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By the Numbers

I know lots of powerful women that are accomplished and smart in so many ways – except when it comes to money. They don’t want to deal with it, so they just don’t. Some of them are married, so they turn it all over to their partner. Others hire accountants to take care of their financial business, so they don’t have to think about it. Others just ignore their finances until it can’t be ignored any longer. In fact, some people are so stymied by bill paying, they don’t open any of their mail, and watch mountains of paper pile up.

The problem with this is, it will get you into trouble. Not paying attention to what is going on with your finances, can make you vulnerable in many ways. It seems safe, to turn your business over to someone you trust, but circumstances change. People leave our lives, make mistakes or bad decisions, or may have trouble talking about tough subjects, like money problems. There are some people who get greedy, and are dishonest and don’t think about how using your money will hurt you. Mountains of mail become bill avalanches, that only get worse with penalties and interest. It gets expensive when we aren’t paying attention.

When times are hard, we don’t want to deal with it, afraid of what we’ll find. Sometimes it isn’t as bad as we think, especially when we stay on top of it. Sometimes it’s worse, but at least when you know the situation, you can make a plan. When times are good, we don’t think we need to pay as close attention to our expenses. That’s when spending goes wild!

It gets even more complicated when you’re a business owner. Now you have two sets of accounts to balance and bills to pay! When you’re the Boss Lady, you have to pay attention to finances. After all, the measurement of business is money. Knowing how to read financial reports, like Profit and Loss statements, are key to understanding financial health and business trends, if the business owner does the work to make them happen and crack the code, to know what they mean. One of the most important, but somehow most intimidating, skills you need to be successful in business is money management.

One of the best ways for us to own our power, and be more successful in life, is to be a better money manager. In fact, not being a good money manager often makes people victims. There are too many stories of celebrities and lottery winners, people with what must have seemed like a bottomless pot of gold, that have lost it all by not paying attention. I’m not saying you have to do all the work, but it is imperative to check in on a regular basis, to be aware and informed about your situation.

Lots of people have an aversion to numbers. I’ve been there myself. I've always been more of a creative, than analytical thinker. But just like I’ve practiced being a better writer and teacher, I’ve found that, with practice, I can be good with finance too. First, I needed to get out of my own way. For some people its lack of knowledge, for others its fear of numbers, emotions tied to money, or never had enough money to manage. I think I've had them all!

To get out of our own way, when it comes to finance, we have to consider our attitudes and beliefs toward money. Money isn’t just money. Money represents power, love, joy, and much more. For some, money means power or respect, thinking that money gives control. For others, it’s happiness or freedom, the idea that all life’s problems will be solved, with enough money. While some equate money with love and security, feeling that cash will make people love them more or keep them safer. What does money mean to you? What emotions do thoughts of money bring up for you; feelings of worry, guilt, anger, sadness, power, love, or joy? Since the attitudes about money were shaped by our parents when we were growing up, what did money represent in your family when you were growing up, and what were you taught about its uses? Did your parents fight about money? Use money to control you or one another? Use money to show love?

In considering what money means to us, we can see what values we have attached to money. Values are the standards that we use to measure ourselves. Values underlie everything we are and do. If what we value isn’t constructive, if what we consider success or failure is poorly chosen, then everything based on those values will be out of whack. Everything we think and feel about a situation comes back to how valuable we perceive it to be. When the way someone measures their worth in the world is solely financial, that is what will drive all their decisions and world view. On the other hand, I’ve known people who thought money is evil, and have done everything they could to avoid it. Neither approach works, or is a healthy way to look at finance.

When we know our values, we can ask important, values-based questions: Why do I feel such a need for this value in the first place? How am I choosing to measure success/failure for myself? These questions can be uncomfortable to answer, but will be helpful in helping you find how to get out of your own way. Perhaps it’s reframing how you look at success is to begin with, and how you measure it.

I think it’s very important for everyone to be financially literate. This is why we offer a series of classes at the Finishing School for Modern Women, based on the FDIC National Standards for Adult Financial Literacy Education, who have identified the personal finance knowledge and skills an adult should have; Mistress of Money, Queen of Credit and the Empress of Investments. For business owners, and directors of nonprofit organizations, we offer Boss Lady to help them discover how to read financial statements and make them their friend, along with other strategies to build a superhero business!

But the best financial advice I can offer you is, don’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to money. Figure out what it is that’s holding you back, learn the skills you need to be a better money manager, and face it head on. It could bring you more success and peace of mind. Try it and see.

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