Women Who Inspire. Debbie McAneny: A Path to The Board Room

With an extremely successful 30-year corporate track record, Debbie McAneny has become a sought-after advisor in corporate boards rooms.  As the newest member of the Board of Directors of a multi-national, Fortune 500 Company, she is a female executive who is leading by example.  Debbie is well known for bringing diversity of thought and powerful decision-making capabilities to the table. 

The percentage of minorities and women with a seat at the table in the boardrooms of the largest public companies in the United States has edged up in recent years, but advancement is still slow, and the bulk of corporate directors at such firms continue to be white men, a 2018 study from the Alliance for Board Diversity finds. However, women on boards bring different perspectives to the difficult issues facing today’s corporations.  

The study by the Alliance for Board Diversity, which advocates for broader demographic inclusion in boardrooms, and the professional services firm Deloitte, shows that women and minorities occupied 38.6 percent of board seats at Fortune 100 companies last year, compared with 35.9 percent in 2016. At Fortune 500 companies, the figure rose to 34 percent in 2018 from 30.8 percent two years earlier, the last time the study was done, but still fell short of the alliance’s target.

As more women today are striving to earn board positions, Debbie candidly shares her story and encourages women to become prepared to serve. Having served on eight corporate boards over the past fifteen years, she has extensive experience to share. She started her career in the mid-1980’s and rose through the ranks at John Hancock Financial Services ultimately becoming Executive Vice President of Structured and Alternative Investments and a member of its Policy Committee.  This Boston-based company was one of the best-known names in the U.S. life insurance industry.

Debbie McAneny

Debbie McAneny

While her passion for the business, commitment to the team and drive to succeed propelled Debbie forward, she recognizes that family dynamics had immense influence over her choices. As a young woman she knew she wanted her life to be different than her mother’s and other women of her generation who lack financial independence and the freedoms that go along with it.   Debbie was the third of four girls growing up in the small, New England town of Cumberland, Rhode Island. From an early age she was determined to be an independent and self sufficient woman.

Debbie wanted a clear career path to that independence, so she chose to major in business at the University of Vermont. (She ultimately served on the UVM Board of Trustees (2005-2017) and as Board Chair) In order to start repaying student loans, right out of college she accepted a job as an auditor at one of the Big 8 accounting firms—Arthur Andersen & Co. in Boston, Mass.

As she dove into her career, Debbie quickly realized that measuring financial results (accounting) did not stimulate her. She preferred to be creating the results. She was most interested and intrigued by equity real estate acquisitions and wanted to be on the decision-making side of the table. As she described it, “I wanted to be a deal maker, not a bean counter.” It was at an after-hours Boston happy hour she met a recruiter who was working an assignment for John Hancock Financial Services. Without an MBA and lacking most of the qualifications they were looking for, she courageously applied for an equity real estate analyst position at the firm. After the interview she was told she was nothing of what they were looking for, and everything they were looking for. She may not have had the educational background or job experience they were seeking, but she had confidence and determination, as well as a collaborative and driven personality. She landed the job.

 Over the years, Debbie cultivated the ability to master whatever she did. Her tenure at Hancock included a variety of high-level, executive positions and responsibilities, from managing a multi billion-dollar commercial real estate debt and equity portfolio to CEO positions in subsidiaries  and ultimately to the Executive Vice President of Structured and Alternative Investments. Throughout all the opportunities she was offered, the common thread was her desire to be not just an expert—but a leader. She thrived at building businesses, solving complex challenges and inspiring teams. She remembers many times that by day she walked the walk of self-assuredness, but in the quiet hours of the night she felt all of the fears and insecurities that women share: self-doubt despite tremendous accomplishment.

Often, Debbie considers herself to be more lucky than smart. That is her humble nature. Of all the strengths and qualities that have helped her succeed, she credits her ability to be forward-thinking and having a vision for life and career.  Debbie has always had a strategic plan for her life. Her husband and three (now) adult children have always been her priority.   As an executive, mother and wife, Debbie feels that women can have it all. In addition to the many corporate boards she serves on, her life priorities today include her family, her own health and wellness, travel, and service to community. For Debbie, this comes in the way of mentoring young professionals—a passion she has always embraced.

While Debbie’s goal has always been to succeed, she emphatically states “I NEVER took a job for money. Every job I took was because I was passionate about the work, and the people and I believed I could not only add value but grow personally in return.  It is never about money—when you are happy and fulfilled, the money follows.” She recognizes that there were many obstacles and skeptics of her steady climb up the corporate ladder.  Her advice to others is to “ignore all the noise, put your head down and do what you do and do it well.  In the end, even the skeptics will acknowledge and respect your success.”  

Debbie shows up authentically. Competency, compassion, vision, hard work and a collaborative approach is what she brings to every opportunity. In her 2015 Commencement speech as Chair of the University of Vermont Board of Trustees, she challenged the young women graduates with this call to action:

 “I cannot let this opportunity go without speaking for one moment to our women graduates. I sat in your seat years ago and shared your fears and emotions. When I left here, I worked harder than I ever thought possible, found ways to open previously locked doors and shattered a couple of glass ceilings to get where I am today, with the associated cuts and bruises along the way.  But I am disappointed to report that my generation did not get the job done.  Today 56% of this graduating class are women but less than 5% of major corporations have women CEOs and women hold less than 20% of corporate board seats.  Similar inequalities exist across many professions and dimensions throughout this country.  Today I challenge you to finish this job.  We are not done.  This NEEDS to change and YOU, all of you, need to be that change.  Make it happen.  Give it your all and finish the job!”

Women Who Inspire. Joan Rogliano: Empowering Lives Through Divorce

Divorce can be one of life’s most painful experiences.  But sometimes, new career paths are formed from this experience. This has been the story of Joan Rogliano. The founder of “Wildflower Group” says the support organization would not exist if not for her personal journey.

More than 20 years ago, Joan Rogliano was going through a divorce and felt very alone. At that time, there were few resources available to help women make important life decisions. There was no support network or personal community that understood the pain and anxiety she was facing. With resiliency and strength, Joan recovered and moved forward in her life.  Through her real estate practice, she met more and more women who shared her experiences. “Repeatedly, I met women facing bullying, intimidation, and pressure to make uninformed decisions about their home and finances.” She knew exactly how they felt; she had empathy for their fear and uncertainty.

Joan Rogliano.jpeg

As a Realtor, Joan saw the same scenario playing over and over. She would receive a call for a house listing. Showing up with all the necessary paperwork, she would meet the woman in her home who immediately declared “I’m getting divorced. The house has to go.”  Joan reflects that there were frequently tears.  “Even though the client didn’t want to sell the house, mainly for her children’s stability, she was always ready to just sign the paperwork and face the unknown.”  Fear, lack of knowledge, and a lack of understanding around finances were a common problem. Yet when they dug in with the help of a lender or financial advisor, 9 times out of 10, the woman facing divorce was able to keep her home.

After moving through her own process, Joan saw a great need for women’s desire to transform their lives. Through her experience, she knew that divorce often resulted in so many negative emotions and could deeply impact a woman’s sense of self-worth. She saw an opportunity for service in teaching women how to concentrate on themselves and understand that “I am enough. I am worthy. I can take control and find my voice to make the required divorce decisions for my future.” More than anything else, Joan knew that for a woman to make informed decisions, divorce takes a team.

In 2006 Joan had the vision to create an organization which she named Wildflower Group. In her soft, yet confident manner, Joan describes the origin of the name. “Women connect with us as seedlings. With support, education and resources, they sprout, grow and blossom. Women are doing things they never dreamt they were capable of.”  Wildflower Group focuses on positivity. The personal transformation she has witnessed in thousands of women is so uplifting.  Her message is simple: “Don’t be a victim. You are not alone. Join our empowering community of education and support.”

Wildflower Group began as a referral network, but it has evolved into a national organization that empowers transitioning women through education, trusted divorce resources, and a community of personal support. Women are strengthened by connections to trustworthy professionals, fun events, and emotional support.

The demand for Wildflower Group’s resources continues to be strong.  According to a Pew Research Center Report among U.S. adults ages 50 and older, the divorce rate has roughly doubled since the 1990s. The surge in late-in-life — or “gray” — divorce is a trend Joan has often witnessed. “People are living longer, and women want to live more fully. They’ve contributed to raising children, they want an emotional journey, it’s their time now.  A woman may have (decades) of life ahead and doesn’t want to be unhappy anymore.”  And while in many circumstances the woman is driving the decision, there is still a great need for community and education.

Building Wildflower Group has deeply enriched Joan’s life. While she continues to manage her extremely successful real estate practice, her involvement and dedication to the organization has confirmed her faith in how many good people there are in this world. Her own life experience has expanded and taken her to places she never would have imagined—even a profile on the Today Show. Wildflower Group has grown and continues to evolve based on women’s needs. Joan contributes much of her success to simply responding to what women need and what they are asking for.

Resources available through Wildflower Group can include career counselors, financial advisors, family law experts, therapists, and stylists. Since the beginning, Wildflower Group had helped thousands of women going through divorce. Joan Rogliano has been a trail-blazer, role model, and a compassionate woman who used her own personal struggle with divorce for the good of many. To women who are facing what can be a devastating time in their lives, Joan and Wildflower Group are a shining light of hope and comfort on the road to personal growth and development.

 To Learn More Visit Wildflower Group website https://www.wildflowergroup.net

Women Who Inspire. Krystal Covington: Journey of a Women's Start-Up

In 2013, Krystal Covington moved to Denver, Colorado from Detroit, Michigan. She was attracted to the sunshine, easy-going lifestyle and business-friendly culture, but she took a leap when she moved to Denver—she did it without a job. While it did not take her long to land on her feet with her experience in marketing, she still felt isolated and had a desire to connect with other like-minded business women.

Krystal craved authenticity and true relationships, so instead of old-school networking events, she started meeting with other women in coffee shops. In cozy, inviting locations, 5 or 6 women would come together to share their experiences and have meaningful conversations. While working her full-time job during the week, she spent weekends hosting meetings with purposeful topics. Soon the group expanded from 5 or 6, to 20 or 30—outgrowing the coffee shops. It was at this time that Krystal recognized the opportunity and the need for connection. She launched Women of Denver, which has now become one of Denver’s leading women’s business organizations.

As CEO and Founder, Krystal created Women of Denver out of her need for community. It was during this early growth period that Krystal realized she had to overcome some of her own limiting beliefs. “I’m not an entrepreneur. I lack a business background and have no idea what I’m doing. Who am I to start an organization?” she thought.  But with the support of her husband Bennie, Krystal persevered. She began educating herself on what it took to build a startup and how to launch a new business. She talked to others who had achieved similar goals, read everything she could, and listened to a lot of podcasts. Within a relatively short period of time, Women of Denver was growing exponentially and adding value to women’s lives. The organization was catching on and getting attention. Women of Denver was becoming a force to be reckoned with.

Krystal Covington  Founder and CEO, Women of Denver

Krystal Covington

Founder and CEO, Women of Denver

As the network grew, so did Krystal’s mission. She had struggled for years with feeling undervalued at work, knowing others were making more money for similar responsibilities, and believing it wasn’t safe to ask for the salary she knew she deserved. She realized she wasn’t alone on that journey—that money was an issue for many women. She also learned that many women business owners struggle with similar challenges and tend to underprice their work or products, seek lower funding amounts when going after investors, and make far less revenue overall compared to men. It was time for a new perspective. Krystal focused her efforts on helping other women build confidence and believe in themselves. The organization’s tagline “Earn Your Worth, Grow Your Business, & Maximize Your Life” embodies this mission. Whether you’re working in the corporate world, an entrepreneur, or in transition; there is value for all women.

Krystal attributes the success of the organization to its members and says the direction of the organization comes directly from the needs of the women themselves. While she organizes and creates the events and the content, including members so that they can show their individual expertise leads to growth opportunities for everyone within the organization. There is a wealth of talented individuals within Women of Denver, each one having a unique opportunity to share and grow their businesses.  

Since 2014, Women of Denver has connected thousands of women through events and thought-leadership. Women of Denver is getting both local and national attention  Krystal now delivers Ted Talks, keynote speeches, and has been featured in Forbes, Lifetime and the Denver Business Journal. As its leader, Krystal the introvert has come a very long way. She laughs as she describes her local celebrity status. “It is a bit startling and humbling when strangers approach me as though we are old friends.” Her popularity is something she is trying get used to. Women of Denver is not slowing down any time soon.

From the original coffee shop conversations in 2014, WOD now offers events, podcasts, a magazine, and now online courses.   Krystal’s mission is to help women earn their worth by helping them hone their business and leadership skills while building confidence.  Women of Denver is encouraging women to not only even the playing field, but to make a real impact in the world, one woman at a time.


Women Who Inspire. Nubia Martinez-Caro: Mentoring and Self Advocacy to Propel Career Growth

As first generation American and the daughter of hardworking Mexican immigrants, Nubia Martinez-Caro’s path to a successful career in banking wasn’t always clear. Growing up in the rural town of Craig, Colorado, Nubia was disadvantaged both socially and economically. But her parents, Crispin and Eufemia Martinez,  encouraged her to focus on her education, knowing that was her best chance for success.

Without a mentor or another adult to demonstrate the path to college and a corporate career, Nubia struggled early on. But though she has encountered obstacles, she has learned that hard work and self-advocacy are key to success. From her early years in high school, she was never afraid to raise her hand to become involved in something she believed in, or to ask for help when she needed it. Nubia applied for and earned several scholarships—enough to pay for two-years at the University of Northern Colorado with a major in business. During her junior year she was selected for a paid internship at Wells Fargo Bank. Loyal to the company, she stayed on and had her first job as a teller.

From there she sought other opportunities within the bank. She became a personal banker and in 2006 she navigated her way to the private bank division serving wealthy clients as an administrative assistant to senior investment managers. Nubia credits these managers who recognized her talent, business acumen and ambition by encouraging her to learn the skills and obtain the educational credentials to earn a relationship manager position. This meant a shift from administration to advising clients—a huge career leap. To further her growth, knowledge, and credibility, she earned an MBA from CU Denver.

Nubia Martinez-Caro  Client Service Manager of Investment and Fiduciary Services at Wells Fargo Private Bank

Nubia Martinez-Caro

Client Service Manager of Investment and Fiduciary Services at Wells Fargo Private Bank

From her earliest days in the bank, Nubia was aware that as a Latina in the predominantly white, male world of banking, she was going to have to work harder than most to achieve. She knew that if she was going to get anywhere in the business world, she needed mentors.  She reflects that perhaps the best piece of advice came from her first mentor, a woman who worked on the teller line and told her if you do nothing else, put money into the 401(k) plan. At the time, she didn’t know what a 401(k) was, but she followed the advice. Now 16 years later, she understands the importance of starting early to build personal wealth.

 Memorable and valuable advice came from a strong, Latina woman mentor who Nubia says, “was always brutally honest with her.” She taught her how to conduct herself professionally and other soft skills like how to dress.  These skills did not come naturally to Nubia because she hadn’t grown up seeing these skills in action, and unfortunately career readiness hadn’t been discussed in any college classroom.  Her mentor taught her that in the work place she should “Pay attention to your brain and not your body. Be professional. Don’t be afraid to be a woman but know the boundaries. And always, be an advocate for yourself”.

Nubia is thankful for her career growth and opportunity—and the people who have encouraged her along the way. She has embraced her Latina culture by becoming a leader and advocate of the Wells Fargo Latin Team Member Network—an internal organization to promote diversity and inclusion within the bank. She is very sensitive to walking into a meeting of peers as the only Latina female, but she is gutsy and outspoken.  Though she often feels as though she still must try harder than most to go further—she continually rises to the occasion.

In 2018 Nubia set her sights on another role that would for the first time, put her in a management position. Not only would she have direct reports, but she could be influential in the hiring process. Nubia brings a new set of eyes and openness to the hiring process. First and foremost, her priorities are on qualifications and business fit. She also has great sensitivity to the office culture—with awareness of her own biases.  As of today, she has already brought on 3 new hires that bring unique dimensions to the team and other managers have stated they admire her capabilities.

From the beginning, Nubia has been pushed and challenged by people who believe in her. She now feels a great sense of responsibility to “pay it back” and encourage those who are starting their careers and looking for someone to champion them. She offers this advice:

1.     Believe in yourself.

2.     Decide what you want and clarify exactly what you need.

3.     Plan your short- and long-term strategy.

4.     Express yourself clearly. Get comfortable with saying “I am really good at my job”.

5.     Ask for help. Seek out mentors.

 At only 36, Nubia is Client Service Manager of Investment and Fiduciary Services at Wells Fargo Private Bank. She has come a long way, and through the power of mentorship and self-advocacy, hopes to inspire other women to forge ahead on the path to career success and financial freedom.

Women Who Inspire: Alana Nichols Nothing Stands in Her Way

In life we all face adversity, but there are those of us who persevere despite overwhelming obstacles. Today I’d like to introduce you to a true hero. A woman who has found a way—over and over—to embrace her life from trauma to triumph.  Her name is Alana Nichols. Her story is not only about economic empowerment, but how she empowers every aspect of her being.

Alana was raised without her dad because he was hit and killed by a drunk driver when she was just nine months old. At age 17, she had become an amazing athlete but pushed the envelope too hard. While attempting a difficult flip on her snowboard, she over-rotated, landed on rocks, and lost all sensation from the waist down. Alana would never walk again.

Alana Nichols Building Strength

Alana Nichols Building Strength

Alana learned tough love, grit, and courage growing up in Farmington, New Mexico, with her grandparents, who raised her after the death of her father. She was a gifted athlete with dreams of one day becoming an Olympian.  Alana credits her grandmother’s strength and love as the inspiration to help her achieve her goals.  Never did she imagine she would repeatedly make it on the Olympic podium.

In 2001, the weeks and months after her snowboard accident left her depressed and vulnerable. Drugs and alcohol could easily have numbed her pain, yet she chose to be positive and accept her “new normal” and life in a wheel chair. She moved forward with life at the University of Arizona and studied education to become a teacher. It wasn’t until she was introduced to wheelchair basketball while in graduate school at the University of Alabama that she began to see the light again. Her phenomenal strength and athleticism catapulted her to an opportunity to try out for the US Women’s Paralympic Basketball team. Not only was she an easy pick, she assisted the team to winning the gold medal in the 2008 summer games in Beijing.

After experiencing the highest levels of success as an athlete in Paralympic Basketball, Alana decided to get back on the horse that threw her. This time it was adaptive skiing in Winter Park, Colorado. She informed her coach that she wanted to go to the 2011 Paralympic Alpine Games. Her goal was challenging and unrealistic—she  had no experience and no money. But tell Alana something would be difficult, and she is motivated even further to master whatever it may be.


 Guts and determination (along with financial support through fundraisers held in her hometown) helped Alana get where she needed to go. And go fast, she did. Ripping it up worldwide on the US Paralympic Ski Team, she qualified for the 2011 Vancouver Olympics. Razor-like focus is needed when you are flying down a mountain in a 30-pound sit ski going 75 miles per hour. One wrong move and you’re done, maybe even dead. With only weeks before the Olympic Games, Alana had another setback. She learned that her older brother David, her greatest supporter, had been murdered. How could she possibly carry on? Only one way. She knew it is what her brother would want her to do.

Overcoming adversity yet again, she was off to Vancouver. A rookie ski racer, she stunned the ski world by winning Two Gold Medals: Downhill & Giant Slalom; Silver Medal Super-G; Bronze Medal Super Combined. At that moment she had the distinct honor of being the 1st woman to win gold medals in both summer and winter games.

While she was uncertain of her career path and source of income, opportunities continued to present themselves. With her young life dedicated to athletics, the sponsors took notice. Not only was she an Olympic athlete, but a champion and spokesperson for everyone with disabilities. By the age of 24, she was a sought-after speaker. Although she admits “my biggest obstacle was overcoming the notion that [she] would be known as the girl in the wheelchair,” and she also lacked self-confidence and understanding of why anyone would want to hear her speak. She could not imagine that she had any wisdom to impart. But as Alana says, “When I finally got it—that I could have a positive influence on someone who may feel that life’s challenges were insurmountable, I began to let go of my insecurities and share my story.”

Alana has continued to amaze. Preparing for the 2014 Paralympic Winter Olympics in Sochi, she had another serious crash while training. A separated her shoulder and two broken ankles led to months of intense rehab. Still, she qualified for Sochi, won a silver medal in her first race, followed by another nearly devastating crash in her second race. Unconscious for three minutes and airlifted by Russian helicopter, she was ready to take a break from the high speeds and hard landings of Alpine skiing. Just when you think she may have been ready to retire, she took up two new sports —sprint kayaking and adaptive surfing.  She qualified for yet another Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016. There she raced in sprint water kayaking and placed 7th. Alana has achieved what is rarely humanly possible—she has competed in three different Olympic Games sports. Surfing has become her most recent passion-no surprise she is a force to be reckoned with in the competitive circuit.

Today her career is based on corporate sponsorships and speaking engagements. Toyota, Visa, AT&T, Deloitte, The Hartford, Oakley, Nike—to name a few. Not only does Alana have an amazing story to tell, her authenticity and warmth make you feel like you’ve known her all your life. She connects with people. The sponsors love her, as does any audience who is blessed to hear her speak. Want to be motivated? Listen to Alana tell her story.

From red carpets at the ESPY’s, medal ceremonies at the White House, serving on numerous board of directors, interviews on late night TV with Conan O’Brien—Alana’s ’s life has been nothing short of remarkable.  Yet despite the glamour and attention, she will never forget the time in her life during grad school when she was on food stamps, barely scraping by. She has come a very long way. While we never know where the road may lead, Alana Nichols believes that her attitude is the one thing the she can control.

And now, perhaps the most exciting event in Alana’s life; she and her partner Roy Tuscany are expecting their first baby in July. Her dream of becoming a mother is reality. She is also very clear that she will take the necessary leave for maternity, but her career as a motivational speaker and spokesperson for people with disabilities will continue. Alana will be a working mom. Not only is she an example of economic empowerment, she embraces and empowers every part of life and everyone she meets. Will it be easy to handle all the physical challenges of parenting, especially from her chair? Of course not. But when has Alana Nichols not risen to any occasion?

Roy & Alana.jpeg

 To see amazing videos and learn more about Alana Nichols


Economic Empowerment: Women Who Inspire

Throughout my career and life, I have been honored to meet so many amazing women who have greatly inspired me. These women have overcome enormous obstacles and demonstrate the success that follows when you approach a challenge with strength, courage and the will to move forward. It is my privilege to share these stories with you.  I know they will touch your heart as they have mine.

Nelly’s Story is the first in my series on the economic empowerment journey of women. In February 2017, I met Nelly Guarchaj while on a microfinance insight trip in Guatemala.  I knew when I met her that she was going to accomplish great things and told her that she would someday be a CEO. She is well on her way.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, March 8, 2019, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Nohelia Guarchaj.

Nelly Guarchaj

Nelly Guarchaj

Women Who Inspire: Nelly Guarchaj Courage and Vision for Career and Personal Growth

From the time she was a little girl growing up in the village of Nahuala, Guatemala, Nohelia Guarchaj had a desire to create a purposeful life. With strong role models in her grandmother and mother, she was encouraged to “Work hard. Have a dream for tomorrow. Make your future better than yesterday.” All of this was easier said than done in rural Guatemala, which is riddled with scarcity and impoverishment. Her grandmother raised her children, as Nelly describes “in misery and extreme poverty”.

Nelly’s family emphasized the importance of education from a very young age. Early in life, Nelly had already learned all the skills she needed to raise a family—washing and sewing clothes, taking care of her younger brother, and perfecting the art of creating tortillas, tamales and Guatemalan Mayan food. But school and studies always came first.

Her family chose to send her to a boarding school in Guatemala City at age ten to provide her with opportunities away from rural life. Separating from her family was very difficult, and then her education was delayed as she became a mother at the tender age of 18. Yet with the encouragement from the strong women in her life, Nelly continued her pursuit of education. As a mother of two small boys she earned an undergraduate degree at Rafael Landivar University in Quetzaltenango.  A strong work ethic was part of her being. Becoming a very young mother could have taken her off track, but it did not.


Now 31 years old, mother to her sons ages 12 and 14, Nelly continues to pursue her dreams. She has a fire in her belly that will not be extinguished. While completing her degree in Marketing and International Trade, Nelly gained career experience as a client advocate for Friendship Bridge implementing tools for social performance in microfinance and women’s empowerment. She also held a leadership position with Multicolores Guatemala; both non-governmental organizations that create economic opportunities for talented and motivated artisans.  Nelly’s job (12-14 hours a day) required her to travel throughout Guatemala by motor scooter, chicken buses, and often walking for miles to meet with the women who depended upon her for guidance. Through her work with clients, she realized her ability and commitment to changing lives—and she challenged herself to accomplish more.

After nearly two years of planning and pursuit, she was accepted into an MBA program on partial scholarship in Vigo, Spain. IESIDE Business School (Escuela de Negocios IESIDE ) is a private business school and one of the highest ranked in Spain.  This was a great accomplishment for Nelly.  While this is a dream come true, her acceptance meant leaving her sons in the care of her mother and extended family because bringing them with her was a financial impossibility.

While it took time and great effort to plan and enroll in the program, the upcoming separation from her children was overwhelming. The concept, logistics and planning for their care fell into place relatively easily. What Nelly was not prepared for was the emotional reality of leaving her children behind and getting on the plane in September of 2018.  She describes the moment as being nearly too much to bear. Never having flown, her good-byes at the airport were devastating. “What have I done? How can I be leaving my family?” She recalls asking herself near-despair and a sense of total emptiness. Her uncontrollable tears lasted the entire 20-hour journey from Guatemala to Madrid

Nelly with sons Mathew, 12, and Ethan, 14

Nelly with sons Mathew, 12, and Ethan, 14

Though she has encountered fear, loneliness, and guilt, Nelly perseveres with courage and tenacity. When she completes her two-year MBA program, Nelly’s career options will be plentiful. Her desire to implement social change and to empower women to create a better life for themselves, their family and their community will be achievable through all she has learned. Nelly continues to inspire and be a role model for others—just as her mother and grandmother did in her life.

Nelly has a deep respect for the women of Guatemala—the artisans, entrepreneurs and the business women she supported as a client advocate for Friendship Bridge and director at Multicolores. She has a true connection to the women and their families that she encouraged and guided in business skills, education, and financial empowerment. 

Her choices demonstrate that all of us have the potential to take control of our lives and create a better future, even when you think it is impossible. Nelly has a passion for changing lives, a vision of how she wants to live her life and the courage to make life better. She is on the path to making that vision a reality. Nelly and the other strong women of Guatemala are an example of our own ability to influence others.

As Nelly says, “Give yourself the chance to take opportunities when they knock at your door, but also give yourself the chance to enjoy the whole process of starting from a ground zero even when that makes you feel lost, empty or even totally broken. All in life happens for a reason, is the universe responding to your deepest feelings, thoughts and wishes screaming since forever, there, in the silent chambers of your soul... Everything happens to make you grow stronger, wiser, a better human being...yet never forget to stay humble.”

Your Money Script: Is a Limiting Belief Holding You Back?

Growing up in a household where parents are constantly arguing about money is a major stressor for any child, and often that stress around money continues into adulthood. One client had this experience, and although she is 38 and married with two children, she avoids any conversation about money with her husband. The interpretation her mind gave to her parent’s painful marriage and divorce became her limiting belief that money is the root of conflict between people. Subsequently, she adopted the belief that in order to avoid conflict in her marriage she must avoid talking about money and never, ever fight over it. This is her Money Script.

 Money Scripts are the unconscious beliefs each of us develops about money. Money Scripts typically form in childhood and are shaped by the direct and indirect messages we received from our parents, other significant people in our lives, our circumstances, and society. They are created at a deep subconscious level and become part of our world view.

What is Your Money Script?

What is Your Money Script?

Some of the most common money scripts include:

  • Money buys happiness.

  • Money is the root of evil.

  • More money will make things better.

  • Money is bad.

  • I don’t deserve money.

  • I deserve to spend money.

  • There will never be enough money.

  • There will always be enough money.

  • Money is unimportant.

  • Money will give me meaning and status.

  • It’s not polite to talk about money.

  • If I am good the universe will supply all my needs.


While this is not a complete list and not does apply to everyone, when beliefs like these are left unchallenged, they can lead to self-destructive behaviors or the belief that what happens in your life is outside of your control and is everyone else’s fault.

 In addition to family conditioning, significant or traumatic life events can cause limiting beliefs around money. For example, when she was 14, Sandra formed a limiting belief that no one could be trusted with money. This rose after her older brother stole her babysitting earnings.  Because the theft of her hard-earned money was so emotional, Sandra’s belief that others couldn’t be trusted with money was incredibly strong and resistant to change.  As an adult, this became an issue in her job, because she was unable to trust her coworkers to make ethical financial decisions. She was suspicious of others, became very secretive about money, and had an inclination toward hoarding. Instead of looking at her own beliefs, she blamed other people and external circumstances for her own repeated money difficulties and pain. Simply put, she acted as though her beliefs about money were always true. Sandra’s Money Script was leading to her own self-destruction.

 With awareness, honesty and a desire to change, we can turn limiting beliefs into opportunity. A healthier relationship with money is achievable. Chris grew up in wealthy family and rarely wanted for anything. She wore beautiful clothes, was given a new car when she turned sixteen, and had full access to her parents’ credit cards.  She went to college and married shortly after graduation.  While her husband had a successful career and worked very hard, they did not have the kind of wealth she grew up with. Based on a childhood in which she always got everything she wanted and more, she believed that money would always be there, and she was entitled to spend with no restrictions.  It wasn’t until her husband lost his corporate job that she was forced change her behavior and her spending. It took a traumatic event for her to face her patterns of overspending and feelings of resentment toward her husband. While the stress of job loss and money conflict nearly destroyed her marriage, as a couple they were willing to work at it. Chris realized she had to look at herself first, address her own false beliefs, and then was prepared to work on her marriage.

 Like Chris, all of us have the opportunity to rewrite our money scripts. It’s never too late to change a limiting belief, but be ready for hard work. Our beliefs have likely been present for a long time and reshaping is not an overnight process. Give yourself time and grace.

 Four steps you can take to start the process.  

1.      Write down your limiting beliefs. Note how strong each belief is for you and what emotions they elicit.

2.      Acknowledge that these are beliefs, not truths.

3.      Try on a different belief, such as, “I’ve learned so much from my previous financial mistakes, I’m ready to change my behavior.”

4.      Take different action. If you have really learned from past mistakes, what will you do differently?

 Once you’ve identified your patterns of thinking about money, you can begin to examine how changing those beliefs can fundamentally improve your financial situation and relationships. Then you will truly be ready to take mindful, deliberate steps to turning resolutions of change into reality.

Money Goals for 2019? First, You Need to Reflect

Every January, millions of Americans set resolutions for the coming year. Research suggests 40% of Americans make these resolutions, yet only 8% of people achieve their New Year's goals. The goal of, improving our financial lives by saving more and spending less, is consistently in the top three (along with eating healthier and exercising).

As you begin the new year, why not make January a time for reflection?  The following three questions can apply to your financial practices, your relationships and your behaviors around money: 

What went well in 2018?  What did you learn? What would you have done differently?    

Let’s unpack these together.

Reflecting BeFORE Resolutions.

Reflecting BeFORE Resolutions.

What went well in 2018?

Start this year by focusing on what went well and celebrating the good in your life! Were there any accomplishments that you may have achieved, such as reducing credit card debt or making extra principal payments on a mortgage? Establishing and sticking to a budget requires intention and discipline.  Effective budgeting is always a great win.

 Were you able to initiate a difficult conversation with a loved one regarding money issues that have been the elephant in the room? An example of a difficult money conversation may be with an elderly parent who simply does not discuss money. Having a respectful conversation, taking it slow, and allowing them to set the pace is a great place to start.


What did you learn?

Was there a financial situation that taught you a lesson? For example, I recently had a client who is newly divorced and has avoided all money issues out of fear and resentment. Last year she finally faced her fears and has embraced her financial life. She is studying investments and realizing that she does not need to live her life as a pauper, as long as she budgets correctly. She is working hard on letting go of her paralysis and denial as it relates to money.  

 Like my client, acknowledging what you learned—whether positive or negative—helps you apply those lessons as insights to the future. It may also make you realize that it is time for an important decision or change. Did you increase your financial knowledge and make better investment decisions? If you’ve been putting off participation in your company 401(k) and missing out on the “free money” or company match, maybe it is time to enroll . Or you decided to consolidate the multiple 401(k)s from previous employers and created a long-term plan for retirement.  Now take those learnings and use them to improve your financial future.

What would you have done differently? 

This last question can help you take stock of where you have been and where you wish to go. Were there actions you wished you’d taken or not taken?  Is your credit card balance higher than you planned or even maxed out? Perhaps you had a money argument that ended in conflict as opposed to a peaceful resolution?  A frequent source of money conflict comes when partners or spouses have different spending styles, and out of shame or guilt, purchases may be hidden from a partner. You may think, “I wish I had not spent all that money on new clothes when I did not need a thing. Now I’m embarrassed and don’t want them to know.”

 Or it may be time to stop enabling an adult child whom you have financially supported for many years.  With all the best intentions, your help may be hurting your child who is now completely financially irresponsible.  The question of “what would I do differently” will prepare you for creating 2019 goals that can really make an impact on your success and accomplishment.

As you think through the questions above, you will notice both external and internal money practices. When integrated, these practices result in financial empowerment.  As a financial therapist, I cannot stress enough the importance of financial education and literacy – they are the key to making sound financial decisions. Of equal significance is understanding why we behave the way we do and recognizing we have a relationship with money.

 The mechanics of money—cash flow, statements, balance sheets define the external aspect of financial health. But even armed with that knowledge, until we are ready to understand the internal financial behaviors—or why we make the choices we do and how we relate to money emotionally—nothing will change. Recognizing stress, grief, frustration or even entitlement may drive you to spend, is critical to your internal control. With an understanding of both external and internal finance, you will set yourself up for success of your financial well-being, health and happiness.

 You can do this. Here’s to 2019!


Holiday Stress and Overspending: When is Enough Enough?


In December, I find myself having great expectations and bracing for the traditional chaos. The Christmas season not only includes my birthday, but all three of my childrens’, and now my two granddaughters’ as well. Because of this, I am exceptionally aware of the potential for increased spending and heightened emotions.

 Every year I strive for a perfect and memorable Christmas holiday and birthday celebrations for my entire family. Perfect means having the right tree with glistening ornaments, exchanging thoughtful gifts, and preparing food to be savored and remembered. But here is my confession. I’ve had a history of overspending, over indulgence, and showing my love through gift giving. Every year I vow that I’m not going to do it again, but I end up running around like mad at the last-minute buying one more gift and wrapping at midnight. Predictably, when the tree comes down, the Christmas music has ceased, and the kids are gone, I’m left with the bills to pay and increased stress. Every year I say never again, but every year I repeat the cycle. Sound familiar?

 As a financial coach, I am very aware of those who struggle with impulse buying, and that the holidays are especially triggering.  When there is a tendency to overspend, it is easily justified when doing so for others. Even with the best intentions, holiday spending can put people deeper into debt which often results in increased fear, anxiety, guilt and shame. It is a vicious cycle. In the United States, because there is a never-ending supply of shiny new toys, we often buy to fill a void. But the void is in our heart and soul and can never be satisfied by simply buying more stuff.

This year I am going to do things differently.  A few days ago, I received a powerful gift from an old college friend who has lived in Zimbabwe for forty years. In exchange for a photo of my perfectly trimmed tree he sent photos of a “shopping mall” and butcher shop outside the city of Blantyre, Malawi. If ever I needed a reminder of the abundance and extravagance we have in America, I have received it.

Small shopping center in Malawi, Africa

Small shopping center in Malawi, Africa

 After seeing this photo, I felt a heightened awareness of all that I and those around me have. Later that day, I ran out to do some errands to prepare for my weekend and the upcoming celebrations. Shopping at the Cherry Creek Mall in Denver, Colorado is quite the retail experience.  Every international designer is alluring.  I was incredibly tempted to buy more toys and darling matching outfits for my granddaughters. I admired an expensive designer scarf that would be stunning on my daughter. Yet, as I shopped, the images of Africa came to mind, and I questioned my own reality. When is enough is enough?  In that moment I recognized the point when my generosity and giving-spirit can become excessive.

Extravagance at a local shopping mall

Extravagance at a local shopping mall

Now with the holiday shopping season in full swing, I ask myself, “What is the deeper meaning of Christmas and what is it that I desire this season?” On the 22nd of this month I will turn 59 years young!  My commitment to myself is to take time to reflect on the holiday.  From the lens of a financial therapist, what is the best possible advice I can give to myself and practice in my own life?

With intention, I will spend quiet time considering what the Christmas season means to me. How do I want to feel in the days and weeks to come? What can I do to create a joyful experience and not overindulge in all of the merriment (eating, drinking, and over-spending) that may result in more anxiety? How can I take good care of myself this season? Before I shop, I will decide how much I can afford to spend on each gift. I will stick to my budget. Most importantly, I will remember that happiness cannot be bought with gifts. I will focus on gratitude and the experience of time spent with loved ones and welcome in a new year. This Christmas, I am going to be less stressed and more grateful for the abundance that I am blessed with.

$1.6 Billion Spent by Americans Every Year.....What’s With Tattoos?

I consider myself an open-minded person, but when it comes to some of the newer trends in fashion and self-expression, including body art, I admit that I have been judgmental at times.  If one of my (millennial) children was covered in tattoos, I might have a difficult time accepting their newly decorated skin. It’s difficult for this baby boomer to understand why a beautiful young person would want to be covered in tattoos. But given that Americans spend over $1.6 billion a year on this ancient art, I grew curious.

While in Miami visiting my family, I decided to conduct some nonscientific research by stopping into the most famous tattoo shop in the US, and perhaps the world. Love Hate Tattoo Studio is the home of the artists featured in the popular reality show Miami Ink. As a middle-aged, white woman without a spot of anything, anywhere (I pay a lot for spots to be removed but that’s another blog). I somehow found the courage to enter. My intention was to gain further understanding of this financial and cultural phenomenon. I wanted to learn about the artists, the motivation, and most of all, the money.

 Although I felt self-conscious, I was warmly greeted by Darren Brass, one of the shop’s founders .  Because of his skill, artistic flair and reputation, he is a successful millionaire. Had I met Darren on the street, I probably would have made a judgement of his tattoo-covered body.  I might have even felt a little intimidated.  I would not have guessed him to be a wealthy man. But I found Darren to be a generous, open and humble guy who was willing to spend his time with me.

DARREN BRASS photo by maureen kelley

DARREN BRASS photo by maureen kelley

But here’s the twist. On this spectacular afternoon in exciting South Beach, I not only learned about tattoos, but I also learned an important lesson in family dynamics, parental support and honest financial communication.

While I was waiting to talk with Darren, I met a married couple named Sal and Christina and their 18-year-old son, Sal Junior, who was celebrating his 18th birthday. Sal Jr. was a tall, handsome, bright, athletic, and mature young man who was ready for his first tattoo. Having researched and thought about it for a couple of years, his mom and dad were not only in full support of his decision—they were also paying for it. They anticipated it would cost between $1500-2000.  Sal Jr. was going to have a Bible verse that was meaningful to him etched across his chest.

Given my own judgment about tattoos, I was quite surprised by this display of family unity. It would have been very easy, once he turned 18 and no longer needed parental consent, for Sal Jr. to go off and get a tat on his own. Lots of kids his age go down that path, only to surprise their disapproving parents. This scenario plays out every day across America.

By comparison, even though Sal Jr.’s mom and dad were not initially thrilled about his tattoo, this family chose to engage in honest conversation about his decision and ultimately provide emotional and financial support. Christina shared that “their parenting style is based on open communication.”  They believe in less talking and more listening to what their kids have to say. “Being respectful of each other and no shaming. Whether its school, choices, relationships, and yes, even money.” When faced with a challenge, they meet it head on.

This family turned what could have been a volatile situation into a relationship-strengthening moment.  Will Sal Jr ever regret his tattoo? Possibly. Or perhaps he will be proud of it. But I suspect this family will never regret their ability to talk openly and support each other.  By the way, his parents explained that his next tattoo, if he chooses one, is on his dime.


Women Empowering Women: Microfinancing in Guatemala As a Global Solution to Addressing Poverty

When it comes to making financial decisions, there is a shift that is occurring not only in our country, but around the world. Now more than ever, women are empowering women to take control of their financial futures. On a recent trip to Guatemala, I saw a shining example of what can happen when oppression is turned into opportunity. 

Guatemalan entrepreneurs host American investors thanks to a microfinancing program that seeks to empower women.

Guatemalan entrepreneurs host American investors thanks to a microfinancing program that seeks to empower women.

We were a group of female professionals,- the senior management of Capital Sisters International and fourteen of its investors on a mission to discover the true impact of our investment. Our trip was in partnership with Friendship Bridge, an organization that empowers women through microfinance. A visit to the field makes a lasting impression - it stirs the soul in a way that writing a check does not.

Our one-week trip began in Guatemala City. Traveling by van, standing in the back of pick-up trucks, in tuk tuks, and in boats, I ventured through small lake towns, villages and cities, including San Marcos La Laguna, San Juan La Laguna, Santa Catarina Palopo, and Pana. Homes located in remote and isolated rural areas contrasted with crowded, street-filled, chaotic city scenes. These scenes were a far cry from our comfortable homes back in the U.S.  On this trip, the women of rural Guatemala and their day-to-day lives became real.

As part of the trip we were invited into the homes of the recipients of our support – women who use micro loans to help fund their businesses -- for a glimpse into their most personal spaces. Although they had very little — often no running water or electricity — their homes were simple and clean. Inside children were safe and loved. Greeting us with warm smiles, they were bashful, yet very curious about getting to know their new visitors.

Like the rest of my group, I was quickly humbled by the difficulty of life in Guatemala. Many begin their day at 4 am to cook breakfast for their families and get to the market to sell their goods. Often their days do no not end until after 11 pm as they complete their daily work. Yet they work with pride and determination, the result of being empowered to take hold of their own lives through microfinance.

Olga Marina Martin Cumez, a 31-year-old mother of four, earns her living by weaving brightly colored huipils (traditional blouses) in a distinctive design representative of her village. Each huipil takes over three months to create. She travels 3-4 days a month by “chicken bus” and foot, with her one-year-old baby straddled on her back, to sell her intricately woven textiles. Her 13-year-old daughter Olivia and her husband care for the two little boys. Olivia is an eager student who loves math and music and wants to be a doctor.

Olga travels miles in order to sell traditional “huipil” blouses to support her family.

Olga travels miles in order to sell traditional “huipil” blouses to support her family.

At each client's home we enthusiastically purchased their creations: placemats or scarves, trinkets and jewelry; gifts to share with loved ones at home. 

I saw incredible passion and perseverance, but I also made connections with humanity in general. My work in Financial Therapy leads me to meet the most interesting people, who have been tremendously affected by their relationship with money and finances. Universally, we have a deep, emotional connection to money. From the small villages of Guatemala to the bustling commerce of the United States, much of our relationships and happiness is closely tied to the word “success” and the idea of wealth.

The women demonstrate the importance of each and every part of our interconnected web. What happens when someone drops their piece?

The women demonstrate the importance of each and every part of our interconnected web. What happens when someone drops their piece?

As a financial advisor and private banker, motivation throughout my career came from serving my clients.  The greatest reward is helping people achieve their financial goals and dreams.  I have always felt that quality, financial service goes way beyond the money.  While my nearly 30 years have been spent serving the wealthiest of families, through my work with microfinance and these women in Guatemala, I now see the impact of the web more clearly. We are all connected.  If my contribution is bringing women together, telling their stories, and realizing how we can really and truly make a difference, then my career goals are met. One woman, one family, one community at a time.  It is impossible to make such deep personal connections, touch their lives, and walk away.  As I left for the airport in the historic village of Antigua, embracing our guides, unable to hold back tears, they asked that we do not forget them and their people.

Status in a Bottle: A Fine Blend of Financial Therapy, Bourbon and Millennials

As cocktail culture takes the United States by storm, bourbon, a highly specialized version of whiskey, has become something of a millennial sweetheart. According to the Distilled Spirits Council, sales of American whiskey grew a staggering 8.1% in 2017.

 So what’s behind this atmospheric growth? Can financial status explain why specialty bourbon Pappy Van Winkle has gained a cult following among bourbon aficionados?  The new business elite — bankers, entrepreneurs, traders and second-generation wealthy – think nothing of dropping the almost $3000 a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 23-year retails for. If one believes self-worth equals net worth, what could be better than having a bottle of Pappy on the table to make your bourbon-worshiping pals supremely jealous?

 Financial therapists study financial behavior. They gain understanding of how people think, feel, and behave around money.  For instance, many buying decisions are based upon underlying beliefs about money. Those beliefs can include the notion that more money, and more things – houses, cars, clothes, even bourbon – will improve one’s social status, and subsequently create more happiness. As such, it is not uncommon for a person’s self-image to drive purchasing decisions. Extravagant displays of wealth are a prime source of self-worth, social rank, and personal well-being, and the bourbon boom is surely a reflection of this buying behavior.

For a glimpse into today’s pop culture icons of wealth, Wall Street and greed, one only needs to watch Showtime’s mega hit, Billions. Whether celebrating a big hedge fund return, destroying an enemy, or seething over a run-away wife, the character titans of Wall Street are often shown cracking the seal of prestigious bourbon. Kavalan Whiskey, Michters Bourbon—clearly the spirit of choice for these psychologically complex and often wildly decadent characters.   But are they any different from previous generations of whisky lovers?  Mark Twain’s thoughts on whiskey: “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.”

The impact bourbon has and continues to have on our culture has been demonstrated throughout the ages. Understanding generational differences has major implications for consumer marketing, and the spirits industry is no different.  Where hard-charging Baby Boomers (1946-1964) are driven by money and brand loyalty, Generation X (1965-1980) and Millennials (1979-2006) have different motivators. Marketers know that Millennials account for nearly a quarter of adults over 21 years of age, but they account for 32 percent of spirits consumption (Nielsen, 2015).  They crave authenticity over brand loyalty, and constantly seek out new tastes. Millennials, and younger Gen Xers are often willing to pay a premium for experience, rather than just a product alone. They can be indulgent and will readily spend their money on new discoveries and luxury items. They want these experiences to be fun and rare – a little slice of they can share with their friends. There is a reason the term “extra” – code for extravagant or excessive behavior – has become a favorite term with this generation.

According to Nielsen’s 2015 Beverage Alcohol Media Report, millennials do seek deals, but they “won’t give up quality or taste when it comes to their alcoholic beverage purchases. And as a result, a large percentage say they will not spend their money on mass-market alcoholic beverages. That’s one factor that has led to the growing popularity of craft beverage alcohol products.” In addition, 41 percent say they associate a higher price with higher quality most or all of the time.  Jeff Hopmayer, global industry expert from Brindiamo Group has witnessed the exponential growth. Jeff’s insights include “authenticity and discovery are really important to this millennial consumer. There is a strong desire to be educated and knowledgeable about what they are drinking and why.”

 Though high-end legacy distilleries like High West Distillery in Park City Utah, or George Washington’s Distillery & Gristmill, Mount Vernon, Virginia still provide the craft and esteem these new bourbon buyers crave, newer businesses like Mythology in Denver, Colorado, and Willett Distilling Company in Bardstown, Kentucky bring new and exciting options that pair well with the rise of craft cocktail culture. Walk into any modern speakeasy in cities like New York, Chicago, San Francisco, even Denver, and you’ll find a variety of enticing options.

 Millennial and co-founder of Mythology Distillery, Scott Yeates, knows what his generation craves. According to Scott “Millennials flock to adventure and unique spaces to explore a new world of spirits” driving the opening of his eclectic new space in one of Denver’s hippest neighborhoods.  “The craft cocktail resurgence is further increasing consumer demand for craft spirits and we see an opportunity for distilleries to push creative boundaries in an approachable way.”  

Mythology Distillery founder Scott Yeates and distiller Scott Coburn

Mythology Distillery founder Scott Yeates and distiller Scott Coburn

Very similar to how breweries innovated in the early 2000s, Mythology is a distillery with the goals of innovation, education and quality. This is in large part driven by the millennial generations interests in locally sourced and manufactured products, quality and creating a community experience.

 A financial therapist may challenge a Millennial spending thousands of dollars on a bottle of bourbon. But to a young executive, the ability to spend that money, and in doing so offer his or her colleagues, clients and friends the unique experience that comes with it, is about much more. It’s a reflection on power, success, on the image he reflects to the world. To him, opening that bottle of bourbon is more than just pouring a drink, it’s crafting an experience, creating meaning where it might have otherwise have been missing.

With a generic bottle of beer, a drink is just a drink. With Kentucky Owl bourbon however, that drink becomes an experience to remember.  

Female Breadwinners: The Emotional Impact of Changing Gender Roles

As gender inequality continues to improve in the workforce, more women than ever now find themselves in the position of family breadwinner. (A position I understand.) No longer is their focus specifically on how to manage finances or making educated investment decisions. When it comes to financial therapy, women are having a now moment, asking for advice on how to best handle greater earnings and career success while maintaining a healthy marriage. Often surprised by a combination of negative emotions and dissatisfaction at home, attempting to find balance in their powerful new role of wealth is a lonely journey for many.

 Women with problems that arise from financial success don’t always find the empathy and support they may need. Take Melissa, a 43-year-old breadwinner, who is private by nature, especially when it comes to money. She is conflicted by the issues that financial success have brought upon her marriage and feels guilty about unpleasant feelings toward her husband. When entering her marriage, she assumed she would have a balanced partnership, but has lost respect for her husband and become resentful, questioning whether her career is preventing him from being ambitious. 

 Seeking support, she opened up to her 63-year-old friend and mentor about the pressure and strain that out earning her husband had put on her marriage - to a highly-charged, emotional response.  Unable to recognize or understand Melissa’s pain, she was told to, “Just deal with it and stop whining.”  After all—opportunity, equal pay and breaking the glass ceiling are what women fought for over many years.  

 The strong wave of contemporary feminism will continue to impact our culture and our workforce for years to come. Women have absorbed the changes of the last 50 years and have redefined what it means to be female in America. To be a girl today is to gain from decades of conversation about the complexities of womanhood, its forms and expressions. Women have been outpacing men in earned Bachelor and Master Degrees since 1982, and Doctorates since the mid-2000s. A secondary reshaping is underway with more 25-32 year-old women attending college than men. The gender-income gap is closer than ever with young women today earn 93% of the average hourly wage of men and approximately 29% of women are earning more than their husbands.   

 Why then, if women are having career and financial success are they so dissatisfied at home? A 2013 study by Marilyn Bertrand at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business of 4,000 married American couples found that regardless of amount, once a woman earns more in a marriage, the divorce rates increased. The conflict typically arises from the discussion around money, which are often more intense and take longer to recover from than other arguments.  Studies also reveal that gaps in housework actually widen when a woman is the primary breadwinner, leading men to do less childcare and work around the house. Some suggest this results from a perceived threat to male masculinity, so women overcompensate by doing more.

 Some couples are able to navigate this new financial model successfully, but it takes work and mutual understanding. One couple expressed a willingness to adapt by co-creating a family model that employs flexibility in child care above earned income, without casting one spouse or the other into traditional gender roles. The husband remarked, “my identity is not tied to a job - it’s everything outside of that” and, “her opportunities were just too good for me to intervene.” The couple have naturally created a working agreement on financial matters based on shared values of family, financial security, work flexibility, support and mutual respect.

 Millennials, a generation heavily impacted by the increase of women in the workforce, are taking notice of the trend A self-described serial dater, 32-year-old Jenn is now ready for a serious relationship. Having earned an MBA, she has a very successful career in finance. But since she’s become involved with a man whose vocation is carpentry, she has begun to face the reality is that they are and will continue to be fiscally unequal. This imbalance has caused a lot of deep reflection and candid dialogue. Jenn describes her uncertainty as to whether this is a deal-breaker in a long-term relationship. Knowing she would be the major earner, she is realistic about the implications of a financial future together. “This is going to require a great deal of soul searching for me. “

 Jay Hughes, retired estate attorney and subject matter expert on fiscal unequals posits that “the critical question is whether couples in such relationships can courageously accept their new situation and balance the powerful role of women and their wealth with the issues of male self-esteem. Just as new roles are being forged for women, so must new roles be forged for men.” 

 Couples need to work together to evaluate who and where they are. Disagreements about money are normal, but they can be difficult to navigate when couples have different expectations for their futures together. The role of the financial therapist is to help couples work through money-related issues, so that in the end the couple may find a way to modernize and honor their shared set of values.

  • A follow-up note to this original article. I recently learned that the impact of this scenario can have a long lasting effect—even when the marriage is over. Resentment and anger (from a former spouse) can be held onto for years. Hopeful the next generation will navigate this more successfully.

*A version of this article was published on WealthManagement.com by Maureen Kelley and Michelle Arpin Begina

WF Team.jpg

Investment and Banking Executives at Wells Fargo Private Bank, 2016

Honoring American Heart Association’s “Go Red For Women Day”

From left: Maureen Kelley, Margaret Colbert, Kate Johnson, Keo Campbell, Barb Cole, Katie Kellen, and Sara Montgomery