Guest Post: Susana Fonticoba

If I went back in time 20 years, the younger me wouldn’t recognize me. It’s not for the increased wrinkles and gray hair, but for the independent and fiery person that stands in her place.

Back then, I was a wife and mom whose husband who was in charge of everything. I had a corporate job, but no sense of independence whatsoever. My husband brought in the big bucks and my salary was deemed “ok”. In reality, it was a nice income, but back then, I put myself second and didn’t think my accomplishments were worth any recognition. I never asked my boss for a raise or a promotion. My husband was the smart, successful MAN. He made the family and financial decisions. I was living a life of serving my boss, serving my husband and kids, yet never serving myself.

This servant mindset is a very dangerous place to be psychologically. I couldn’t dream of asking – demanding – for more. Did I deserve more? I was dependent, and dependency often wears a cloak of “comfort”. Everything is “fine” so why rock the boat? But that cloak was soon to be ripped away.

My husband fell ill and passed away at the age of 43. I was shocked to find myself a 42 year old widow with 2 children, aged 10 and 14. Thank goodness for my parents and the security of my corporate job. Three years later, my company downsized most of my department, including me. Now what? What I had depended on – a husband to make all the decisions, and a company that gave me financial security – were gone. Yet I had no time to wallow, I had to learn to be strong and fight as the new head of household. And I had a lot to learn.

I did learn and got stronger every year. As a business owner, I have learned to count on one person – me. Today, I embrace my new strength and independence. If you are a woman who is enjoying a safe and secure life right now, listen up.

Everything you rely on today could be gone tomorrow. Your safety net could be wiped out in an instant. So don’t wait to see what you can do IF it happens. Prepare yourself now for WHEN it happens.

While leading my “secure” life, I didn’t understand finances at all. I didn’t have to, right? I had a smart hubby who knew and took care of everything. I had no idea how much money the family had or where it was. I had no idea about stocks, mutual funds, IRA’s, nothing. I didn’t bother to learn because I didn’t need to. By the way, my “financial wizard” husband never created a college fund for our daughters. Just one of the things I discovered and handled on my own.

I hear women today sounding just like I did back then. They are not financially aware of their situation and they don’t mind because their spouse or partner “has everything covered”. I counsel every woman I meet to become educated on your finances. Take an active part in making every financial decision. Become clear on your goals and create a plan to get there.

As a business owner, I recognize that women tend toward under-charging for their services. They feel that the service is “easy” for them to give, so why charge a lot? Or they’re afraid that if the price is too high no one will want to work with them. We suffer under a generations-old philosophy that women are care-takers and nurturers, so upping our prices appears counterintuitive. Here’s the real deal – if you are a business owner who wants to help your client, charge what you’re worth. It’s important to value your services as highly as you deserve to be valued. What you have to offer will change their lives, and they want to compensate you for that amazing experience. This is why I started my Mentoring and Mastermind group, Sisters in Entrepreneurship. We work together to ensure business success by uncovering our true value – and getting paid for it.

To meet your life’s goals, you’ll want to work with a financial adviser who has your back. And you’ll want to work with a woman. My first financial adviser was a man who appeared to listen and have my best interests at heart. But as the years went by, I realized he was mostly interested in the commission he was earning. I had fallen into the trap of letting another man make the financial choices, and I got angry at myself for letting it happen again! He would speak to me as if he were my dad, “helping me decide”. Every time I directed him to take an action with MY money, he would question why and attempted to talk me out of it. How disrespectful!

So I fired him and chose a woman who completely understood my life and my needs. Work with an adviser who is truly in your corner, who will partner with you to become financially knowledgeable and stronger every day. Then if your life is turned upside down, you will be saddened, but you will be prepared!

By Susana Fonticoba

Material prepared by Susana Fonticoba and any opinion are those of the author and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James.