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Develop Your Inner CFO - by Deborah Mecklinger

It’s an age-old saying: knowledge is power. But are women acquiring the right knowledge to empower ourselves? Deborah Mecklinger calls for women to use focus their noggins slightly less on fashion and a lot more on finance.

Fairy tales, myths and modern day chick flicks are filled with women trading sex for shoes, freedom for fashion and independence for dependence. It’s hard to believe that our culture still promotes the idea of women "being taken care of." In Sex in the City, Carrie Bradshaw, an icon for many women, leaves her fabulous career in New York to follow her lover to Paris in pursuit of HIS passion. In fact, Carrie had enough Manolo Blahniks to outfit Bergdorfs and Barneys, but could not afford a down payment when her apartment turned co-op.

How is it that most women know how many pairs of shoes they have in their closet but they don’t know how much money they have in their bank account? While most women are acutely aware of the rise and fall of hemlines, most have no idea if the stock market and interest rates are up or down. In fact, it may shock you to know, that while many women have read the latest issue of Vogue cover to cover, many have not read their tax returns!

I was recently out for dinner with a group of women friends when one woman shared the latest episode of the "honey, it’s MY money" fight that she had with her partner the night before. If you were a fly on the wall you would have heard "he said" quotes like: "if you don’t approve of how I spend MY money, then make more of your own…when you make what I make, you can have an equal voice…the visa bill is out of control...another pair of shoes, jeans…a new purse…you are going to be cut off." The "she said" quotes went something like this: "I now run to the mail first so I get the Visa bill before he does." Other women added, "I divide the purchases between various credit cards...I hide the bags…I ‘perform’ for a new purse…"

I left the restaurant wondering how we lost our voices. When did we become so small? The women discussed decisions about meal planning, schools and extra-curricular activities for their children. It seemed they were sufficiently empowered to decide whether the family would have meatballs or steak and whether the kids should take skating or skiing. No one present felt it was their role to make decisions about investing in stocks versus bonds or commodities versus futures.

When deciding what to become when I grew up, I was told it was important to be in a position to support myself, but that hopefully, I would never need to. What a mixed message! Educate and train so you can take good care of yourself and then, hand over the reins to someone who will do it for you. The conflict surrounds us as we spend years preparing to be independent only to surrender under the guise of ‘being taken care of’.

My daughters attend a girl’s school with the following motto: Girls Can Do Anything! Can you imagine if the tag line read: Hopefully, they won’t need to! In order to teach our girls to be independent and self-sufficient, we need to model the same behavior. It is not what we say, but rather what we do that counts. We need to come out of the closet and into the room and begin having conversations about money. We need to develop awareness, educate ourselves and plan for our future. Don’t run away with the bags, the visa statements the shoes or the truth. Get naked, bare your financial soul and start planning for your future. Don’t be afraid to do whatever it takes to become the CFO of your life.


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© 2023 Deborah Mecklinger LL.B., M.S.W