Own Your Finances, Own Your Life: In Conversation With Manisha Thakor

Manisha Thakor (left) with co-author, Sharon Kedar

Manisha Thakor is on a mission to teach women how to “own your finances and own your life.” Through her books, articles, television and radio appearances, speeches, and blog –this female personal finance expert inspires women to take charge of their money. Her latest book, co-authored with fellow Harvard MBA Sharon Kedar, is Get Financially Naked. Manisha made time in her busy schedule for an interview with She Takes on the World.

Natalie: Getting financially naked. What’s it all about?

Manisha: If the whole world got financially naked – there would be shrieks galore! In our modern, hyper-consumptive society, millions of people present external images to the world that bear limited resemblance to their true, inner financial reality. During my 15 years working in the financial services industry I met countless people earning not only six digit but even SEVEN digit incomes who were living paycheck-to-paycheck. It was this concept – that if we really bared it all financially to each other many things would change – that was the genesis of the book title.

In terms of the meat of the book, it boils down to this. If you want to have a healthy, intimate romantic relationship you need to communicate with your mate about money. Alas, that’s not the message society gives us. Money is a subject that in many respects is more taboo than sex. When you meet that someone special, people will ask if you are physically compatible, spiritually compatible, emotionally compatible, or intellectually compatible. But rarely does anyone ask if you and your honey are financially compatible. That’s too bad because study after study shows financial issues are often the ones that make or break a relationship over the long run. So the goal of this book is to give readers both a language and a roadmap to traverse the often rocky path that is getting to know your mate, financially speaking.

Natalie: Why is it so important for women to “talk money with their honey” as you put it. I’m sure you’ve heard stories from many, many women.

Manisha: First and foremost, we women face serious financial headwinds. In the U.S. for instance, women still earn a measly $0.77 to a man’s $1.00. Women spend more time out of the paid workforce than men (an average of 12 years) caring for children or aging parents, and then to put a sour cherry on the top… we live longer, requiring us to need an even larger nest egg than men to live out our golden years in peace. On top of this, we women are not encouraged -generally speaking -to actively self-educate about personal finance.

One thing I can’t emphasize enough is that this is an issue that cuts across age, ethnic, geographic, and educational lines – affecting all women. I’ve literally met women running multi-million dollar businesses who have handed over financial control to their husbands only to find out down the road that hubby made poor investments or squandered funds in other ways. I’m not trying to portray women as victims or men as financial assailants -my point is simply that a more ideal situation would arise from BOTH partners having shared responsibility and awareness for household finances.

Natalie: Like you, I grew up in a household where money was talked about and my parents taught me the basics of personal finance. How should parents introduce their kids to personal finance?

Manisha: First, let me caveat that I’m not a parent! However, I am fascinated by the debate in the parenting community as to whether or not allowances should be tied to chores. I heard one woman say she didn’t want her kids to have negative associations with money… like work… and that’s why she felt allowances should be given with no strings attached. My observation has been that the earlier in life a person associates money with work, the better their financial habits. After all, unless a gigantic inheritance rains down on your head, the way the vast majority of us get money is precisely through work!

Another tool parents can use is to make the spending of food or entertainment funds a family project. For instance tell your kids how much you have budgeted to spend at the grocery store and have them shop with you – put them in charge of adding items up on a calculator as you put them in the basket. To me, the key challenge for a parent is to teach their children that money is something that is earned in exchange for work. That simple but powerful link seems to have gone missing over the past few decades and resulted in a culture of unfettered expectations among so many young folks.

Natalie: What advice do you have for getting financially naked with your partner?

Manisha: The most important thing to know is that there is no “right way.” Your goal as a couple is to have a fun and joyful life while living within your means. To do this, you need to each understand how the other one defines “joyful.” For me it’s endless hours in coffee houses reading and thinking about life. For my incredible husband it’s riding his motorcycle off road with his friends. What makes each of our hearts sing is unique. What is universal, however, is the fact that if you spend more than you earn, if your life is financed by debt, if you don’t know where your important documents are stored or whether you have adequate insurance protection in the event something goes wrong… life can become very stressful.

Get Financially Naked presents a 3 step plan for couples:

  1. Understand your, and your mates’, money histories – to know what each of your financial dreams and hot buttons are.
  2. Take a financial compatibility quiz to assess where you each fall in relations to money on three dynamics – knowledge, interest, and behavior – to identify gaps in knowledge and/or possible points of friction.
  3. After this “financial foreplay” get “down to business” by listing what you own, owe, earn, spend, and your credit scores. It’s not a one and done activity but rather something couples should do annually at a minimum. If you need extra help, I suggest hiring an hourly, fee-based financial planner (NAPFA.org and GarrettPlanningNetwork.com are two great resources to find one in your area) to help you through this final step.

Natalie: What is a day like “in your heels?”

Manisha: A typical day for me is full of blue jeans and tee shirts, lots of coffee, and tons of fun. After 15 years in financial services, I left the corporate world in the spring of 2009 to go out on my own in pursuit of my dream of becoming the “Rachel Maddow of personal finance for women.” When a person thinks “personal finance” and “global women’s economic empowerment,” I want them to think Manisha Thakor.

As a solopreneur, I think of each day’s tasks as falling into one of these three buckets: Content, Distribution, Monetization. Right now I’m most focused on the first two buckets, under the belief that if I can help working women not only learn how to manage their money but really get motivated and excited to own their finances and own their lives, the monetization piece will fall into place over time. It’s very important to me that for every dollar I earn, whoever paid me that dollar receives way more than a dollar in value from me. In 2010 my primary goal is identifying what working women want when it comes to personal finance – specifically what gap in knowledge or motivation can I fill to help them live their lives from a place of financial strength.  Looking forward, I’d love to write another book, one that is truly a breakthrough on the feminist financial front and ultimately to host my own weekly 30 minute TV show that informs and inspires women financially on a global basis.

Natalie: It sounds like you will be incredibly busy moving forward and I wish you all the best. Thanks for taking the time for an interview with She Takes on the World.

For more information about Manisha, please visit ManishaThakor.com. Connect with Manisha on twitter @ManishaThakor.

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