There's an old expression that if you marry for money, you'll wind up earning every cent of it. Another saying advises that it's just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one. But the way I see it, the problem is frame of reference. We need to start teaching our daughters to become millionaires on their own.
I happen to be a multi-millionaire. I came into money with a little skill and a lot of luck. I had the foresight to choose to work in an industry—the Internet—that boomed during the decade after I entered it. I had the incredible good luck to pick the right company for which to work. I had the chutzpah to hang onto the stock when it was in the toilet and everyone around me was telling me to sell.
What women need to realize is that becoming a millionaire is not only a more noble goal than marrying one, it's actually easier to do. What it involves is self-confidence and learning about money. Women can exert control over their ownmoney choices. They don't have much control over whether a millionaire will someday ask to marry them.
One reason I am paranoid about money is because of my mother's experiences. She came into two inheritances and, with the willing help of two husbands, blew them both. She didn't feel she could so much as buy a house without the help of a man, even though she had more than enough money for a down payment. Eventually, with husband #2's persistent refusal to work and prolific use of home equity loans, she was forced to declare bankruptcy.
The experience of growing up poor, especially growing up poor with a mother who had been rich as a child, really motivated me. I am in the stock market for the long haul. Other women investors I know also tend to be "long" on stocks, and to resist the urge to buy puts and calls and to "churn" their accounts, which mostly just feeds brokers' bank accounts with commissions.
When I was working for a women's business website, we had as a chat guestAnn Winblad, one of the few female venture capitalists who's made it to the top of the field. She didn't see any kind of prejudice against women from venture capitalists, but then, they just didn't get that many proposals from women. "We receive very few business plans from women founders. I am not sure where all the women founders are," she said.
And there are still very few female Fortune 500 CEOs. Is this because women aren't groomed to understand finance or found companies, the way men are? I don't believe it's because women don't have the skills and the ideas.
Not having financial problems is pretty nice, I must admit. But I would much rather be a millionaire than be married to one. Relationships are a balance of power. Just because your spouse has a lot of money doesn't necessarily mean you do. In some marriages, unless the accounts are in both names, the spouse who needs money has to ask the spouse who has money about making a major purchase.
Now that is not the case with my marriage; we discuss all our major purchases together because we feel that is important in a partnership. But it's also important for me to maintain a sense of control and independence with money. My husband's name is not on my main investment account, although for diversity's sake we have chunks of money in both our names, and he has substantial savings and investments of his own.
I hope and expect that I will stay married to my husband forever. But mylife experiences force me to be cautious, if optimistic. My hope for other women is that they won't want to marry a millionaire, but rather will want to—no, will work to—become one.
How to Teach Your Daughter to Be Financially Independent
- Don't Be Afraid to Discuss Money. Conventional etiquette may say it's not polite to talk about money with other people, and research shows that it's the one topic families avoid discussing more than sex, but how else are your kids going to learn? No need to show bank statements to your toddler, but once kids get to be a bit older, start teaching them about the importance of saving and investing.
- Learn by Doing. Have your daughter save to buy a special toy. See how long ittakes, and how it means sacrificing other things she might want. When she gets older, have her set up a mock stock portfolio, or even invest modest sums in stocks of her own choosing. You'd be surprised by the savvy some of these kids have when it comes to sniffing out trends. One young teen reportedly saw the hot new shoe company Skechers coming a mile away and made a tidy gain in it. After all, teenagers are the ones feeding the trends, aren't they? Put that to use!
- Encourage Your Daughters' Entrepreneurial Spirit. Encourage them to build a better mousetrap, as the saying goes. Women make the majority of purchasing decisions for dual-income families, so who better than they to create products? Your little inventor can start by baking yummy creations for your neighborhood yard sale, or painting frames or flower pots. Let her make that crazy "telescope" out of a toilet paper roll. Someday she may invent a killer product.
- Don't Coddle Them. Let your daughters make their own mistakes. Some say that wealth often skips a generation. Why? I believe it's because, like my mother, children of the wealthy are sheltered and do not have to learn about money.Of course, there's a lot more to it—IRAs, compound interest, learning how to value stocks. You and your kids can find out about those things in books, and I encourage you to do that. (I maintain that my Personal Investments course was the most valuable class I took in college). But the fundamental truth remains: you can teach your kids about money. Don't hide your head in the sand. Take control, and show them how it's done.
Julia Wilkinson is the author of "My Life at AOL", the first true inside story of the world's largest Internet company. Julia is also the author of “Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire”. These books are available at www.amazon.com or www.1stbooks.com/bookview/5771.
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