Let’s see …
My first “job” was controlling how much ore was being loaded into each railroad car at the loading dock of my father’s iron ore mine in Brazil.
I was 13.
So, no, mine wasn’t exactly a typical upbringing.
I was born in the United States, but was raised in Brazil. I learned to speak Portuguese and English at the same time. According to family myth, our ancestors moved down there from New York after the U.S. Civil War, sometime around 1865. If true, that would make me a fifth-generation O’Day in Brazil, and fully bicultural.
That meant I learned the American work ethic … and the Brazilian sense of “living for today.”
Dad was the consummate entrepreneur and dinner table talk revolved around his latest business venture. Some years we were rich, some years we were broke. But we were never bored.
And we kids were … by necessity … survivors.
I spent most of my early years at the American School in Rio de Janeiro.
In my twenties I launched businesses, did aerial photography in the Amazon, backpacked across Peru and lived in a thatched-roof hut on Isla Mujeres while Cancun was being built in the 1970s.
At 30 I got an MBA from the Wharton School of Finance, apparently the first person accepted without an undergrad degree. My thirties were spent shaking up Godiva Chocolatier in Brussels, marketing a Cognac from France, living in Paris and starting my own international consulting business.
In my forties, once back in the U.S., I discovered “the American Dream.” Suddenly I needed a big house, big car, big garden, big mortgage, taxes, insurances, the whole enchilada. Oh yeah … and credit cards.
I consulted to foreign governments and took products into distant markets, all the while building up my business with more and more debt. And then 9/11 hit. Clients went bankrupt, accounts dried up and I hit the wall.
I was 53.
What I learned from that “fall from grace” was more profound than anything I had learned up until then. Close friends watched me grapple with values, truth, perception, reality, fantasy, justice, belief, rights and universal law.
I learned that when I had nothing, I was actually richer.
And from there, everything has blossomed. Business opportunities have multiplied, funds now flow in with no resistance, my future is ensured and I have true peace of mind. Why?
Because I took the time to understand how someone with an MBA from Wharton and so comfortable with numbers could treat her own money in a way she’d never accept from her consulting clients. First I went to a quiet place and thought. Then I read, analyzed, dissected and interviewed everyone and everything I could get my hands on … for a decade.
I learned that money and finances are two different things. And that before you can worry about your personal finances, you need to get clarity about money: what it means to you and what it does for you.
And I learned that women who don’t master and understand money will never reach the financial security they crave for the rest of their lives. Today I write about that … and I coach women over fifty (more or less) to become financially empowered.
Life is (very) good.