The Cross & the Pen: A Girl & Her Money
- 2003 2 May
Welcome to "The Cross & the Pen." Let me begin this column by telling you why I love doing these author-to-author interviews. Because I get to "chat" with my friends and you get to listen!
Several years ago I met a spunky woman named Sharon Durling who knew much about a girl and her money. As a former vice president at a global financial services firm, she certainly should. Over the years, we've grown to love one another as "sisters" and I proudly call her "girlfriend." I think after reading this interview (and hopefully her book, A Girl & Her Money: How to Have a Great Relationship without Falling in Love, published by W Publishing Group) you will, too.
Eva: Sharon, when it comes to money, why write a book about money specifically for women?
Sharon: I discovered an amazing similarity when speaking to women from the basements of Chicago's housing projects to Southern California. Whether rich or poor, educated or not, women expressed an identical look their eyes when approaching me after the presentations: fear; sometimes looking like a dear caught in headlights.
Eva: Every "financial book" I've ever read says "budget." You don't. Why not?
Sharon: Budgets don't work. Even when I've been poor (and I do know poor), I have never established, nor have I followed a budget. Diets don't work-just look around at skyrocketing instances of obesity. Likewise budgets don't work-notice the skyrocketing instances of bankruptcies-even when the economy was robust.
Budgets are developed from a posture of deprivation and restraint and therefore become self-defeating. Budgets propel the unhappy girl into a spending binge. Life is much freer when we operate from a sense of abundance: focusing on what we do have.
Eva: So, Sharon, if not budgets, what?
Sharon: We must change what we believe to be true about money. We see the lies we're told about money-the lies that money will eliminate our fear, reduce our pain, and satisfy our desires. Once done, we become empowered with the money we do have, and use it with pleasure. Operating from a sense of abundance, we lose anxiety about impending bills. We needn't work up amazing will-power to hold ourselves back from a spending binge at the mall. We change our appetite. We must come believe that the things we really want, money cannot buy. We must stop believing those lies perpetuated by Wall Street, main street, and Madison avenue that just one more Prada bag, one more adorable designer shirt, hand-made artistic necklace and bracelet, one more video for the kids, outfits for the baby, trip to Disney world for the family, will bring us the satisfaction we crave.
Eva: Let's talk strategies...
Sharon: Know what's coming in and going out. Track all your spending like a heat-seeking missile until you become very familiar with where all your money goes. Such information acts as a natural appetite suppressant: it's a motivator to get more conscious of every expenditure. Thinking before we spend makes us more content about how we spend.
Look at what you do have, not what you don't:
* Throw away those catalogs before you ever open them
* Especially avoid the mall after a bad day, or when depressed and fatigued
* Don't just browse-shop with a specific plan of what you'll buy, but allow for some flexibility and forgiveness when you veer way off course
* Flip off the TV - "Television is the primary force in the material world," says James Twitchell, author of Lead Us into Temptation; the Triumph of American Materialism
* Discover healthier pleasures to satisfy your needs-warm bath, vigorous workout
* Start a journal, writing down the simplest pleasures
* Travel to a third world country, take your family on a missions trip
* Count your blessings every day as you awake
* Write out your own definition of wealth; list what you most value: (health, friends, family, books, skills, reputation, intellect, ideas, creativity)
* Read biographies of people who have not pursued wealth, or who have given up wealth for greater ends
* Read about the poor, or a biography of someone growing up poor
* Volunteer for an evening at a shelter for the homeless
Eva: How can women separate their emotions from their spending?
Sharon: We can't, and we don't need to. We're women; therefore, we emote. We can, however, inject some reason and intellect into our spending decisions to hopefully dissuade or outwit our powerful feelings. We need to get to know our weaknesses-our propensities to overspending. Then we can go into battle-er, the mall or the Kate Spade boutique-prepared with tactics for not just survival, but happy victory.
Eva: What's the ideal relationship between a woman and her money?
Sharon: Aretha Franklin can answer that one for us. The relationship between a woman and her money must be established on the same basis as the ideal relationship between a woman and a man: that is, one of deep R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Don't take money for granted; be completely honest about what it can and cannot do for you; don't be swayed into thinking you can use it to fulfill your every need or desire. No man can "complete" you-that is, fulfill all your needs. Neither can money satisfy. True, lasting satisfaction and happiness come from within, not from externals such as other people, money, and possessions. The paradox is: the sooner we recognize this truth, the healthier, happier, and more fulfilling will be our relationships with other people, money, and possessions. By changing our perspective and expectations, we are free to have deeper, mutually respectful, and satisfying relationships.
Eva: Sharon, would you close us out with a prayer for those women who have been used and abused by the money issues of life?
Sharon: Father God, who created all and owns all, who knows our daily needs, and our deepest desires: Thank you for everything you have given us, including money and possessions. We also thank you, painful as it sometimes is, for what you have kept from us. Help us when we think we don't have enough-when our bank account goes nowhere but down, and our expenses nowhere but up. We trust you with our needs, fears, anxieties, desires, and hopes. We give you our needs, fears, anxieties, desires, and hopes. Teach us to trust you with the money we do have, and the money we don't. Forgive us for our money mistakes, and help us to forgive ourselves for those mistakes. May our earning, spending, saving, investing, borrowing, loaning, and giving, honor you. Amen.