“My daughter needs your book but I know she won’t read it.”
So began a conversation with three women and one man seated at my table at a recent investing event. We were discussing my recommendation that women become fully involved in all aspects of their family’s financial life, including investing.
“Why’s that?” I inquired of the woman who’d made the comment.
“She has four kids and doesn’t know the first thing about their investments. Her husband takes care of all the financial matters. If something happened to him, she’d be in real trouble. The problem is that even if I gave her your book, she’s too busy to read it. With four kids to take care of on top of her work, I know she’ll tell me she doesn’t have time to learn about investing. Besides, her husband is already taking care of it; she doesn’t need to worry about it.”
This post is for all women whose argument for delegating financial knowledge to others is that they do not have the time for it.
In my book, I share a quote from Suze Orman in which she quips that money problems are rarely about money. I would argue that something similar is going on when we use a lack of time as an excuse for not getting something done. It’s often a symptom, not a cause.
What’s really going on
In nearly ten years of helping clients rehabilitate their credit profiles, I have noticed two primary reasons why people fail to follow the plan we create for them: Either they don’t really value repairing their credit – they don’t perceive that the work involved is worth their while – or they’re afraid to tackle their money issues. The latter manifests itself in a variety of ways, but fear is usually at the bottom of it. In most cases, there are many reasonable-sounding excuses.
And they’re all just that: excuses.
Here’s the key: We make time for the things we value. When we fail to tackle a task, it’s rarely about time. Time is the excuse we use to convince ourselves that we have a valid reason not to learn, do, or change.
In Protect Your Purse, I discuss some ideas from a thought-provoking book by Laura Vanderkam entitled I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time. Vanderkam shares the results of hundreds of interviews with high-achieving women who tracked their use of time over a period of a few weeks. Without exception, every woman was able to find extra time in her schedule to accomplish the tasks that matter most to her.
At the time that I was reading Vanderkam’s book, I was running a real estate investment business, working on my book, and managing a very busy household. I, too, felt time-crunched. In fact, I caught myself using the excuse of “not enough time” as the reason that my book wasn’t yet finished. There’s only so much that one woman can do, right?
Wrong. It’s not about that at all. When I tracked my use of time, I found many moments where time was frittered away on poor choices. The issue wasn’t time, it was my use of it and my focus on the wrong so-called priorities. Shortly after analyzing my results, I took some time to really think about what I value. Once I made some changes to the way that I set up my life, I completed my book within two months.
What’s the big deal?
Back to finances: When it comes to money, it’s all too common for women to defer to men. We’re busy working and running the households; they can manage the investments. It seems like a fair trade. It may well be an efficient trade, but it’s not an effective one. Why? Because it leaves women vulnerable when life happens. We cannot truly protect ourselves, create good options for our family, and obtain true peace of mind until we learn to make, manage, and grow our money.
Like it or not, money is central to our lives. It’s a powerful tool that can make a world of difference in many situations, good and bad.
I get it – time is a precious commodity, and it’s easy to delay learning about an area that may seem mind-numbingly dull because you think that nothing unpleasant will happen to you. You’re in a strong marriage and everyone is healthy. That’s what the dozens of women I interviewed for my book thought as well. Then life happened. And it was brutal.
It took me ten years to rebuild my life after losing my first husband, thanks in no small part to the debilitating debt left behind. Ten. Years. The worst of it is that all of my financial trauma could have been avoided with a little bit of preventative action before I became a widow.
I have seen this pattern over and over since my experience, which is why I am a strong advocate of women’s financial literacy. But my recommendation is not primarily based on shoring up your defenses in case something bad happens; it’s about regaining your strength to live life on your terms, regardless of what happens.
It’s about the power of choice for you and your children.
It’s about helping you live the very best life that you can.
It’s time to put yourself back on top of your priority list and tackle any demons you may have about money. To prove to yourself that time is not the issue, read Vanderkam’s book and use her online tool to track your time for two weeks. You’ll be amazed at the results. For more ideas about taking control of your money, grab a copy of my book.
By the way, the guy at our table? He approached me at the break to ask for the name of my book. “My wife needs to read it. If something happens to me, she’ll be in trouble. We have a good insurance policy, but she won’t know what to do with the money. Since she earns a fraction of my income, she will need to make important decisions.”
Yes she will. Now is the perfect time to start.