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Women & money: Control your finances, life

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Women can handle money just as well as any man, so why don't they? In her book "Women & Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny," personal finance expert Suze Orman takes a look at the often-complicated financial troubles plaguing women, including dysfunctional relationships with money and issues saving for retirement or long-term plans. Orman advocates women taking control of their money and learning how to strategize to put themselves in a healthy financial position. Here's an excerpt:

I never thought I’d write a book about money just for women. I never thought it was necessary. So then why am I doing just that in my eighth book? And why now? Let me explain. All my previous books were written with the belief that gender is not a factor on any level in mastering the nuts and bolts of smart financial management. Women can invest, save, and handle debt just as well and skillfully as any man. I still believe that — why would anyone think differently?

So imagine my surprise when I learned that some of the people closest to me in my life were in the dark about their own finances. Clueless. Or, in some cases, willfully resisting doing whatthey knew needed to be done. I’m talking about smart, competent, accomplished women who present a face to the world that is pure confidence and capability. Do you mean to tell me that I, Suze Orman, who make my living solving the financial problems of total strangers, couldn’t spot the trouble brewing so close to home? I don’t think I’m blind; I just think that these women

FOR WOMEN ONLYI became very, very good at hiding their troubles from me. Whynot? They had years of practice hiding them from themselves.Frankly, I was shocked. It was a real reckoning. It began with afriend, a very high-powered businesswoman who handles millionsand millions of dollars a year, who refused to sign will and trustdocuments I’d helped her to prepare. I can’t tell you why, but thosepapers sat on her desk for three years—she clearly had some kind ofblock that prevented her from simply signing her name and havingthe documents notarized. Even as I write, she has still not completedthem. Then another friend, a woman with some amazingprofessional credits under her belt, broke down and confessed thatshe had rung up such staggering bills over the years that she wastoo terrified to tell anyone and had no idea how to pay them off.Not long after, I heard from yet another friend who finally wokeup to the fact that her employer was paying her significantly lessthan every other executive of comparable rank in her company.Her division was one of the most profitable and consistent earnersfor the company, but still she just accepted the minimal increasesher boss would hand her every year at review time. And even now,out of some misguided loyalty, she was reluctant to leave theemployer that took advantage of her year after year.What was going on here?

Upon further investigation, I learned that so many women inmy life—friends, acquaintances, readers, people from my TV audience—all had this stumbling block in common: an “unknownfactor” that prevented them from doing the right thing with theirmoney. Maybe it was fear of the unknown for some; maybe forothers it was a little streak of rebellion for holding it together inevery other part of their lives; or maybe it was just that they feltthat things had gotten so far out of hand, they were embarrassedto ask for help and reveal just how much they didn’t know.Women have been thrust into an entirely new relationshipwith money that is profoundly different from anything we have

ever encountered before. The shifting roles of women at homeand at work have dramatically changed where and how moneyinteracts with a woman’s life. Yet what I see is that while womenhave established or expanded their roles and relationships, whenit comes to navigating the financial ramifications of this newworld, they are using old maps that don’t get them where theyreally want and need to go.It doesn’t matter if I am in a room full of business executives or stay-at-home moms, I find the core problem to be universal: When it comes to making decisions with money, you refuse to own your power, to act in your best interest. It is not a question of intelligence; you absolutely have what it takes to understand what you should be doing. But you simply won’t bring yourself to take care of yourself financially, especially if those actions compete with taking care of those you love. Your inner nurturer reigns supreme; you do for everyone before you do for yourself. No matter how good your intentions may be, they are nonetheless draining you.

So that is why my eighth book is called Women & Money.

The challenge is to finally learn—and accept—that to be trulypowerful in your life requires making money moves that work foryou. Now, I am not suggesting you replace nurturer with narcissist.

I do not want you to discard your generosity or shed your supportive and kind nature. This book is not about becoming more by becoming more selfish. Far from it. I simply want you to give to yourself as much as you give of yourself. By taking care of yourself financially, you will truly be able to take care of those you love. Becoming powerful in a lasting, beneficial way is never done at the expense of others; it is done for the good of all. Women are the bedrock of their families, of their communities—so many are dependent on us. If we stand strong and know who we are and what we can create, we will easily be able to hold up those we love and those who need a helping hand.

Please know that there is not one sentence of blame within these pages. I appreciate that the incredible multitasking job called your life makes it hard, if not impossible, to find the time, energy, or desire to pay attention to what you are doing wrong with your money, let alone figure out what is the right thing to do. Your kids need mothering, your partner needs loving, your parents need help, your career needs your energy, and your friends need your ear. Throw into that mix the dry cleaning that needs to be picked up, the groceries that need to be bought, the meals that need to be prepared, and the house that needs to be cleaned, and it’s no surprise that anything to do with money takes a backseat.

The aim of this book is to make this transformation as easy as possible.

In order to do that, I’m going to help you toward an understandingof how we got here—why we undermine ourselves andwhy deciding to seize control over our financial lives is, in fact, agroundbreaking, trailblazing decision. I also hope I can provideyou with the motivation to want to act, to tackle these challengeshead-on and own your power.

I’ll provide you with the guidance and pragmatic tools to feelsecure and in control of your financial life as quickly and as painlesslyas possible. To that end, I’ve come up with a five-monthcourse of action that I’ve named The Save Yourself Plan to helpyou over the blocks and set you up for a lifetime of financial security.I’ve tried to pinpoint why it is that other books have failedyou, why your moments of resolve and inspiration inevitably losttheir steam and were short-lived.

I’ve taken a realistic approach and come up with a strategy that anticipates the fatigue and fear and lack of determination and is designed to keep you engaged, educate you, and—can you believe it?—inspire you to want to do more. I will not overwhelm you with laundry lists of seemingly insurmountable chores. I’ve identified core tasks—and made them as comprehensive and easy to follow as possible. It is my goal that,  at the end of five months, you will be able to chart your progress and feel the pride and relief that come with being in control of a part of your life that has, until now, remained outside your grasp. And finally, I hope this book will point you toward the future and inspire you, show you what is possible not just for our generation but for generations to come.

Because this is truly the best part: These life-altering changesare an amazing legacy, a gift to every daughter and granddaughter—those who grace your life today and those yet to be born.Now you know why I truly believe that this book—the oneI never planned to write, the one for women only—is the mostimportant book I have ever written.

Excerpted from "Women & Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny" by Suze Orman. Copyright 2007 by Suze Orman. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from Spiegel & Grau.

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