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Money Order: The Money Management Guide for Women

Money Order: The Money Management Guide for Women

by Gail Shapiro Ed.M.

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Make Your Money Work for You
Thirty or forty years ago, most women depended on a weekly allowance from their husbands to run the household and care for children. Although today's women share the breadwinning with their husbands or support families on their incomes alone, their money management skills simply haven't kept pace with their earning power. It's time for women to embrace a new paradigm, doing away with the notion that control of finances is a man's job.
Like no other book on personal finance, Money Order offers a new model for managing your money, one that reflects women's constantly changing money needs and helps you develop real financial savvy and resourcefulness. Based on Womankind's grassroots Financial Literacy Project, Money Order covers all the basics, including how to
  • Establish and maintain good credit
  • Save for your children's college education
  • Manage debt
  • Finance car and home purchases
  • Insure yourself and your property
  • Prepare for retirement

But it doesn't stop there. Packed with insider tips from women financial experts, as well as real-life stories, exercises, and useful charts and graphs, Money Order is a comprehensive primer that teaches you to treat your money as your greatest asset -- not as an endless burden.
Once you have your day-to-day financial life on track, this book will provide you with new options to save, spend, and invest your money. Money Order encourages you to share your financial knowledge with other women and to make meaningful investments that will effect real economic change in your life and the lives of others.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743215435
Publisher: Touchstone
Publication date: 08/22/2001
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 240
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Money Order was written collaboratively by professional women who teach at Womankind under the direction of Gail R. Shapiro, one of the organization's founders and its executive director.

WOMANKIND EDUCATIONAL AND RESOURCE CENTER, INC., is a nonprofit organization that promotes educational and economic empowerment for women and girls. Located in Wayland, Massachusetts, Womankind reaches women all over the United States and Canada through its Leaders Training Program.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter Two: Where Do You Want to Be?

Contributing Author:

Gail R. Shapiro

"Learn to evaluate your success by the balance you achieve in your life. Over the years, I have found that everything seems to work out better if you have your personal life priorities in the proper order."


Where do you want to be? What do you want to be doing? And how are you going to get there? Creating a plan for your life means making choices, defining goals, and dreaming dreams. And for those dreams that have a monetary cost, you also must figure out a way to pay for them!


Many of us are not living the life we want because we don't know what it is we want! We may have only a vague notion of what would make us content.

When I was a girl, my heart's desire was to be an actress. I used to round up kids and put on shows for the neighbors. I starred in the senior play, and dreamed of being famous. What happened? Instead of following my bliss, I followed my boyfriend to San Francisco.

We may blame our dissatisfaction on the wrong partner, or the absence of a partner; the wrong job, or not having a job; troubles with children, or not being able to conceive a child; our bodies, our family history, economic status, or a physical limitation. Or we may feel guilty, because we think we "have it all," and still are not content.

I used to read those self-help books all the time -- you know, the kind that say you can be anything you want. Sometimes they help me to dream a little, but then the baby wakes up cranky, and my toddler turns over the goldfish bowl and my husband comes home hungry. What's the point?

The huge popularity of soap operas, movies, and romance novels underscores the need for so many of us to escape, even for a little while, from the reality of our lives. But once a woman understands that she always has a choice to change that reality, she will begin to feel more powerful.

I lived with a mean man for seven years. I couldn't leave. What turned my life around was a friend who helped me see that I was choosing to stay with him -- for right now -- because the kids and I depended on his income. At age thirty-two, I finished my GED, then got trained as a paralegal. I was able to get a job right away. By then the kids were in school all day, and I could afford an apartment of my own.

One reason so many of us don't know what we want is that we believe that we don't have a right to want anything for ourselves. We take care of children, partners, parents, bosses, houses, cars, pets, friends -- everyone but ourselves. Do we have a right to want? YOU BET WE DO!

Even a woman facing seemingly impossible obstacles can begin to make choices, which will help her design a better life.

I've been legally blind since birth. My parents always told me that I'd just have to try a little harder. Since I can't drive, I will be moving to the city when I graduate. I will be starting my dream job in the fall -- as a studio musician, a backup singer for a company that produces commercials. I'm so excited!

Believe it or not, I was seventy-two years old on my last birthday, and I just learned how to write a check! My husband is an accountant, and he always took care of all the money. He had a stroke a while back. While I am lucky to have him at home with me, he cannot write anymore. He wanted me to leave everything to our son and the financial adviser, but I figured, "I can do this." I am learning about our family finances as fast as I can.

After twelve years of trying to have a baby, my partner and I finally decided that it was more important to be parents than it was to have our own biological child. Just last month we brought home our beautiful, seven-month-old daughter. She is the joy of our lives. Now we just long for a little quiet time!


For many women, the key missing piece in an otherwise pretty happy life is economic freedom. Others struggle with problems and issues that money can't solve.

My mother always told me, "There are two kinds of problems in the world: the ones you can throw money at, and the ones you can't." That advice still helps to keep things in perspective, even during the times when I've been really blue.

A first step is to sort out what can be accomplished with money, and what can't. You can do this exercise on your own, or work with a partner. Start by thinking about what you value. What is important to you? Who or what gives your life meaning? If you work with someone else, you can interview each other and write down what you say.

Health, family, self-respect, compassion for others, religion, freedom, wisdom, safety, time for myself!

Just my cat and my music.

My family is very important to me, and so is my church. I value honesty and trust, and I always try to do good in the world.

I value:

Next, ask what do you need for survival? What do you need to feel secure?

Food, clothing, shelter, the basics.

I really need a vacation right now.

I need to be able to make a living with my hands. I design and make quilts, and have supported myself for years.

I need:

What do you want? Anything that you strongly desire, but that is not absolutely essential for your basic well-being, is a want.

I want someone to cook meals for me, fashionable new clothes, a house in the mountains.

I need a vacation. I'm totally burned out. I want two weeks in Hawaii, but I'd settle for a week alone in the house.

I want to become a world-famous quilt maker.

I want:

The needs and wants you have just listed are your goals. Describe each one in detail, using complete sentences: "I need...," "I want..."

I need

I need

I need

I want

I want

I want

Now imagine yourself attaining these goals. Try one at a time if the exercise is difficult.

I can see myself lying on the beach in Hawaii. The sun is warm, the breeze is gentle. I look great in my bikini, and a cute waiter is bringing me a tray of little sandwiches and a big drink in a pineapple.

Are there any obstacles that are keeping you from meeting your goals? If so, what are they? A very important part of the process is thinking through what may be blocking you. You may be surprised to discover that lack of money, education, or opportunity isn't the only obstacle.

All my friends back home are so jealous! My boss refuses to give me a raise -- she thinks I don't need the money if I can afford a Hawaiian vacation. My sister is mad because I was supposed to baby-sit her kids last weekend. My mother is furious because she's always wanted to go to Hawaii and I didn't take her.

Obstacles I face:

Facing imaginary obstacles can help you push past them, or help you decide to make a different choice. Once you are clear about at least one thing you want, the next step is to create objectives and strategies to meet that goal.

When I first separated from my husband, I went to see a financial planner. She asked me, "What are your goals?" I had no idea. I just laughed: "To feed my kids, I guess." She helped me to figure out that I should stay in the house to keep the kids in the same school, and that I had to go back to work. I needed to buy the house from my husband, but didn't have the money. I made a plan. I followed all the steps I mapped out, and amazed myself by accomplishing my goals in less than three years.

Commit yourself to following the plan you have created. Be prepared with new goals when you reach your original targets!

In the same month, I finished my college degree, turned forty, and my divorce became final. After the initial elation, I got so depressed, because I had reached all my goals! It took a while before I could figure out what I wanted to do next!

Following is a list detailing how one young woman plans to reach her goals. If you feel as though you've been "drifting," or that your life has been a series of random events, then using this method may help you gain a measure of control over your life.


1. Thinking about your values, desires, responsibilities, and hopes creates a "mission statement" for your life. If you are more of a visual or process-oriented person, perhaps you might try drawing or painting your mission statement first. If you have trouble, try doing this step after Step 2. A mission statement is expressed as a "dream to be made true," or a "pie in the sky" paragraph about your calling or purpose.

Jo, a college senior, says, "My family and friendships are important to me, and I will continue to nurture these relationships. After finishing college, I will use and express my love for travel, languages, and music through my work, which will be meaningful and well-paying. I will become famous, at least in my city, and hope someday to hold a public office."

2. List the goals that, when reached, will make your dreams come true, best reflect your most important values, and fulfill current or anticipated responsibilities. The primary difference between a goal and a mission is that a goal is measurable; that is, you can tell when you have achieved it.

Jo's Goal 1: "To graduate from college in May with honors."

Note the difference between Jo's statement "after finishing college" and the specific and measurable goal just stated. It is, of course, possible to partially reach a goal: she could graduate on time, but not with honors, she could graduate in August, after having to take a summer school class.

Jo's Goal 2: "To find a music-related job located in Paris."

Again, specific and measurable. She either will find a music-related job in Paris or not.

3. Now create the objectives that will enable you to reach your goals. This is easy, and fun. An objective always is stated in terms of who will do what by when.

Objective: "By March 20, I will go to the college library and the local bookstore to see what books are available about jobs overseas." (If you are a very orderly type, you may want to label this "Objective 2.1," i.e., the first objective to meet Goal 2.)

Objective (2.2): "By March 30, I will have read at least two of the books I found."

Objective (2.3): "By April 10, Anna [her roommate] will take me to lunch to meet her uncle, the French ambassador."

Objective (2.4): "I will create and post an e-mail message describing the type of job I want to fifteen different lists by April 10."

4. By now, you may be wondering what all this has to do with Financial Literacy. Each objective can be met by a number of strategies, each of which can be quantified in terms of resources (time, money, people) needed to achieve the strategy.

Strategy 2.31 (first strategy to reach Objective 3 to reach Goal 2): "By March 1, I will convince Anna to call her uncle, even though she doesn't like him."

Resources needed: three hours to persuade her, $20 to buy her the latest CD.

Strategy 2.32: "By March 15, I will buy a new dress to wear to lunch with Anna's uncle."

Resources needed: Four hours (at least two two-hour trips to the mall), $90 for a two-piece coordinated outfit, Toni to come shopping with her.

5. Don't get discouraged by the level of detail needed. Remember, the more graphically you can picture or describe your goals and the steps to reach them, the easier it will be to do so! You do not have to do this entire exercise in just one session. Take a weekend, a week, or several months. Also, by the time you are done with all of your goals, your first objectives already may be accomplished. You will want to update them. It is very helpful to have a "planning buddy," someone with whom you can check in on a regular basis. You can be her "buddy," too, or you may want to start a "success group," at which members help each other review and accomplish their goals.

6. When you have completed your "first pass," you will have the core of a financial plan.

Jo now knows that to meet her objective (2.3) to get Anna to take her to lunch with Anna's uncle, it will cost her $110 and seven hours of her time.

You will have, in writing or in pictures, a record of how much money you need, and when you need it, as well as how long it will take you to accomplish your goals. Chances are pretty good that you also will have a detailed plan for how to get the resources that you need.

Here's another example. Sarah is forty-five, works as a salesclerk, and is thinking ahead to her retirement:

I've worked hard all my life. I'd like the time to try new things before I get too much older. My partner is five years older, and likely will retire first. We plan to sell our condo and move someplace warm, where we can play tennis and swim as much as we'd like.

Sarah's first goal then might be:

To be able to stop working in fifteen years, when I am sixty.

What does Sarah need to do to accomplish her goal? First, she might set some measurable objectives:

By September 1, I will initiate a discussion with my partner about retirement.

By September 15, I will begin a plan to visit one possible retirement community each year.

By October 30, I will make a financial plan so I know how much money I will need to retire in fifteen years.

Using this last objective as an example, Sarah can now begin to develop a set of strategies:

By September 1, I will call five friends who have used a financial planner, and get their recommendations.

By September 15, I will call and make appointments with three different financial planners.

By October 1, I will interview the three planners and choose one I like.

By October 15, I will meet with the planner, and begin to collaborate on a financial plan.

As Sarah begins the process, she will have a good sense of what resources -- time, money, and people -- are needed to accomplish her objectives.

We suggest that you set at least one financial goal for yourself, to think about and address, as you read through this book. It may be as simple as: "By [date], I will read the entire book and do the exercises with a group of friends." Or you may be more specific. "By two years from today, I will be debt-free." Other goals set by our students are:

To educate myself about money so I can talk to my partner about our finances.

To start and fund a pension plan for my retirement.

To travel around the world -- in style!

To save enough to buy my first home!

To get enough money to start my own business without worrying about living expenses for the first year.

To get off welfare and stay off.

To be able to spend money on myself -- without feeling so guilty.

To be able to quit my job and stay home with the kids.


Sometimes, as women engage in the process of goal-setting, we encounter internal resistance. You may find yourself reluctant to move forward, and may or may not know why. If you get stuck, try taking a look at the messages about money you heard while growing up. These messages -- from our parents, our teachers, from our society -- can have a strong impact on your willingness to take charge of your life. We asked students:

What were some of the messages about money you got from your family while you were growing up?

We encourage you to discuss this question with a group of women. You may be in for some surprises! One group discovered the following:

We learned what money could do for us:

Money is a primary motivator.

Money is a tool used to manipulate behavior.

Everyone needs money to get ahead and to be secure.

We got advice on how to get ahead in the world:

Spend what you don't have (i.e., get credit) so you at least look successful even if you're not.

Best thing I learned? Never spend what you don't have.

Never be without a job. Any job is better than no job.

Being in the right place at the right time can get you money, but a good education is the key to success.

We can get uncomfortable if we don't relate to money the same way as our parents:

I grew up in the forties, in such a traditional family. Dad did it all. And when I went back to work, my mother kept asking, "Well, who's going to stay home and take care of the children?" I wanted to have a career and children, too.

I hear my dad's voice -- although Mother worked, Dad seemed to have more opinions: "People who have money have to hurt other people to get it," and "You have to be a kiss-ass to get ahead at work." I don't believe that, but it's hard to shake!

The first time I got a big promotion, I started getting all these intense headaches. I tried everything, but they wouldn't stop. Finally, I saw a therapist, who helped me see that I was really stressed 'cause I was now making more money than my father!

Our mothers taught us what they viewed as survival skills:

I learned that you have to be manipulative around money. When I got married in 1975, my mother was the driving force behind the wedding machine. She took me to get a gown. I asked her, "How much am I allowed to spend?" She said, "Don't worry, we'll work it out." I didn't know what that meant. We had lace sleeves made for $100 each, and the total bill came to $1,200. We went home, and my father said, "How did you do?" She said, "We did pretty well." And he said, "How much is the dress?" And she handed him the receipt for the deposit -- $200. He said, "Wow! Expensive -- but not bad." She looked at me and put her finger to her lips, and he said, "Okay -- it's worth it for my little girl." So he paid the $200, and she paid the rest. He never knew.

You marry a person because of what his income is.

My message was: Marry someone who's bright and he'll make money.

There are men who don't like the role of provider -- stay away from that kind!

In my family, my mother took care of the money. My father was an alcoholic, and he didn't always do his share to keep the household running. She paid all the bills.

We were taught values:

I was raised by my grandparents. My mother was thirteen years old and my father was fifteen when they had me. My grandmother was already retired. She stayed home with the kids, and my granddad was disabled. I had never seen them work. They told me, "Be satisfied and grateful for what you have. You need to get a good education to acquire money and success. Pay everything on time and you'll always get ahead." They had just enough to pay the bills and put food on the table and that was it, but they were really happy.

You should always be generous in giving to those less fortunate than you.

Money is much more important than issues of social justice. Forget about that stuff. Keep your money -- you earned it.

We may be afraid that money will distort what's important to us.

Making money is a valid life goal.

And how money can reflect our worth or what others think about us:

Money is power. What you have says who you are.

If you save more, you are worth more.

Money is clearly man's domain. Men make more, and control it; we're dependent on men.

When my parents were newlyweds, they were out walking by the ocean. Eleven cents for an ice cream. All my dad had was nine pennies, so he took the pennies and pitched them into the ocean. My family story: futility around money. "We're not gonna get ahead; we're not gonna make it." There was nothing about going back and looking through the drawers to find a couple more pennies.

How much you have determines your human worth.

Some of these statements are funny; some are sobering. As you think about your own family messages, you will see that the lessons you embraced can have a major impact on your ability to take yourself seriously. By setting goals for yourself, you are beginning to be serious about your financial life.

The next step is to get organized.

Copyright © 2001 by Womankind Educational and Resource Center, Inc.

Table of Contents




Changing the Way Women Think About Money


Where Do You Want to Be?


Where Are You Now?


'Til Death Do Us Part: You and Your Credit


Getting the Most for Your Money: Major Purchases


Insurance: Protecting Yourself, Protecting What You Have


Making Money Work for You


Planning for Long-Living Women


Negotiation, or Use What You've Got to Get What You Need


Around the Glass Ceiling: The Collective Power of Women's Philanthropy


Resources and Readings

Contributing Authors


Customer Reviews