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Education and Money: A Lesson from Our Mothers that We Must Remember

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A few days ago, I was with an amazing group of about eight women, including news legend Carol Jenkins. The conversation was "light," gender stereotypes and the ways in which they have impacted our lives. About halfway into it, we began to speak about our Mothers.

My mom grew up on a farm in a small town in North Carolina near New Bern. Her family grew and sold tobacco, cotton, and lumber. They were poor, and all of the family members, including the seven children worked on the farm.

I shared with the group how my maternal Grandmother (unfortunately, we never met), insisted that the girls get a college education. The boys stayed home and worked the farm to help support their sisters.

Carol, whose family also grew up poor in the South, shared that she had the same experience. The group then discussed how this was a relatively common practice in black southern families "back in the day." The reasoning, at least from my Mom's family's perspective, was that black women are going to be faced with so many challenges and disadvantages that being educated was crucial to their survival.

Our mothers and grandmothers "got it." They knew that the world is not designed for women, particularly their daughters, to create lives in which they could thrive. They knew that the key to standing up to these challenges was education.

As a financial journalist who studies the ways in which factors, like our upbringing, affect our financial lives, I can say that it's time that we remember and honor our Mothers and be the women they knew we could be.

We must empower ourselves with the knowledge it takes to create financial lives that support our goals and aspirations instead of suffocating them.
Reality Check

Most women, regardless of race, will at some point be in charge of their own finances. That's not working out for many: According to Ms. Money, Nearly 90 percent of all poverty stricken elderly in this country are women. http://www.msmoney.com/seminars/seminar1/html/intro/womens_financial_needs3.htm

According to the Census Bureau, Black women have a median income of $11,662 when they retire. You can imagine how much of those impoverished elderly are us! http://www.wiserwomen.org/pdf_files/minoritywomen08.pdf

A survey a few years back by the ING Foundation, found that Black women worry more about their finances than their health, appearance, job, or personal relationships, yet they were less likely than others to have a financial plan. About half of those without a plan said that they didn't know how to go about it.

Financially Illiterate No More
As someone who has interviewed people starving in Africa to the greatest financial minds in the world, and everybody else in between, I can assure you that financial planning ain't rocket science. The reasons we don't plan have more to do with limiting beliefs we have about ourselves because of things like role modeling, social conditioning, and low self-esteem, etc. Let's all of us honor our Mothers and come up with a list of the five most important things they would want us to know about money:

What would they want us to do when it comes to:

  • Saving
  • Debt
  • Investing
  • Planning for our later years
  • Planning for what happens to our children when we're gone

What do you have to do to walk the walk in our own lives to be the person they know we can be? Where do we need to educate ourselves? Budgeting, debt reduction, retirement planning?

Next, begin. Maybe it's a search on the Internet, maybe it's talking to a friend or a financial professional, but do something to empower and educate yourself so that your finances will be a better reflection of who you truly our.

Parents, think of the five most important things you want your child to know about money. What do you have to do to be the role model they need you to be? They are watching!

I dedicate this blog to my maternal grandmother, who I never met, Jettie Simmons, and my Mom's brothers who stayed and worked the farm. I thank my Grandma for making my Mom, Jettie Simmons Tisdale, into all that she can be, one of the greatest educators I've ever known. There is a school named after her in Bridgeport, CT. Even though My Mom left this Earth eight years ago today. Her belief in me makes all things possible. Let's be who our Mothers knew we could with a little education. Let's get financially literate.