Passing on Pearls of Wisdom: Money & Power

As my college-age daughter flies out of the door for an afternoon class, she shouts she’ll see me for dinner.  We are in a new place right now. For the last five years I have been employed by two major media companies–Forbes and Bonnier’s Working Mother Media division–in positions which included 40-60 hours a week in an office and my two hours a day train commute, evening events, and off-hours Blackberry watch. But recently that changed.  I no longer spend my days focusing on content and programs to help Working Mother increase its digital presence. Instead I am concentrating on the brand of me and what its growth potential is.  Will I take my decades of experience to a single company where I will receive a paycheck and spend those two hours commuting? Will I become their brand ambassador, strategist, creator, and futurist helping ensure the company’s bottom line or will I do the same for me? Already, I have begun consulting, shepherding a new start up and enjoying the thrill of new beginnings. But is it the right step?

In the end, whatever decision I make will have financial repercussions, for better or for worse, for my family. And the more I think about it, I realize, almost every adult decision in a woman’s life has financial strings attached.

As my daughter pulls out of the driveway in the 10-plus-year-old car we’ve made available to her, I wonder if I have taken all the right steps to prepare her for her financial future, just as I think about how mine is once again morphing and changing.

Seven Pearls Financial Book CoverAll of this musing comes with the release of a new and insightful book called The Seven Pearls of Financial Wisdom: A Woman’s Guide to Enjoying Wealth and Power by Carol Pepper and Camilla Webster.  Both women have a sizable background in financial matters–Carol as a financial adviser and Camilla as a financial journalist with whom I worked at Forbes.

While writing the book, Camilla asked me if I would be one of her “experts” and could she ask about how a family health crisis can affect financial stability along with tips for planning and living through long-term challenges. Of course, I was asked to be an example of “crisis.”  Funny, when you are living through one, trying to keep your child alive, you find it hard to see it in financial terms of any kind but you need to.

When I agreed to be a “crisis” expert, I had no idea that by the time the book arrived in stores, I would once again be making another change in my kaleidoscope career, and be turning to The Seven Pearls for reminders, tips and advice about more than putting my financial house in order, but rather, looking at the myriad of events and subjects that actually do affect the growth of financial well-being in our lives and the power within ourselves that translates into power in the world.

According to The Seven Pearls, there are seven stages in a woman’s life of power and wealth building in no specific order: wealth building, crisis and loss, romance and marriage, retirement, motherhood and legacy building.

This is not a plain-vanilla how-to or a Suze Orman do-it-yourself guide. Not every chapter is for everyone. Certainly, tips to find the man with the right financial fit is not for everyone. Some of the wealth-building discussion feels like it’s aimed only at the silver spoon set and yet the chapter on Motherhood even suggests how mom bloggers are beginning to create wealth with the stroke of their keyboards (when a survey last year showed that most women who identify as money-making bloggers say they earned on average less than $30,000 in 2010). The Crisis chapter lists the importance of insurance of all kinds, the breath of issues a health crisis can hurl at you, surviving divorce, kidnapping and natural disasters.  And of course, there is a discussion of retirement planning called Legacy Building.

But if the devil is in the details, this all-encompassing handbook is filled with them.  They leave little out when it comes to drags on finances including what it costs to “parent a pet.” Even if a chapter is not the perfect fit, the stories of the “experts,” their personal decisions or advice are compelling. There is an inspirational side to all of it all. As I read through The Fourth Pearl: A Woman Must Exercise Her Power In Life, I found myself taking notes and wondering if I had been taking a focused approached on the brand of me.

Chapter One: Wealth Building reminds us to teach our children about financial stability and how every stage of life will affect it and the choices she makes. It reminds me to have these discussions again with my daughter, along with Chapter Two: Romance and Marriage, or maybe I should just hand her the book. It’s a master class she probably won’t get in college but one that should be worth more than 3 credits.


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