Published: Feb 4, 2013
Judy Resnick and I seem so different --- I’m New York writer to the bone, she’s West Coast finance on the surface --- that people often ask how we became friends.
“Through Mike Milken,” I say, knowing that the mere mention of the financier and philanthropist will only lead to more questions.
But our friendship is actually simple. While I was researching my Milken book, I spent a lot of time in Los Angeles. Judy had created an interesting niche within Milken’s empire. And in her home, she had a room that was ideal for pacing and thinking in the evening. Eventually I’d say something. She’d correct me. And after a while this English major learned enough about finance to have a semi-intelligent conversation.
I was also taken by Judy’s success story. She didn’t begin her career in finance until she was 40, but her ascent was meteoric. Eight years after she started working as a broker, she co-founded her own firm. In 1994, she was named Los Angeles Entrepreneur of the Year in Financial Service. Because she has a special interest in helping women manage their finances, she launched the Resnick Group in 1998. In 1999, she published a book. And now she’s updated it. She's donating all profits to a group that provides legal aid to abused and disadvantaged women.
Here’s how her new book begins….
In 1998, I published a book called “I’ve Been Rich, I’ve Been Poor. Rich Is Better.” My intention then was to help men and women --- but mostly women --- understand the importance of having enough money to invest after they’ve paid their living expenses.
I was smart --- I took the advice I gave my readers. I worked hard, saved my money, invested wisely and insured myself well. If I hadn’t, I would be in terrifying shape: 70 years old and in huge financial trouble. But still, like most of you, my net worth took a hit in 2008.
And, long before 2008, I took some personal hits.
Flash back to 1998, soon after I published my book. I sold my business, but I continued to work as a financial advisor --- just at a more human pace. I felt peaceful. Secure. Confident about the future.
Then 9/11 happened. Because the World Trade Center was home to many financial services businesses, even those of us who worked in California knew people who died that day. I had a special reaction --- in 1978, my mother and my sister were killed in a plane crash near San Diego. Looking at planes hitting the towers, I relived my family’s tragedy. I couldn’t function --- I had a hard time with depression and anxiety.
An empathic client suggested that I take some time off and see a shrink. I went into therapy, started taking anti-depressants. It took me four years to feel like myself again. Luckily, I had disability insurance that supported me the entire time I was unable to work.
My younger daughter --- married, with three school-aged children --- has long had a debilitating, incapacitating disease. One night, while she was in the hospital, her husband walked out the door and into another woman’s apartment. What he left behind, in addition to his family: a car that was ready to be repossessed and a house on which he owed three months rent. Unsurprisingly, he lost his job and hasn’t worked again.
What would you do? Exactly: I helped my daughter find great doctors and moved her and her brood --- the kids, the dogs and the cat --- in with me. Just to make it a real zoo, I added some chickens. I am the financial rock that holds these lives together.
Because I don’t want to burn through savings and my retirement fund, I work. It’s good for my head. It’s better for the cash flow. But what if I didn’t have savings? What if I didn’t have a way to earn a living? If I hadn’t been insured properly, what would have happened?
My daughter’s experience has seared me --- and changed me. In the ’90s, I focused on helping women, but I was happy to invest for men as well. That’s still true, but now I’m obsessed with helping women in transition. [To buy the paperback of ‘I’m On My Own’ from Amazon, click here. for the Kindle download, click here.]
“Women in transition” means women who are undergoing a major life change. Widowhood. Divorce. Unemployment. A career reassessment. Anything that says: “From now on, you must live differently. Now you must rely on yourself.”
Some of these women are rich --- but I assure you, they don’t feel it. Suddenly they’re only half as rich as they used to be. Or they’re sitting on a fixed amount of money. They do the math --- or I do it for them --- and see that their old way of life is unsustainable.
But rich or less than rich, the law of economics is the same: We all have to learn to live within our means. And we have to take responsibility for our own financial security.
This means that if you’re married, you must educate yourself financially, even if your partner is making money for both of you. If you’re living with someone, you must do the same. And if you’re earning your own money, you still have to educate yourself, because your paycheck only supports you today --- it’s what you save and invest that supports you tomorrow. Ignoring the issues doesn’t work, not if you want to end up self-sufficient and secure; not if you want to avoid pushing a shopping cart down the block.
In these pages, in addition to financial advice, I share my story: how my father spoiled me, how I married a jerk, divorced him, was left with two kids and no clue what to do for a career, how I was stunned when my father died and we learned the real state of his finances, and then how I found a job as a broker and worked like crazy to make up for two lost decades.
I am living proof that life on your own can be hard, but that it can be very satisfying to confront your challenges and forge new successes. Yes, it’s painful when reality forces you to be constantly realistic. And managing my own expectations is hard sometimes --- I didn’t expect to be raising kids at this age, nor did I dream I’d be working this hard. But watching the kids flourish in their new life is a satisfaction without price.
I want every woman to have what I do --- pride and purpose. And, though it doesn’t sound as important as pride and purpose, a budget and self-discipline. Hard to achieve? Not once you have someone cheering you on. Not once you understand a handful of basic principles.
You don’t have to become my client to master the principles that will help you get more control of your money and your life. Just keep reading….