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Are Your Attitudes About Money Holding You Back?

Part 2 in a 2-Part Series About Women and Money

Valerie Young and her wonder dog, By Valerie Young

This article originally appeared in Issue 179 of the Changing Course Newsletter.

Well I’m back from my big New York trip and ready to pick up where I left off in the discussion of women and money. The first part of this article highlighted some common and potentially limiting attitudes some women hold about money including a tendency to feel undeserving or even shame for making – or wanting to make – good money.

Moral and other money-related dilemmas are not unique to women. Yet, having and managing money is often a bigger challenge for women. It’s not surprising when you consider it was not until 1974 that all women got the right to have business credit in their own names. Today the barriers are more attitudinal than institutional. Just ask Gail.

“Making Money is Selfish”

Gail is a consultant and trainer to non-profits. “Many times over the years,” she says, “I’ve encountered and been frustrated by the attitude that there is a special ‘glory’ for non-profits in making do with as little as possible, using outdated equipment and shabby facilities, paying staff little, working them too hard and offering few benefits, expecting the director to also be the janitor, etc., etc.” Adding, “In this framework, for-profit = bad (the “dark side”) and non-profit = good, so apparently money must be a necessary evil.”

Despite having spent more than 20 years working in the non-profit sector herself, Gail could never quite put her finger on what was behind these attitudes. Last summer she attended the Work at What You Love workshop and the light bulb went on. She explains:

“A woman in one of my discussion groups was feeling real anguish that her business idea could make her significant money. She had spent her career in non-profits and felt it would be somehow ‘wrong’ and ‘selfish’ to earn a larger income by working for-profit. The connection that jumped out at me between this attitude and your article is the large percentage of non-profit staff who are women. A coincidence? I don’t think so!”

“No Nobility in Poverty”

Not everyone gets what all the fuss is about. Fayette, a 54 year old single mom and long time small business owner wanted me to know that she’d raised three children and managed to get them all through college. “Had I not been marketing and making money in my business, my kids would not have made it to the point where they are now. All of this I did on top of working a 40 hour a week job.” Adding, “When you are in business, one of the things you are in it for is to make money. My saying is, ‘There is no nobility in poverty.’”

There may not be any nobility in poverty but there sure is a lot of fear about it. Suze Orman cites a 2006 survey in which nearly half the women respondents said they’ve imagined ending up homeless. It’s no wonder that many of the women I heard from are actively exploring their relationship with money. “I may not be happier rich but am I happy being poor?” asks fellow reader and writer, poet and interfaith minister Sandra Lee Schubert. Answering her own question she writes:

“No. So I don’t tell ‘those’ friends about my goals or what I am setting up online. I have joined groups that support my goals. At this moment I want to make MONEY. And I am no longer ashamed to say that. I want an apartment at the river’s edge overlooking Manhattan. I want to be able to afford the kind of medical care to improve my life. I want to buy good clothes. I want to feel generous again. That feeling will come from me. Slowly I am spending money on my education, creating my Web site and laying the foundation.”

At the moment Sandra says none of this makes her feel particularly comfortable, “But,” she adds, “looking at living in poverty in my golden years makes me really uncomfortable.” (You must visit Sandra’s delightful Web site and see an adorable photo of “young Sandra” at Writing-For-Life.com)

Change Your Thinking and Change Your Life

Someone who has absolutely no qualms about women entrepreneurs making money is Nell Merlino, cofounder and president of Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence, the leading national non-profit of online micro loans for women entrepreneurs. Nell is also the visionary behind Make Mine a Million $ Business (MakeMineAMillion.org).

Along withfounding partner, OPEN from American Express®, the Make Mine a Million $ Business program hopes to inspire and support one million women entrepreneurs to reach annual revenues of $1 million by the year 2010. The program provides a combination of financing, mentoring, marketing and technology tools to help grow their businesses from micro to millions.

Someone who has done just that is Garnett Newcombe. Her Los Angeles-based organization, Human Potential Consultants, trains veterans, newly released convicts, and others to return to the workplace. Garnett had managed to grow her business to $400,000 a year in revenues but then hit a wall.

Then, she decided to compete for a spot in the Make Mine a Million $ Business program (think American Idol for entrepreneurs) and made it. Barely a year later, she’s grown her business to $4.2 million and has $18 million more in contracts. And she’s added 70 staff members to what had been a 10 person operation.

In the last article I told you that I’ve never aspired to be a millionaire. But I have to tell you I’m kind of warming up to the idea. Between 1995 and 2005 I probably spent a total of $2,000 on books and courses to help me learn how to grow my business. That’s a total of $200 a year. My business grew steadily to the point where I could pay the bills but not much more.

Then, between the fall of 2006 and 2007, I invested over $25,000 in my own education. This year alone it looks like it will be around $16,000. Just a few years ago, this would have been unthinkable for me. But what I have very quickly discovered is that for every $100 I have spent on self-study programs, a mastermind group, or a live workshop I have made $3,000 back. You do the math.

Change Your Thinking and Change Other People’s Lives

What turns a lot of women off, including me, are the people who make it ALL about the money. Worse is when I hear some big internet millionaire bragging about how he found someone in some developing country to work for him for a few bucks an hour. It’s sickening.

For me it’s not about making money for the sake of making money. I don’t need a fancy car or a bigger house. I don’t even wear half the clothes I already own. It’s not about having more “stuff.” For me, the goal of making more money is that it will allow me to do more for other people.

I’ve always contributed to favorite causes on a regular basis… $50 dollars here, $100 there. But in 2006 I decided to use my good fortune to help those far less fortune than I am by partnering with a wonderful micro-grant organization called TrickleUp.org to donate a portion of all profits from Changing Course.

With your help, in December, I was able to donate $5,000. That money directly helped 50 people previously living on $1 a day to get the seed money they need to start small businesses. When you consider their families the impact is closer to 250 people. But these are just numbers.

Putting a human face on some of these hard working entrepreneurs, I feel incredibly grateful and humbled. (Click here to read these inspiring profiles TrickleUp.org/entrepreneurs/profile.html) In 2008 I hope to double my contribution.

Never Say, “I Can’t Afford It.”

I started to write, “If I can afford it, in 2008 I hope to double my contribution.” Then I remembered some advice I read that said you should never say “I can’t afford it” to anything. You can say, “That’s interesting, but it’s not for me,” or you can say, “Where do I sign up!” or you can say, “I can’t swing it right now.” But when you say “I can’t afford it” unconsciously you’re telling yourself that you not only don’t have the money right now but that you never will.

You might not be ready yet to imagine yourself making a million dollars. And you may not be in a position to give away thousands of dollars. But that doesn’t mean you can’t change your thinking in small but important ways.

I’ve barely scratched the surface on what is a complicated and vast subject. But in doing so I hope to stimulate a conversation that can enable all of us to grow, learn, and prosper…whatever prosperity means to you.

P.S. On a personal note: I was brought up in a very private family where how much you earned was “nobody’s business.” When I share my financial successes in these kinds of public arenas, I assure you it is not to toot my own horn. I’m telling you this because as the Garnett Newcombes – and every single other successful self-bosser I have ever met will tell you – the more you learn the more you earn. Investing in yourself, your education, and your business truly is money in the bank.

P.P.S. And since I’m sharing… The reason I was in New York was because a literary agent set up two whirlwind days of interviews with nine major publishing houses including Simon & Schuster, Collins, Crown/Random House, and Brown Little. The meetings were quickly followed by – are you ready – an auction which resulted in a bidding war. I am thrilled to say I have signed with Crown for a, drum roll please, six-figure contract for How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are. Somebody pinch me! I hope this inspires other first-time authors to go for it!

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There are 10 comments. Add yours.

  1. Paula

    I am *so* jazzed that your book on Impostor Syndrome is coming out with that level of publisher commitment, and also that your hard work has paid off for you (financially as well as in personal satisfaction).

  2. Thanks Paula! It is really quite amazing! Last week was all very surreal – especially on book auction day! I am so impressed with that literary agent who was not the least bit dissauded when I told her that another agent years back could not sell the book. Her attitude was, “That was her and this is me” and she just went for it! A good lesson for entrepreneurs in the power of believing in a project and persistence. (Of course it helped her job that 95 percent of the editors, publishers, and publicists I met with all totally identify with the syndrome 🙂

    Thanks again for your well wishes Paula.

    Valerie

  3. Gerard Gernazian

    Dear Valerie:
    I’m so thrilled for you to hear about your recent publishing contract for How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are.
    Congratulations–because you earned it!! I know, better than most, because I was there working for you in the early days, and I witnessed first hand your dedication, your unceasing devotion to your dream, your attention to detail, your wisdom, your constant quest for improvement and advancement and your warmth and generosity. You are getting good things coming to you now, because you put out a whole lot of good karma in prior years. To this day, I’m still using and benefitting from things I learned from you years ago. You are living proof that ‘life is what you make it.’ Keep up the great work! Your favorite proofreader, Gerard~

  4. Karen Kuntz

    Dear Valerie,
    Congratulations on your book auction success! You have worked hard for years and been such an influence and inspiration to so many people.
    I felt kind of bad when I read in the previous newsletter about some people being shall we say “kind of mean” about your making good money. I personally am glad to see others do well not just for themselves, but because it just reinforces that it can happen for me as well.
    Your articles always resonate with me. In this discussion about money, I have always said that I just wanted to make enough to pay my bills and to not have to worry. I think I have always said this because I did not want people to think that I was overambitios or greedy or whatever negative response stating what I would really like to accomplish would arouse. But that is so wrong. I do want to make much more than that and I don’t think that is wrong.
    Thank you for daring to discuss this important topic. We all need to stop apologizing about wanting to make a good living.
    Thank you for being you,
    Karen Kuntz

  5. Congratulations Valerie! That’s wonderful, I just want to tell you that you are such an inspiration, I’m glad I know you. You are a living testament and I’m quoting Oprah here when she says that god will always dream a bigger dream than you can ever dream ourselves. You’re already a millionaire Valerie!

    Take care, Rodney W.

  6. Thanks everybody. I really appreciate all of you taking the time to share your well wishes. It is so wonderful to feel like I am apart of this amazing community of dream makers! You inspire ME every day!

    Valerie

  7. Carolann

    Valerie-
    CONGRATULATIONS! This is just the beginning! You deserve it and much more, You will have it!! Your journey is inspiring and is a great opportunity that you share with the rest of us- That YES!! there’s room at the top for the rest of us to join you in the Millionare Club! Looking forward to climb.

  8. Dear Valerie, Congratulations on the book deal. That is great news. And thank you for the quote in the article. Now my friends want to know if they are one of “those” friends. Sandra

  9. Hi Sandra,

    Just tell them it was editorial license in order to make a broader point to a broader audience. If they are reading my newsletter then they “get it” and therefore are not at all “those” kind of friends 🙂

    Thanks for writing!

    Valerie

  10. Making Money Opportunities

    Awesome ariticle… You really are adding value to the online community… Gregory Drake

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