STRIKE THE #BalanceforBetter POSE
It’s #InternationalWomensDay

I have a fabulous group of women friends I spend several mornings of the week with. I meet them out on my daily river walk; whoever is on the trail joins in with our little tribe. We’re all women in our 50s, 60s, and 70s, with the occasional male joining in depending on the day and the season.

Someday’s our little group stays around two or three. Sometimes we’ve grown closer to a dozen. Yep, we pretty much take up the walkway, and trust me, when we get animated about certain subject matters, we’re a force to be reckoned with.

There’s something about a little group of women getting together and discussing grassroots initiatives. No subject is left unturned. And though we’re fairly close in our beliefs on politics, we don’t always agree. That’s when things get interesting! We go back and forth, listening and adding our two cents, trying to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.

The future is a very exciting place. Right now is the best time in history.

Sure, we have a lot of friction. Yes, politically we’re as far apart as we’ve ever been.

But overall, we have it pretty good right here in 2019. And if you don’t believe me, pick up a copy of Factfulness. I guarantee it will change your opinion of just how good we have it here in 2019.

Let’s start here … and make it better

Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t make it even better. I personally believe we’re entering a fascinating time in history where we’re going to make significant strides and advancements. The future is coming, and it’s going to be spectacular! But what we do need is a little balance. It’s something that we’ve taken for granted. It’s something we need to work on as we continue to improve who we are as a population.

This year’s International Women’s Day campaign is all about balance. #BalanceForBetter is about building a gender-balanced world. I love how they’re promoting this year’s theme by saying:

Balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. The race is on for the gender-balanced boardroom, a gender-balanced government, gender-balanced media coverage, a gender-balance of employees, more gender-balance in wealth, gender-balanced sports coverage …
Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive.

As a Gen Xer, I’ve been a part of the movement since before I was born.

I come from a grandmother who was forced to quit school in the 8th grade to help out on the farm. My mother was told she couldn’t go to college; she’d just quit and get married anyway.

Because of their strength and determination, I was pushed to get my degree. And luckily by the 1980s, I was one of the first generations of women who could select a degree based on my interests, not just what I could take because I was a woman.

Like every woman, the #MeToo movement hit me hard. I have many stories I could tell, and have, depending on the audience. Pure blatant sexual assault? Yep, I’ve faced it. Minor sexual harassment? Yep, been there too. I cringe when I hear a woman say “boys will be boys.” Shouldn’t we expect better, given what we know? That’s how societies change for the better. We shouldn’t accept something just because we did it in the past. What was once acceptable should no longer be.

I get we’ve come from a time where those actions were acceptable. But why shouldn’t we continue to strive for a point where everyone can feel comfortable in their own skin, and not feel threatened for being who they are?

As a Gen Xer, I’ve spent several decades making my mark on the world. I’ve raised a family. Held jobs. Started businesses. And now, with all the knowledge I’ve accumulated in my first thirty years as an adult, I’m starting to give back.

This Is What I’m Doing For #BalanceForBetter In All Areas Of My Life

Entrepreneur
As I moved out of college, into my first job, and settled into married life, the unthinkable happened: my dad passed away at the age of 54. That shattered my world, and woke me up at the same time.

According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, there are 9.1 million women owned businesses across the US. That accounts for 26 percent of all business owners, which is a rise from the year before’s level of 18 percent. Unlike men who prefer to dive into the entrepreneurial world young, the statistics show that women open up businesses all throughout their lives. And more women in their fifties and beyond are looking at entrepreneurship as a way to create life balance in their lives.

After my father died, it didn’t take me long to discover how stress from reinterviewing for his thirty-year position over and over again, trying to make 55 when he could take early retirement, impacted his life. I was in my twenties when I said “no thank you” to corporate life, and my husband and I opened up our very first business to change our path once and for all.

I’ll be the first to admit, running your own business isn’t stress-free; it just changes perspective. But overall I wouldn’t change a thing. I love being my own boss.

Early on, I would attend seminars and retreats trying to learn all I could about running a successful business. And more times than not, I’d be one of very few women in a room filled with guys.

I liked it that way. I still have a lot of friends that I made from those events. But I did notice early on that as entrepreneurs, we saw the world a little differently. Men take the “all in” method to growing a business. I quite literally have watched a lot of guys working 24, even 48 hour stretches at a time, sitting in the office and “doing” until they can’t do anymore.

I was never willing to take that approach. As a woman, I’ve always strived for balance. Kind of the “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan” philosophy. Even though I no longer think that’s possible – I think balance is about doing what needs to be done at the moment – I still wasn’t willing to give up my evening hours with my family all for the sake of business growth.

Women go into entrepreneurship to find balance – at least that’s my take on it. We design our own businesses so that we can come closer to having it all. We do so to solve the inflexibilities that come from having a 9 to 5 job.

It worked for me. I could get up early and have a couple of hours of writing time before I got my daughter up for school. I could work between dropping her off and picking her up. I could work after she went to sleep. I could be there when she needed me. I could take field trips when she was little.

Because I had so few women as role models over my 20-year period as an entrepreneur, I give back to my community. I’ve written books, created coaching programs, written for various print and online publications, taught at the adult community level.

The only way to #BalanceForBetter is if we give as much as we receive. And since I’ve moved forward thanks to an amazing community, I feel now here in midlife, it’s the time to give back.

Wealth
Like everything, women approach money and finances differently than men. No shocker there.

Yet on average, women live longer, and by not understanding wealth building techniques as well as men, they are at a distinct disadvantage.

According to Ellevest, a wealth building company started by women, targeting women, the biggest mistake women make is not investing as much as the guys.

Oh yeah, do we have our excuses. The stock market’s too risky. We need a whole lot more information before we feel safe enough to invest. And frankly, who has the time? It takes a lot of work to get everything we need in place before we trust our money with someone. And unfortunately, time passes by. We have things to do, events to plan, kids to run after. And at the end of the day, who wants to sit down and read investment advice that we really don’t understand anyway?

I have a master’s degree in finance. In finance! But I’ll tell you that I didn’t learn a lot about financing from my education.

I was good at making money; not so good at keeping money. Throughout our married life, our bank accounts have resembled a roller coaster more often than not.

But eventually, I figured things out. (Still not perfect, but I’m working on it.)

I’ve been married for over thirty years. A funny thing happened a few years ago when I went to get a car loan on my own. I couldn’t get one. And it scared me to the core. I had to have my husband cosign because of how we’d structured our lives.

That was the end of that. I’ve worked hard to separate my financial life and build up my own credentials. Yes, we still have joint bank accounts. And we’re so glued together, what’s his is mine and vice versa.

But I also know that it might not always be like this. And I want to be able to stand on my own two feet in the event I have to face life alone.

We still operate with our joint accounts. It’s what we do.

But I also have a series of credit cards, just for me, to build my own reputation and credit score.

I’ve also started my own investment account with Ellevest. When I first heard of them, I fell in love with the concept. Disclosure here: I get nothing from them, I make no recommendations or guarantees to you if you decide to invest in them too. I’m telling you what I’ve decided to do.

What I like about Ellevest is it was started by Sallie Krawcheck, who has led Merrill Lynch, Smith Barney, and Citi Private Bank as CEO. She decided enough was enough; it was time to have a place where women could become stronger at investing, and do so by investing in companies that were friendly to women’s issues.

Perfect! I loved her concept, so I decided to jump on board.

I invest there; if you’d like to check it out, head over to Ellevest.

Travel
You don’t have to follow me very long to learn that I love travel. I’ve made it an integral part of my life, thanks to the Gap Year plan we started just a few short years ago.

I didn’t start traveling until my early twenties. Travel when I was little meant a road trip back to my grandparents’ homes in Iowa. I never saw an ocean until my honeymoon!

My husband comes from a traveling family. Both of his parents worked for the airlines, so he flew pretty much for free as he grew up. He had the “bug” and he quickly instilled it in me.

I traveled a lot with my first job working for the government. And then as we moved into our own business, we set up our photography business to travel and photograph weddings wherever our clients wanted us to go.

Different cultures, different locations, different expectations – I quickly began thriving on change. I loved to see the differences in different places of the world, while at the same time finding out just how much alike we are in our basic wants and desires.

The world becomes a little smaller when you visit a foreign land.

Nothing will put you in your place more than standing in a train station in the middle of Italy, not knowing anything more than Ciao and trying to figure out which train to get on. It’s so easy when you’re in your own element at home. But when you’re standing someplace with no way to ask for help, and all you have is yourself and your knowledge to figure things out, it opens up your mindset in ways you can’t even imagine.

You start to discover that you can ask for help. And that people are inherently good.

Just like back home, don’t put yourself in precarious situations. If you use common sense, you won’t have much to fear other than trying to exist in a world wherever everyone is just trying to live their daily lives, just like you.

The way we gain #BalanceForBetter is to realize that we’re in this together. And when you see how others live, it makes you more accepting of the world. It also makes you more willing to reach out and lend a hand.

I help every year by giving to Flyte, an organization that empowers youth from underserved communities the chance at transformative travel experiences.

If you don’t stay in your own little world, if you reach out to understand what others are experiencing, if you see people in a different light, it continues to make the world a little smaller. And that’s a very good thing. #BalanceForBetter comes when we’re all closer socially, economically, and culturally, and we understand our differences are what makes us better, not drives us apart.

Happy International Women’s Day everyone!

#BalanceforBetter #InternationalWomensDay #IWD2019