The Money Lessons these Women Leaders Took to Heart

by Vanessa McGrady |May 6, 2019

People are largely shaped by the words and actions their parents impart to them when they are young.

Financial lessons are no exception; in fact, money attitudes and behaviors sink in before kids even reach kindergarten, according to a University of Michigan study.

That's why parental modeling of good money management is important at all stages of childhood — especially for girls. Research shows that, in addition to a well-documented wage gap, women feel less empowered than men do when they think about their finances. And in the workplace, if an employee is, say, less assertive when it comes to negotiating compensation, that could result in leaving thousands of dollars on the table over the course of a career.

On the upside: Globally, when women are empowered to work and earn their own money, they can grow entire economies. And it can pay to bet on their success. Women-led investments and startups tend to get less upfront funding, according to a 2018 research study by Boston Consulting Group; however, those businesses generated higher revenue than startups founded by men.

In honor of Mother's Day, Life and Money by Citi spoke with leaders of organizations that empower women and girls to find out what wise words these women want to pass on to their children, and the valuable money lessons they learned from their own moms.

mother and young daughter hugging in the middle of a city street

Early entrepreneurship

"As a small child, I clearly remember not having money to buy my mother gifts for her birthday or Mother's Day. I was in grade school when I made a conscious decision to learn how to earn cash. I became an expert babysitter, car washer and yard-sale dealer. This early entrepreneurship gave me the power and the money I needed to give gifts to the people I love.

I have shared with my daughter the importance of having her own sources of income and the power to decide how to use it. My husband and I consciously role-model for her ways to be transparent with money and how to use money in a way that supports our family, our community and our values. Separate bank accounts also require role-modeling on how to build trust and mutual respect with a partner and how to negotiate and collaborate."

Elizabeth Vazquez, CEO and Co-Founder of WEConnect International, which connects women-owned businesses to buyers in 100-plus countries and with purchasing power exceeding $1 trillion.

Asian mother and daughter laughing while looking at a mobile phone

Spend wisely

"My mom went to nursing school as we were growing up. She then went on to work nights every other weekend for 27 years in a convalescent home. She was very supportive of me, and taught me a lot about work and money.

When I am faced with a financial opportunity, I ask myself the same questions she asked herself: "Is this a priority for my health? Is this a priority for my education? Is this a priority for my family?" For example, she cautioned me about spending a paycheck all on clothes when I worked in a clothing store in high school. I did find a happy medium — on special discount days, employees received 25% off any outfit we chose to wear out of the store, so I layered up: Two turtle necks, a sweater and jacket, a skirt or pair of pants. And when I arrived home, my mother just laughed. She appreciated my effort to heed her advice and spend wisely.

My daughter, Ginny, just finished her doctorate in nursing, and is getting married soon. She put together this very detailed budget for her wedding and for the events, and has line items attached to everything, which I know comes directly from my mother and me. Right now, Ginny's weighing whether to provide limos for the bridal party or a photo booth. At this point, the photo booth is winning."

Leslie Mancuso, CEO of Jhpiego, which helps communities around the world develop their health-care infrastructure to sustainably improve the health of women and their families.

Charge your worth

"I teach my children to save as much as possible, but to also go into life with an abundant mindset: charge your worth, grow your wealth unapologetically and live your dreams! I also want them to understand that money is not evil; it is the source of lots of good things. If good people control the wealth we can make so much of a difference.

I also want to pass along to them the power that comes with wealth. With more money you are able to support local businesses, eat sustainable food and create a powerful life for your loved ones. Creating more abundance and charging your worth gives other women business owners permission to do it too. I always hear women say, "I am not in it for the money," or, "It's not like I need to make a million dollars, I just want to make a difference." You can do both. Maximize the difference you can make in the world by creating and welcoming wealth."

Aria Leighty, founder and president of The MOB Nation, a nationwide network of companies owned and run by moms intended to promote growth and education among its 8,900 members.

Vanessa McGrady

writes about personal finance, health and feminist parenting; she is also the author of ROCK NEEDS RIVER: A Memoir About a Very Open Adoption (Little A). She lives in Los Angeles with her daughter and their maltipoo.

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