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Senior Correspondent

 

Suze Orman sat quietly on stage this week in her butter-yellow jacket, flanked on either side by seven other women and Tavis Smiley, the host. The topic was “Made Visible: Women, Children and Poverty.” 

Women of all stripes and colors — African American, Native American, Latina — told of the cultural and social obstacles each group of women faces. 

When it came her turn to speak, Suze said: “On some level, it is a woman’s nature to nurture. And she, in my opinion, will nurture every single person, spouse, family member, pet, plant, employer, and employee before she will nurture herself.

“But it is not until a woman is about 50, 55 or 60 — all by herself, her spouse has left her, her children now are grown but still living in her house — that she finally starts to say ‘What about ME?’”

Suze Orman is singing my song!

In fact, AARP Financial Inc. discovered in a nationwide survey in 2009 that 65 percent of women between the ages of 40 and 79 had already faced a major life crisis. These were identified as job loss, divorce, death of a spouse, serious illness or disability, and, in most cases, their finances suffered a significant blow as a result.

The vulnerability triggered by such events is reflected in women’s concern about their financial future; 61 percent of the women in the survey admitted to being worried about having enough money for the rest of their lives. Especially telling is the 35 percent of women with under $50,000 saved for retirement.

When I moved into that target age range of “over 50,” I watched my business crumble like a house of cards after 9/11. That was my wake-up call to the fact that I would be totally unprepared for retirement if I didn’t figure out what was causing me to mistreat and squander all the money I made.

That was the start of a multi-year journey into understanding money. (I was a finance expert, but not an expert at money.) Fifty books and hundreds of interviews later — some casual and some formal — I was finally able to unravel the tightly wound ball we each create and call “our money.”

In hindsight, I realized there were three key questions that started the process of conceptually unraveling money.

1. What do you believe?
2. What do you have?
3. What do you want?

These are grossly oversimplified, but they truly are the secret keys to getting money under control as they look at the beliefs you carry about money that are holding you back — what you actually have and actually owe today, and what you ultimately want in your life that money will make possible for you.

Each of these areas will be addressed in upcoming articles.

But until then, let me know in a comment below if you believe you are putting yourself first. In your own eyes, do you truly matter?

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