Pearl Bailey once said, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor and honey, rich is better.” I know I’ve certainly been poor at times in my life and it was not fun. Not having money can mean living a simple, happy, uncomplicated life but in today’s world it more often means worrying about not having enough to pay our bills, how to save for a home or vacations, or the big one, how to retire comfortably.
After hearing the young author interviewed on the radio, I just finished reading a book called “Well-Heeled – The Smart Girl’s Guide to Getting Rich” by Alberta’s Lesley-Anne Scorgie. Well-Heeled is one of the best books I’ve come across for providing practical advice for young twenty and thirty-something women about how to best manage their money.
When Boomers were growing up in the fifties and sixties, credit cards were not part of our vocabulary or our parents’. Visa and Mastercard did not exist so other than Diners’ Club for traveling businessmen, everyone paid cash for everything they purchased. I clearly remember paying cash to my dentist in the late sixties ($35.00, which was half my weekly salary) when I went for checkups and cash to my doctor for piercing my ears (the old-fashioned way with a needle). We paid cash for shoes, clothes and gifts. Charge accounts at major department stores were available but of no use to anyone in our small town where there was no Eatons or Simpson’s store. We did have mail order offices for Eatons and Simpsons but it was rare for anyone to use a credit card back then. Business was strictly cash.
As a result of not having the option of charging frivolous purchases to credit cards , we were perhaps more cautious with our pennies. Boomers started working full-time in the mid-sixties and when we saw a blouse we liked, we either had to go to the bank on our lunch hour and withdraw the cash from our savings account (and banks were only open between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. back in the olden days) or write a cheque which involved the inconvenience of filling out a detailed information form and having it approved by the store manager. I remember once at the old Savette store at Dundas Street West and Roncesvalles purchasing a kitchen table. When I wrote a cheque for it they even took my picture for future reference.
I’m horrified as I watch Gail Vaz Oxlade’s Til Debt Do Us Part show on television. The show often features young couples who, despite receiving sometimes as much as $200,000.00 in wedding gift money have managed to rack up $90,000.00 in consumer credit card debt. Did no one teach them about managing money? I think the more likely cause is that parents were always there to give these young people everything they wanted and bail them out when they ran into financial trouble. I finally had to quit watching the programme as I got too frustrated and depressed watching the idiocy. Financial troubles are a major cause of breakups among young couples. It is very important to not only be smart about money yourself but to make sure your partner is on the same page.
If young women would listen to only one piece of advice it would be to stress the importance of financial independence. And the simple reason is that having a nest egg means you have options. When I was in my fifties during the recession that lasted most of the 1990s, I was broke. It was difficult to find work and it was incredibly stressful because I had no financial resources to draw on. After reading Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin I decided to give up self-employment and re-enter the corporate world. This would assure me of a regular paycheque, health benefits and a chance at building some retirement equity. It worked. But I wish I’d been more frugal in the 70s and 80s when I was blowing my hard-earned bucks on $800.00 ultra-suede power suits and silk blouses. Being able to distinguish between needs and wants is an important first step. Scorgie outlines more steps young women can follow to achieve security.
Being a financially-savy young woman is not only smart, it’s sexy. The late Helen Gurley-Brown, former editor of Cosmopolitan magazine said that one of the reasons her husband David Brown (producer of such block-buster movies as Jaws) was attracted to her was because he appreciated that she had been smart enough to own her own (used) Mercedes that she’d paid cash for. When we’re fifty years old and out of work or wanting a life-style change, the credit card debt we accrued buying that Coach handbag or “I-just-needed-to-get-away” trip to Cuba will be an enormous ball and chain around a young woman’s ankle. In Scorgie’s words, “If it’s on your ass, it’s not an asset!”
In the course of reading Well-Heeled even this old Boomer learned a few things I didn’t know, such as, you can arrange for your bank to automatically transfer the money out of your chequing account to your credit card on the same day you make the purchase on your credit card so you will have zero balance at the end of each month. That means you know exactly where you stand on a daily basis. I often get confused about my credit card balance as it’s shown on my on-line statement and when it is due. They never seem to jibe. When I got my first credit card in the seventies, I diligently kept a running list on a piece of paper in my wallet, like a cheque book, of every purchase and the amount spent each time I used my credit card so I wouldn’t have a heart attack when the bill arrived. Scorgie also provides several excellent website addresses for tracking, planning and saving tools such as Mint.com and bank websites. I plan to check out the one she recommends for calculating how much retirement income we’ll need.
Lesley-Anne Scorgie is an excellent example of what can be accomplished by young women with smart financial planning. She has guested on Oprah and other television programs as a result of her personal successes. Well-Heeled is written to get young women started on the right foot or get them back on track if they’ve fallen off the rails. If you have a daughter or granddaughter or know a young woman who could benefit from learning how to better manage her money, please get on-line (here’s the link “Well-Heeled – The Smart Girl’s Guide to Getting Rich“) and send her this book. Everyone deserves to have the options and freedom that financial security can bring.