Kathleen Grace, a financial planner who has been working in the industry for more than two decades, felt frustrated after watching so many women leave their money in the hands of the men in their lives. She saw them struggle when those men were no longer around to help them, as a result of death, divorce or other upheaval.
“My own mother is the perfect example. My father had a stroke, and luckily he recovered, but for a few months there was quite a bit of financial stress, because my mother didn’t know how to manage their portfolio,” she says. That experience gave her an idea. She decided to write a fairy tale-themed book that would also impart financial wisdom.
But don’t worry: Her new book, “Prince Not So Charming,” is not a classic Disney tale. “I love the Cinderella story, but I also think it does a disservice… If we’re teaching women that we need somebody else to rescue us, emotionally or financially, then we’re all headed for disaster,” she says. Her book contains a deeper lesson about the importance of taking charge of your own money (and life), and also contains pointers in the “Cinderella’s Guide to Financial Independence” at the end of the fictional tale.
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Here are six lessons Grace thinks we should all take away from her version of one of the most popular princesses:
1. Prince Charming might die.
That’s not what happens in Grace’s book, but (spoiler alert) the hero does become a classic jerk. “In reality, he could die, become disabled or become incapacitated in some way, and a lot of women are unprepared to handle that situation,” Grace says. The not-so-subtle message is to make sure to sign a prenuptial agreement, buy life insurance, mange your own money or take a myriad of other steps to retain control over your own finances, regardless of what’s happening in your love life.
2. Don’t ignore your money.
“A lot of women put the finance stuff on the back burner until it slaps us in the face,” Grace says. Instead, she recommends talking explicitly about money management with your partner, especially if you have conflicting approaches to saving, spending and investing. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen couples get divorced over financial issues,” she says. That’s why she says it’s important to confront any tension early.
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3. Know where your money is at all times.
Grace says a lot of women give up control over their money, as her mother did, to their partners. Then, when tragedy or life circumstances intervene, the woman doesn’t know how to access or manage her funds. “That’s dangerous, and it leaves people vulnerable because you’re handing over your power,” Grace says. “It’s already devastating enough, especially with death, to think about finances. When you’re financially independent, it softens the blow of any emotional upheaval in your life.”
4. Focus on earning.
Earning money is your greatest asset, Grace says. Boost your own employment skills and marketability by taking a class, learning a new skill and reading journals in your field to stay current.
5. Bulk up your savings.
Stashing cash away for an emergency fund, retirement savings and long-term savings is essential to building financial security for yourself. Grace recommends putting at least 10 percent of your net income into a tax-advantaged retirement fund.
6. Don’t rely on money to feel good.
Using shopping as a mood-booster can get expensive quickly. Instead, find other enjoyable ways to spend your time, and always shop with a list, she advises.
The good news, according to Grace, is that times are changing, and younger women might be less likely to relinquish financial control to their partners. She adds, “I tell my daughter [age 10] all the time: You can find your Prince Charming if you want, but only after you start your own business.”