not the ones with the highest net worth. They are the ones who are financially educated, financially secure, and passionate about a cause.

Getting Past the Stuck Point

I once kept a quote on my wall: “We pray to God when our foundation is being shaken, only to find out it’s God who is doing the shaking.”

I often recall those words when I coach women.

CalculatorJust yesterday, I talked to a client who was almost in tears. Her husband’s business unexpectedly went belly up. Suddenly, they had no income. She was forced to get a higher paying job.

“Do you think this crisis has anything to do with my decision to make more money and my lack of action?” she asked.

Obviously it was a rhetorical question.

I see this pattern all the time. Women do not get serious about money—making it or managing it—until a crisis hits. Either their world falls apart, or feels like it’s about to. That’s when they finally take action.

I did it myself. I waited until a million dollar tax bill almost wiped me out. Not smart!!

How about you? Are you avoiding financial stuff until the pain gets worse than the fear? Are you looking for a way to get going without having your very foundation violently (or even mildly) shaken.

If so, try this experiment. Focus on what inspires you and stop dwelling on what scares you. Forget all the things that can go wrong. Instead consider all you can do when you have more money. Not just buying more shoes, but making a difference. Think about the joys of philanthropy, leaving a legacy, contributing to causes you feel passionate about, helping your kids, your parents, people you love.

That’s what I finally did. I started thinking about what kind of a role model I wanted to be for my daughters instead of obsessing about screwing up. When I made that shift, I had no choice…I could no longer let fear stop me!

I’d love to hear other ideas for getting unstuck. What worked for you?

Meet Barbara Huson

When a devastating financial crisis rocked her world, Barbara Huson knew she had to get smart about money… and she did. Now, she wants to empower every women to take charge of their money and take charge of their lives! She’s doing just that with her best-selling books, life changing retreats and private financial coaching.

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