Women and Money; Taking charge pays off
A FUR-DRAPED beauty takes a commanding stance and surveys the beach in a full-page magazine ad. If wandering on the beach in a $7,000 fur coat doesn't strike you as peculiar, her priorities might. The ad describes the woman's thoughts this way: ''My accountant told me to put my money in real estate. My broker said stocks and bonds. But I made my own decision. I'm wearing it.''Skip to next paragraph
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The inference is that feminine impulse is greater than feminine money sense.
The notion isn't rooted entirely in myth - most women will admit they're more at home clipping food coupons than bond coupons. But there are exceptions to the rule, and they're not just the savvy women you read about on the business pages. They're housewives and working women with no formal training in finance who have decided to do more than watch their money drain through their checkbooks.
Edith Whaley is one of those exceptions, and she suggests that a more appropriate approach to the fur advertisement would have been, ''I have my portfolio of stocks. I have my real estate. Now I can have my wonderful fur coat.''
Mrs. Whaley, a Los Angeles advertising executive who does have stocks, real estate, and a fur coat, adds that any woman who has the money to spend on a fur coat should have already developed a financial plan.
For this series of articles, the Monitor talked to several women like Mrs. Whaley who have successfully taken charge of their personal finances - investing and saving for retirement or their children's educations, for example.
Although several of the women interviewed were thrust unprepared and sometimes unwilling, into these responsibilities, each has emerged with an active interest in her finances. None have the golden touch or an immunity to wild swings of the economy, but they have armed themselves wisely against the hazards of ignorance just by paying attention to their money. Their observations can help other women take the first step.
Mrs. Whaley admits that upon her divorce 13 years ago, ''I was frightened about some of my decisions because all of a sudden I knew that I didn't actually know how to pay bills for electricity, for gas. I didn't know about insurance, estate planning, lawyers, running a bank account . . . all the things you leave to a husband to do.
''My jewelry went back and forth to the pawn shop several times to pay the bills,'' she continues, illustrating the uncertainty of those first years on her own, entering the work world and supporting her teen-age son. It also characterizes the determined resourcefulness that has helped propel her assets into the six-figure range.
It took more than an ability to add and subtract in a checkbook, Mrs. Whaley admits, but she says she owes much of her success to her inquisitiveness. She made it a point to meet professionals in insurance, law, contracting, and stocks.
''I'm not afraid to turn around and ask somebody a question,'' says Mrs. Whaley, noting that this has been her only financial training.
''You can talk to bankers, lawyers, and accountants,'' she suggests. ''But the important thing is not to find someone and lean on them. A lot of women go to them with all the intentions of learning but end up leaning on them.''
After researching an investment, Mrs. Whaley may get advice from an accountant. But she welcomes only ''suggestions, not decisions'' from her advisers. She has put her money in real estate, a radio station, and stocks that are related to her advertising profession.
Speaking from experience, Mrs. Whaley advises ''a clean break'' financially in divorces.
''Alimony gives them (women) a crippling crutch . . . it takes away what they might be able to do. I recommend taking alimony for three years . . . to just get started. Maybe $500 (a month) the first year, dropping to $300 and then $100 and then none. If they don't have enough to really live on, it forces them to get out and hustle.''
Financial know-how within the context of marriage, too, is important. Kathy L'Amour is a good example.
''Louie writes the books and I keep our books,'' explains Mrs. L'Amour, wife of the prolific western paperback novelist, Louis L'Amour.
''I don't think of myself as a businesswoman,'' says Mrs. L'Amour, a delicate woman who studied acting and ''hated'' economics and accounting classes. ''It (economics in school) kind of bored me,'' she says, adding, ''It's only fascinating when it's your own business you're working with.'' She admits that the full-time job of managing the sums her husband's more than 80 popular novels have brought in is fascinating.