From the time I was in my teens, I knew my calling. After I read an article about a key Wall Street player, I decided that I, too, wanted to be a risk arbitrageur investing in securities in the midst of takeover transactions. I was fascinated by the markets and wanted to make money because I believed it would give me power over my own destiny. My mother, who was in a traditional marriage with no control over her or our family's finances, had planted deep within me the connection between money and my independence. I never wanted to be in the position where I had to ask permission before I could act.
Granted, this wasn't a typical ambition among my girlfriends growing up in L.A., but I didn't appreciate until years later how truly outside the box pursuing a career in risk arbitrage was among women at that time!
I applied to only one college -- the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania -- and was fortunate to be accepted. After graduation, I headed to Wall Street and worked as I had dreamed. A few years later, I formed a hedge fund with a former colleague and today am the majority principal of that firm.
I have always wondered why more women did not look into owning their own funds. Granted, it is a high stress, high risk business, but it also offers high rewards and control. I have been able to have a family and to dedicate quality time to my two sets of twins and my husband, as well as to serve on the boards of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and Montefiore Medical Center. More recently, I have also enjoyed being a member of the CNBC Fast Money cast. As a result, like every other working mother, I am exhausted all the time but feel immensely fulfilled.
I can't tell you how many women I have met who prefer to avoid the topic of money, either because they have been taught to find the topic distasteful or unseemly or because they choose to remain uneducated and dependent rather than shouldering the responsibility of understanding. It might sound harsh, but I have found out that it is also true. When I mention that I run a hedge fund, even sophisticated, professional women who live at the peak of the socio-economic pyramid have responded, "I don't understand the way hedge funds work. They are too complicated. I don't think I could qualify." And more often than I would have believed possible in this day and age, "My husband is the one who handles all our finances."
Would you surrender participating in what religion you wanted to raise your children or give up casting your own ballot in the voting booth? Then why would you surrender your say about finances that can determine where you live, where you send your children to school, which house you buy or, ultimately, what to expect in your retirement?
Women want to be powerful -- and we have made enormous strides -- but we have not yet fully embraced controlling our own financial destiny. While money certainly isn't everything, for good or bad it nevertheless drives our economy, our society, our world. This means that as long as we women don't own our finances, we are depriving ourselves of taking a full seat at the power table.
One of the reasons I love what I do is that it gives me the opportunity to demystify finance for women, to get them to ask questions and become more engaged in making their own decisions when it comes to money. I enjoy being on CNBC's Fast Money in part so that audiences can watch a woman who is as well informed about, and invested in, the market as her male counterparts.
I want women to know that they need to save, that they need to build a diverse portfolio and what levels of risk are right for their circumstances. I want them to know the difference between debt and equity, a mutual fund and a hedge fund, emerging markets and U.S. treasuries. I want them to gain the confidence to take smart risks.
My main concern is that there are too few women seeking to learn. We become too comfortable, or we think we are too busy. But what we are doing is giving away the power to make our voices fully heard in all the many ways we care -- whether philanthropy, politics, corporate governance, retirement, home ownership, our children's educational options or other area.
I am eager to begin the conversation.
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