Photographed by Noa Griffel in New York City
An exclusive essay from the mother of two sets of twins and contributor on CNBC’s Fast Money
My mother’s message about money to her four daughters was unconventional at the time: You must make your own.
As a stay-at-home mom, it was clear she felt her own limitations by not having an independent source of income. She made it known to me from an early age that there was no other way: You must take control of your financial future and be able to support yourself.
In other areas, my sisters and I didn’t always heed her advice. Case in point: “When you’re getting your hair colored, get it really blonde; it doesn’t cost more.” On the topic of money and self-sufficiency, however, we got the message.
This leads me to what I want to convey to you — mothers and daughters alike: Money equals empowerment.
So often I see women who are only too eager to surrender control of their finances. You would never let someone else decide where you live, where you send your kids to school or how you vote. So why would you relinquish your financial power when it touches nearly every aspect of your life?
At some point in their lives, 90 percent of women become responsible for their finances. So being comfortable managing your money is not just important; it’s compulsory.
Remember, ladies: Men are not born with an inherent understanding of finance any more than women are (even if they pretend to be). They just know they can’t get away with ignoring it.
In order to be financially fit, there are some rules to live by: You always need a budget; you always need to have some money saved; and I want you to always have some money invested.
I don’t just mean set aside in a savings account. I want you to learn about investing. Take a small amount of money, buy a stock or a few stocks and follow the stock price. Do your best to learn about the companies you invest in. A good place to begin is by reading their annual reports starting with CEO’s letter to shareholders where he or she will describe the business, the company’s goals and its performance over the past year. If you don’t feel comfortable picking a stock, that’s fine. You can start with a mutual fund. There are lots of good funds out there. For younger women especially, the experience of investing will teach valuable life lessons. You will learn the concept of risk and diversification. You may experience the pain of loss and the joy of gain. And you will learn that you can never have all your eggs in one basket.
My husband and I advise our children to save some, invest some, give some to charity and spend some. We decide how much for each. It’s up to you to decide the ratios for yourself.
Now let’s look at the flip side of saving — spending.
Budget out how much you’re going to spend on clothes, let’s say, before you buy them. But remember that the instant gratification you feel from splurging on a new outfit or iPhone that you truly can’t afford may be short-lived. Fashions change, but having your own money never goes out of style.
And when you live below your means and start to see your savings grow, it’s a wonderful, empowering feeling you’ll love.
(This is my first Mother’s Day without my mother. I’ll never forget what she taught me. Thank you, Mom, for the love — and the curriculum — that I want to pass along to my daughters and sons.)