Financial Reality Check: The Women Around Me

Financial Reality Check: The Women Around Me

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Financial Reality Check

I talk about financial peace of mind all the time.  It’s what I wish for every woman.  (Why the focus on women?  Because we got more of a raw deal growing up when it came to financial education and we had further to catch up.)

But I recently decided to do a financial reality check on what I see going on around me, whether it’s women I interact with in my consulting practice, my online coaching, my travels or my friends.  Here’s what I see and … warning … it’s not a pretty picture.

The Blessed:  I see large swaths of women who have accumulated enough resources over the years, and made enough good money decisions, that they can pretty much ignore what’s going on in the economy.  (In fact, according to the newsletters that cross my email box every day, these women are in the position to actually increase their wealth as a result of any disaster that befalls the economy.  They can take advantage of good opportunities.)  These women are not necessarily the “rich;” they are simply the wise.  They’re the ones who got a good financial upbringing … or educated themselves.  Their life may be grand … or intentionally simple … but it is solid and it is safe.  Their peace of mind is total.

The Steady:  Next comes a group that is moving forward nicely.  Sure, there’s a little concern about the risk of a lost job or a few months of low sales in their company.  They know they have a financial cushion.  But they don’t want to cut into it.  And they certainly don’t want to touch the savings they’re accumulating for retirement.  So they might lose a little sleep every so often, as they think through different possible scenarios, but their peace of mind is intact.

The Pretenders:  Here I see a huge mass of women pretending all is okay.  But at around 2 a.m., their credit card debt may look more like the national debt to them:  unsustainable … and difficult to turn around.  (Sort of like what people say about cruise ships … “very slow to turn around.”)  Their mortgages might be current, but every month closes out with difficulty.  And they are one paycheck away from being late on something, whether it’s the second mortgage, the car payment or whatever.  Not a lot of peace of mind here.  In fact, there’s a bubbling panic right below the surface.  But you’d never know it from the outside.  (Even their best friends probably don’t know.)

The Self-Deceivers:  Woven throughout the groups are some women online entrepreneurs, many of whom are running helter-skelter, posting and tweeting.  They’re sending out motivational messages that are likely aimed more at themselves than at the people they claim to be posting for.  I’ve learned that there is not necessarily a correlation between visible activity and income when it comes to online business.  (Remember, “online business” is just a business with an online component … and it survives on its profit and loss, not on some unique cyber forces!)

What worries me most are the legions of women investing precious time and money into “businesses” with no metrics to know whether they are moving forward or backwards.  They have no serious business plans to define precisely where they are supposedly headed in the first place.  As savings or severance packages dwindle, the most troublesome part comes from the fact that the low barriers to entry allow too many unprepared women to turn to online business without a viable concept.  It’s too easy to ignore the line between expensive hobby and budding business … and their peace of mind becomes the victim.

The Discouraged:  These are the women who lost jobs and/or husbands and/or businesses (and hope) long ago and have settled in to keeping their heads above water the best they can.  A helping hand from friends or family.  A part-time job or filling in here and there.  Disability payments, early Social Security, Medicaid, SSI, SNAP, TANF, EBT cards … whatever alphabet soup they can find to patch together a tenuous safety net until the economy turns around … or until whatever.  Their peace of mind is virtually nonexistent.

A Ray of Sunshine

What fascinates me most is when I see a woman, regardless what group she seems to be in, who flips things around seemingly in an instant.  I know it didn’t take an instant; it’s more the result of a simmering discontent, of dissatisfaction with what she is living.

It starts with a reality check … an unemotional evaluation of:

•    where she is in her life and in her finances,
•    what tools she has if she stretches to her maximum,
•    what internal fortitude she can call on,
•    what destructive money behaviors may have brought her where she is or keep her there, and
•    what excuses she might have been using to not take personal responsibility for herself.

Whatever dialog is going on in her head, there is a moment of reckoning.  Then, like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, there is a total turnaround in the energy she exudes, the actions she takes and the results she gets.

Call it tough love, if you like.  But I personally believe that one’s level of financial peace of mind is directly related to one’s level of personal responsibility.  No more, no less.  (It sure has been for me.)  I also believe that what defines one’s “financial peace of mind” is entirely individual.  It’s what you believe it to be, not something that’s defined by others.

So I ask you, “What does your financial peace of mind look like today?”

Let us know in the Comments section below if you’ve found some special ways you’d like to share that have brought you closer to total financial peace of mind.


Bio: Sharon O’Day lost everything at age 53: her home, her business, everything. But how could that be? She’s an expert in global finance and marketing with an MBA from the Wharton School. She has worked with governments, corporations, and individuals … yes, she was the secret “weapon,” if you will, behind many individuals in high places. Yet she did! Since then, with her finances completely turned around, Sharon has gone on to interview countless women. She’s done extensive research to understand how that could have happened, especially with her strong knowledge of numbers and finance.

The surprising answers are shared in her posts, articles and an upcoming book. Today her mission is to show as many women as possible how to become financially free for the long term, through her coaching programs. She has developed a step-by-step plan to get past all the obstacles that keep women broke and scared … and from reaching the financial peace of mind they so deserve … if they’re willing to do what it takes!

  • Diane Massad

    Whatever has given you, Sharon, your wisdom: the accumulated observations that are part of sourcing plus your own accumulated knowledge from education [almost the same element as the observations] ~ thanx for shaping and setting parts of that wisdom to page [electronic-as it is]. The segregation of the ‘contemporary woman’ into subgroups: insightful. Certainly, you also tap into your observations on the evolution of a ‘woman’s role’ [1. as a partner in a marriage -stereotypical] and 2. as a bread-winner/contributor] over the last 4-5 decades. These dynamics are additional factors in a female’s goal-setting. As once was said of the male career goals: “Who moved the cheese?”
    No news to you or any of us as we edge towards…old age! But the societal shifts are significant! So, again, an appreciation for your offerings.

    • Thanks, Diane, for the kind words. The grey clouds of uncertainty that mar our economic options have led to less and less self-analysis, as women hustle 24/7 to get (or stay) ahead. So I thought it would be valuable to have someone put up some clear-cut goal posts. (Honestly? I woke up Saturday morning and this article flowed out of my pen …)

  • Marta

    Sharon, you put it so clear for us to see where we are in one of the different “escenarios” that after this, if we are honest, it is difficult to point fingers. It is only if we accept our shortcoming that we can start the process of improvement.

    • There may be some scenarios in between, Marta, but it felt as if I captured most of the major ones. And I hope the “hard edge” of the descriptions will cause readers to think about where they are on THEIR journey to financial peace of mind … and why.

  • denny hagel

    More insightful straight talk just when I need it! This statement embodies the thoughts that have been ‘visiting’ my mind lately…” I’ve learned that there is not necessarily a correlation between
    visible activity and income when it comes to online business.
    (Remember, “online business” is just a business with an online component
    … and it survives on its profit and loss, not on some unique cyber
    forces!)” You are absolutely correct. Thanks as always Sharon!

    • I know we’ve had this conversation, Denny, especially about the coaches who are willing to take money for the marketing tools and hand-holding support … when the basic concept itself was already flawed. Unconscionable.

  • Pat Moon

    Sharon, I agree with Denny. This article comes at a good time for me while I am working to build a profitable online business… one that actually makes money. Thanks for the wisdom you share.

    • Don’t get me wrong, Pat, it’s not that there AREN’T very successful
      online businesses. It’s that too many of them never went through the
      preliminary steps of gauging whether the concept was viable and if the
      target population would pay for the product or service being offered. I’m thrilled that yours is headed in the right direction!

  • What a fantastic post. Much food for thought. I was once one of the crazy “I’ve got an online business” people. There was a time when I wasn’t even pulling down my expenses. Once I hired a coach and looked at the reality of what I was doing and how I was NOT selling enough, my business took a turn. It’s now real and brings in a profit. What fooled me in the beginning? I had plenty of capital. Capital doesn’t equal profits! And, I was making sales. So I had a biz, right? When I think about it now, I just smile . . . . and try to tell my students the difference between a hobby and a business 🙂

    • Glad you’re proactively countering that myth, Martha! The more we can get people to look “brutally” at their numbers, the better off everyone will be. No question, the web IS a viable option as a way to leverage a good concept … but you do have to have that kernel first, plus the discipline to keep an eye on expenditures.

  • Alexandra McAllister

    WOW! Such a great post, Sharon! I am slowly rebuilding my business and your post gave me some “AH HA” moments! You are truly an inspiration! Thank you! I’ve bookmarked this post and I know I’ll be coming back to re-read it!

    • Any time we’re going through a turnaround or a major life shift, Alexandra, it’s the perfect time to look real deep and do a total reality check. I know when I hit the wall financially in my early 50s, I took the opportunity to dig into all areas of my life … so I could reinvent myself on far firmer footing. I’ve never regretted that!

  • it’s not as pretty of a picture as I would like to see.. but that is changing.. .. Love your help and reading your articles.

    • It may not be so pretty at the moment, Liz, but knowing where you are gives you the jump-off spot … as long as you also know where you’re going. So don’t forget to dream, and dream big. And any decision you have to make? Ask yourself if your choise brings you closer or further from where you’re headed …

  • “But I personally believe that one’s level of financial peace of mind is
    directly related to one’s level of personal responsibility. No more, no
    less.” I can only agree with you, Sharon. Loved the article, so true. 🙂

  • I used to be a ‘pretender’ until I lost everything and that was some wake up call! But since then I’ve had a complete turn around in my financial attitude. I may not have a lot, but I appreciate it. I take responsibility for my financial future and am doing the best that I can. I Iove that you point out personal responsibility because every time you do, it reminds me to check out where I am and where I’m heading. Thanks Sharon!

    • Nothing is more reassuring, Carolyn, than living in a place of personal responsibility. It doesn’t matter how much one has; it’s knowing that one is solid and in integrity with what one has and how one lives. My experience has been that it is also where you start seeing more and more opportunities coming your way …

  • olga

    Our personal responsibility over our finances empowers us or takes the power out of life completely. When I don’t know what I can spend or how much finances we make, I feel inadequate.

    • Olga, not knowing where you stand financially is like standing in soft mud … hoping there is no quicksand nearby! 😉

  • Sharon, I really like how you always tell it like it is…and how you point out that it all starts with a financial reality check. Sharing this post…it is awesome!

    • Thanks, Sherie. Without the strong foundation that comes from truth and reality (as opposed to playing ostrich!), it’s hard to feel that we’re on firm footing …

  • Nancy Tierney

    I love these descriptions! They are so right on! And yes, I see myself here, for sure. I especially appreciate your focus on women who are in business yet have no system for measuring their “real” financial success, no way to gauge if what they are doing is even working. So important! Thank you for the wake up call!

    • Happy to be your friendly alarm clock, Nancy! 😉 It’s so easy to get too busy to look carefully at where we are and where we’re headed … somehow our frenetic “busy-ness” tricks us into not paying enough attention.

  • Tereza Litsa

    Very interesting article! I’d consider myself steady!

    • That’s terrific, Tereza! Keep going … til you get to that wonderful place of feeling “untouchable!”

  • Great article and some thoughts for people to ponder…

    • Hope it was useful to you, Carly. It’s so easy to let some topics slide when we’re so busy getting ahead … 😉

  • Jamie

    I loved reading this article Sharon!! Puts some perspective on.

    • Perspective’s good, Jamie. And you’re still in the early phases of your financial life so having a framework to know where you are and where you want to go is that much more powerful!

  • Joanne Greco

    Good food for thought. To many people don’t want to think about their finances – until it’s to late.

    • It’s never totally too late, Joanne, but it’s obviously better to get a grip on things as early as possible.

  • cathsj

    Lots to consider here. My financial style is changing. I find the key is having a goal and sharing it with someone so I can be accountable and have someone to help me celebrate achieving each goal.

    • Ah, celebration! You found one of the keys, Catherine! Break your big goals down into smaller milestones and celebrate each one you achieve. Did you read my post on the Elephant and the Rider? By celebrating, you’re pleasing your Elephant … and what a great ally to have on your side!

      • cathsj

        That’s a great post too. I really appreciate your info.

  • Marie Leslie

    Another great post, Sharon. Financial change can be tough. Admitting you need it can be even tougher. Working hard to jump a couple of categories and become one of the blessed, but it’s a long hard process.

    • Marie, take a look at my comment to Catherine, right below. Remember to break your milestones down small enough to be able to celebrate each one. It makes the journey from one big category to another that much easier, because you’re “marking” your progress.

  • Great article, Sharon! I think it is so important to have a financial reality check on a regular basis. It saddens me to see so many people who are struggling financially. Thanks for your great words of wisdom and sharing your expertise.

    • With so many obstacles coming from the economy itself, Susan, it becomes that much more important to remove all obstacles that we create for ourselves! I know that’s why you work as hard as I do to empower women to take control over all aspects of their lives …

  • I loved this article, Sharon. I so agree with ” But I personally believe that one’s level of financial peace of mind is
    directly related to one’s level of personal responsibility.” It makes a huge difference between a budding or thriving business owner and an business hobbyist.

    • I know you’ve seen what I have, Lisa, in terms of lots of honest time, money and energy being invested with limited possibility of a return. And that creates such vulnerability …

  • Lisa Frederiksen

    This is a terrific article, Sharon, and a great wake-up call for all
    women. I loved this sentence, by the way – a very important reminder:
    “Remember, “online business” is just a business with an online component
    … and it survives on its profit and loss, not on some unique cyber
    forces!” I was fortunate to have and then dig in and heed my huge
    financial wake-up call several years ago and agree with what you’ve
    written, “one’s level of financial peace of mind is directly related to
    one’s level of personal responsibility.”

    • I agree, Lisa, that somehow those of us who already faced that financial “wall” are fortunate … in that we’ve already learned the lessons and can implement them. Not that I’d wish it on anyone …