FIRST THOUGHT: Becoming Financially Fearless
One of the smartest women I know told me a story once about how one day, years ago, she wanted to get a credit card with just her name on it. After all, she worked hard and had the money. But when she applied, the credit-card company told her she needed her husband’s signature.
These days, we live in a time when women have financial freedom. That doesn’t mean we are all raking it in, but it does mean we have the ability and the tools necessary to be smart about our money. Women don’t need to wait for men to help them make financial decisions; we can do it ourselves!
WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 42
It’s only been 42 years since the Equal Credit Opportunity Act was passed. Prior to this law, women had great difficulty obtaining a credit card in their name without a man co-signing. And they were asked a lot of insanely intrusive and irrelevant questions, such as, “Are you married?” “Do you have children?” and “Do you want children?”
If women were able to make it past the third degree, banks might offer as much as 50 percent less of a credit limit than men who earned the same salary. Now, thanks to that equal-opportunity law, banks are unable to discriminate based on gender, race, national origin or religion.
However, despite the law, a recent report found that women are still dishing out more for credit cards, with women, on average, paying a half a point higher interest rate than men.
WOMAN TO WATCH: Alexa von Tobel, Founder and CEO of LearnVest
Does anyone enjoy managing her money? It’s kind of a drag to keep track of how much you’re spending on everyday purchases, but the experts say that’s essential to financial security. Thankfully, Alexa von Tobel has created a masterful website to help us out called LearnVest.
And she’s so dedicated to helping people find their financial security that after launching LearnVest in 2009, she left Harvard Business School at the age of 25 to commit to developing the company. This financial wiz raised more than $72 million in funding, and last year, LearnVest was acquired by Northwestern Mutual for a reported $250 million.
It’s no surprise von Tobel has led LearnVest so successfully. Her leadership skills became apparent at a young age. When she transferred to a new school between fifth and sixth grades, she ran for class president and won. While campaigning, she asked her fellow students on the right side of the room to raise their hands, and then asked those on the left side to do the same. After they followed suit, von Tobel said about her ability to lead them, “Are those leadership skills or what?”
She brings that same level of leadership to LearnVest. The company’s basic, free resources categorize your daily purchases, from cappuccinos (food and drink) to your Hulu subscription (entertainment). LearnVest makes it pretty obvious how much you’re actually spending on your vices—like that espresso habit—which helps with that little question we all have, “Where’d all my money go?” Customers can also choose a pricing plan that includes 24/7 access to a financial planner and a fully customized, detailed financial plan.
Not only is von Tobel a successful startup entrepreneur, she’s also a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship and a New York Times best-selling financial author.
LearnVest’s mission is to make financial planning affordable and accessible. And when it comes to managing money, von Tobel says it’s less about how much you have, and more about arming yourself with some financial knowledge. Once you’re in the know, she says, effectively managing your money is incredibly empowering. Now that’s a plan that’s as sound as a dollar.
QUITE THE QUOTE
And speaking of knowledge, one of our nation’s earliest leaders, Benjamin Franklin, said:
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
That’s all for now. Be sure to share this so more women can have a voice! Thanks for getting ready with us.