The Power of Money:  Freedom of Choice

The Power of Money: Freedom of Choice

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World War II.  The men came home from war and wanted, more than anything, to have normalcy in their lives.

“Normal” meant getting a stable job, getting married to Betty Sue and having babies.

The fact that many of the Betty Sues had worked in airplane factories, pumped gas and, in short, filled the voids left by the men at war meant nothing.

They melted back into the traditional role of the married woman and passed much of their well-deserved autonomy back.

Still No Power of Money

Next came the little Baby Boomers, who were given absolutely everything to make up for what the war generation had missed out on.

Sure, bras were burned in protest of inequality.  Many more women than in prior generations took – and kept – their positions of independence.  But after awhile, even some of those folded into the only pattern they had ever seen: that of their mothers who ran the home but turned income-generation to their husbands. These women relinquished their own financial ambitions while becoming part of the “new normal.”

The Choice Seekers

Sometimes things start getting old.  The values and interests that were shared – or ignored – when a relationship was fresh can become irritants after 30 years of marriage.  The “glue” that comes from raising children weakens as those same children reach their own age of independence.

In the past year I’ve had at least ten women talk to me excitedly about how they see spending their “second adulthood,” the years from about age 55 to 75.  The one question that always comes up is, “Do I see myself going on this new adventure alone?  Or with my husband in tow?”

The Power of Money = The Power of Choice

About half of the women had developed no financial activity and hence had little option other than ask their husbands to fund it.  A couple of women started businesses up immediately, but knew it would take time to reach momentum.

Others had already reactivated skills they had earlier, or learned new ones, and were well on their way to self-sufficiency.  They had joined their sisters who had been forced by divorce or widowhood to take the reins of their financial lives.

The Beauty of Choice

The fact that a woman has the ability to strike out on her own does not mean that she will.  This, even if it would free her of what she may see as the weight of a spouse with whom she struggles to find a common subject to talk about.  I hear words like “loyalty,” “gratitude,”  “concern,” and so many others.

As she does a deep analysis of the relationship to determine her path forward, what gives her the greatest satisfaction is knowing that she has a choice.

Whatever her decision, making it without financial constraints validates that decision.

As you make decisions in your life, do you know your decisions are unfettered by financial limitations?  Whether it’s a “later-life decision” that’s coming up soon or in 20 years, will you have a real choice?

Let us know in the Comments section below if you think it’s important for women to maintain – or create – for themselves the power of full choice.


Bio: Sharon O’Day fixes financial lives. She is a tell-it-like-it-is money expert with a successful career in global finance, plus an MBA from the Wharton School. Today she specializes in getting entrepreneurial women over 50 back on their game so they can have more money, less stress and more joy. With her “Over Fifty and Financially Free” strategies, they take actions that lead to their ultimate goal: financial peace of mind.

  • Maybe I am a very fortunate woman as I never had to rely on any husband holding the purse strings for me, be it to open them or keep them tightly knot! Mind you, I have been married with both us working full time.

    What a post, Sharon: you take us on a walk down memory lane depicting women’s role in the last century and move on to the baby boomers, illustrating an overindulging society and the havoc it wrought. Values might have shifted but are we any better off?

    The power of money should never equal the power of choice. Reality paints another picture and most often it is a question of fear and a lack of self confidence reigning us in and hampering us from pursuing our dreams. See, I come up with dreams again!

    And to answer your question: YES, I think it is vital for women in any age to maintain the full power of choice.

    • Like you, I’ve always held my own purse strings, as meager as they might be at times. I’ve been independent since losing both parents by age 22. (Probably BECAUSE of losing them.) And have held that independence regardless of the relationship I was in. It wasn’t until I started mentoring women that I realized how many were (or felt) trapped in situations they no longer wanted to be in. More than anything, women over 50. Yet at that point they are just starting to dream again about what they can contribute, what they want to achieve, etc. Sure, all that can be done from within a couple — gloriously — but not always …

  • robindavidman

    Every woman has her own situation and story but no matter, the
    power of choice is always important and something to strive toward. Having it
    can bring great peace of mind. As always, thank you for sharing your insight and valuable information.

    • Nothing would be better than having full choice through some level of financial certainty … and never having to use it! But it’s still very reassuring to have …

  • Susan Schiller

    Age 55-75, a second adulthood… suddenly that seems hopeful to me, at age 52… sometimes I get stuck in a mind-rut of being “too old”. Sigh… all is well. Sharon, do you have “make-over” stories… like a section of stories of women who have reinvented themselves? it would be really encouraging to listen to their stories 🙂

    • I’ve never gathered them, Sue, because the purpose of this site to date has not been to market anything, and I thought of them as marketing “testimonials.” But I agree that it would be encouraging regardless. I’ll see what I can do!

      • Roz

        I reinvented myself at age 68 when I discovered a hidden talent, that became a passion and ultimately a business. It is never too late to start again.

  • My favorite words, “what gives her the greatest satisfaction is knowing that she has a choice,” because it just struck me that whether a woman is married or unmarried she still has a choice unfettered from family and what she “thinks” she should do. How freeing to realize the power to choose.

    • That’s exactly the point, Marvia. No relationship should result in surrendering one’s choice of what’s best or healthiest. I don’t mean that selfishly, but know of too many cases where a woman is stuck because she relinquished being an active financial participant, either never developing marketable skills or letting them become obsolete. Thanks for using my favorite phrase: “because it just struck me that …” 😉

  • Scott Glaze

    Most of the women I know that are in control of their lives financially seem to be more happy. Those that depend on others often complain of feeling stressed out and have no confidence. Just my opinion.

    • Nothing feels better than being somewhere out of choice, Scott, rather than out of lack of choice. With today’s work-at-home options, this is no longer a conversation about whether a woman chooses her children over an income. At no time has it been easier to have both … and so many women I know do.

  • Thanks for another great post Sharon. Choice in life is EVERYTHING… Without Choice we wouldn’t even be here to be having this discussion over finances.

    • Having some form of financial independence is what truly offers us choice, Carly. Once the money is out of the calculation, the consequences become the decision-making factors. But without the money, the decision is often already made …

  • Wingate Wyndham Sulphur

    I can’t imagine not being independent and able to make my own decisions. I am married but we go 50/50 on almost everything. It makes me feel whole to carry my own weight and know that if I need/want something I don’t have to get it cleared with anyone else.

    • That’s the way to do it, Heather! Bodes well for you two!

  • So many make choices based upon finances. Children are staying home longer, mature adults are moving in with their children. Statistics have even shown marriages and divorces are down due to the economy. Having enough money to choose how you live your life is definitely a good thing.

    • Knikkolette, you’re right that people are making decisions for financial reasons … but all the WRONG decisions! At least, not the decisions they’d likely make if they had the financial wherewithal to decide differently! 😉

  • Lynn O’Connell

    My mother was younger than that generation, but always saw herself as a stay-at-home Mom. Until my Dad left when she was 45. She went through a tough time adapting, but returned to school, earned her CPA and opened her own practice. She was definitely a new woman!!

    • Lynn, that’s why I say it’s never too late. She’s exactly what I’m referring to: someone who takes personal responsibility when the chips are down, does what it takes, doesn’t just survive but thrives, and never dips into victim-hood. What a role model for others!

  • Kung Phoo

    I know some very powerful women in business..

    • So do I, Rob. And they only got powerful by having control over their own financial destinies …

  • Roz

    Once again Sharon, an amazing post. I was always a working mom who managed our money in hubby’s business and home. I chose to work full time 45 years ago before it was fashionable because I didn’t really enjoy being a stay at home mom. I loved my career and I worked hard to make it all work and participate in my childrens activities. So when I decided to divorce my husband at age 50 I knew I could manage. I’m blessed in my later years with a supportive husband, pensions and a business I don’t call work.
    I believe the choices I’ve made in life came from one I learned early on and that is that I was responsible for how my life went. Being raised in foster care, I turned to my own strengths early on and have not wavered.

    • I would guess, Roz, that your foster care experiences are what led you to “grow up too fast” by having to turn to your own strengths so early. And, frankly, it’s a lesson we don’t ever forget. There’s comfort in holding the reins on finances after that, our own and/or our family’s. In the end, some of those difficult early issues come to serve us well …

  • Alexandra McAllister

    I agree, choice is everything, Sharon. Thanks so much for sharing such an informative post. I always learn something when I read your post. Blessings.

    • I’m glad they’re useful, Alexandra. I think you may have figured out by now that you can start having choices with very little money. No, not all choices are open to you early on as you rebuild. But by having taken full personal responsibility, you have given yourself the greatest amount of choice possible with those resources. And your choices grow as your resources increase.

  • Mike

    I totally agree Sharon! Having the ability to choose based on a real choice and not the pressure or comfort of circumstances is important.

    • Mike, we don’t realize the full importance of that fact until we have to make a critical life choice and DON’t have the ability to escape the pressure of circumstances …

  • Tina Ashburn

    You are so right, Sharon, in what you post here. Women just don’t realize how important that they have their own money, their own identity and their own security.

    • Oh, some do realize it, Tina! We’re the ones who fight so hard not to lose that status once we have it … and who do whatever we can to bring other women along to the enjoy the same situation … 😉 But I agree that there are some who have never given it any thought until it’s too late!

  • Robin Pedrero

    Yes it is very important to be able to once someone discovers the how to, and that’s where you come in …

    • My hope is that by bringing up these issues, women can assess where they are — honestly and privately — and then decide what to change, if anything.

  • Lisa Wells

    I so agree that women should be able to support themselves. I’ve preached this to my daughter and all of her friends as they have grown up and planned their futures.

    • That’s the greatest gift you can give a young woman, Lisa! That access to total choice will affect every decision going forward, no matter what she decides …

  • Robin Strohmaier

    Another excellent article, Sharon. I do believe that it is important for women to maintain – or create – the power of full choice.

    • Thanks, Robin. And I know you deal with many women launching online businesses, so I know you see one of the tools to make it happen!

  • Terri Lind Davis

    I can totally relate to your article, I am now 57 and in process of reinventing my “second adulthood”. Although I earned most of my own money throughout my life, there is shifting on direction at this stage of my life. I think it is important to have a choice but I also feel it is important to stay committed to your marriage through the invariable highs and lows.

    • I agree with you, Terri. I don’t see having a choice as incompatible with committing to relationships. I reverse it, however, and don’t like to see women forced to stay in an unhealthy relationship for lack of personal wherewithal. Is that fair?

  • Sarah Russell

    ok, so i’m decidedly NOT in my second adulthood but i figured i’d comment anyway. it seems in my generation, customization is a HUGE thing. we have so many choices that it’s mind-boggling and sometimes overwhelming. we shop for our partners almost as if we’re shopping for an i-phone. i don’t always agree with this approach to finding somebody because both men and women completely objectify each other and the human factor is removed. however, because of the freedoms that women have now, it’s easier than ever for us to jump in and out of relationships and be self sufficient in no time. which means we’re much more picky about who we choose to be paired with and how long we decide to stay with that person. we have the luxury of time and resources to ensure that the person we pick to be in a relationship with shares our lifestyle goals, and in that regard, i have no problem with giving up my financial autonomy if it would make getting to our goals that much smoother. for example, i want to be able to travel. 2 people with full time jobs can’t always match up schedules. so if it would make it easier for us to just up and go, i would gladly quit my job and become the support he needs to bring home the bacon so that our lives can actualize into what we are striving for. and the type of man i’m looking for is the type of man who thrives on providing for his woman (which is a primal masculine trait that seems to have been lost in my generation)… plus, i’m so much better at nesting than i am at pinning down anything i want to do when i grow up! haha!

    so there you go, my two cents 🙂

    • I love your two cents, Sarah. In fact, sounds like things I heard among earlier demographic cohorts. While progress is obviously being made generation to generation, younger generations would be surprised to learn that their elders may have been in exactly the same shoes at one time. We too were picky, had the luxury of time and the freedom to decide how long to stay with a person. Same visions, same drives, same visceral needs. My point is that, no matter what definition you bring to a relationship, it’s important for women to maintain for themselves some thread back to financial self-sufficiency in case she should need it one day. Because eventually, without it, she’ll be in a weakened position in terms of choice. Thanks for commenting, BTW … 😉

      • Sarah Russell

        i think a post on that very subject (keeping a thread to financial self sufficiency) would be very enlightening! because you’re right, people change, and they don’t always change together.