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Reflections & Realignment – Happy New Year!

Happy-Green-New-YearThis time of year is always a favorite around here, not just for the festivities and joy that always seem to accompany the holiday season but also for the precious extra time spent with family and friends, relaxing, catching up and just enjoying each others’ company.

The holidays offer a much-needed break from our regular routines, which in turn always bring a fresh, new perspective and the opportunity for reflection and realignment of values and priorities.  I’m always reminded of what is most important to me because of all the positive feelings and happiness this time of year brings. 

Values & Priorities

It’s far too easy to get off-track and caught up in this world of distraction and pressure.  In an effort to try to ‘do it all’ or to please others or to ‘do the right thing’ or sometimes without even realizing, many of us add items to our daily workload that really aren’t in alignment with what we value.  Moreover, we add without subtracting or adjusting to help keep our lives in a healthy balance, both physically and emotionally, at work and at home.  

Have you ever had your nose so closely to the grindstone that when you finally look up you wonder, How on earth did I end up here?!

Since we can only do so much, it’s important that what we choose to do is aligned with what we truly value.

Reflection is a powerful tool.  Taking time to think about what is and is not serving you well is the first step to designing and living your best life.  That’s YOUR best life.  Not the Jones’, not what your mother or me or some guru or anyone else thinks is best for you.  If you take nothing else from this post, remember that your life does not have to be patterned in a certain way or resemble anyone else’s life.  

Sometimes we think we want or need certain things like a particular job or car or house because it’s expected or it’s the ‘next step’ on the road to success.  Unfortunately, that’s the kind of thinking that can lead us into a vicious cycle of unnecessary consumerism and debt and general unhappiness.  Success can be measured in many ways but I believe it ultimately comes down not to how much stuff a person has, but to simply being happy.  

In a previous article, I talked about living and spending in accordance with personal values and priorities.  Spending is an important part of living here in North America.  How we choose to spend our time and our hard-earned dollars has a direct impact on our quality of life and overall happiness.  Reflecting on personal choices and making sure that our actions and spending of time and money is in alignment with personal values and priorities is, I believe, the key.

Reflect & Realign

Take some time this holiday season to really think about what you truly value:  Education?  Travel?  Independence?  Work?  Family?  Health?  Examine what each one means to you and think about its current place in your life.  Be honest with yourself and try not to think about what is ‘right’ or expected; just focus on what is important to you.

Reflect on those values and on your top priorities.  How do they factor in to your life today?  Do your current goals reflect what is truly important to you?   Does your current routine reflect your highest priorities?  If you value time with family but are spending all your time at work, then your actions and choices may not be in alignment with your values.  Where might you need to make some adjustments?  

Don’t stress if you feel your life is a little ‘out of whack’ and certainly don’t compare yourself to anyone else!  Realigning your choices with your values and priorities may take some time depending on how long it’s been since you last reflected and how far off track you may have wandered.  Simply identify what needs to be adjusted, make the changes you can now and then incorporate the rest into your list of goals for 2013.

“No matter how long you are traveling down the wrong road, when you figure it out, turn around.” ~ Turkish proverb

Holidays, breaks and vacations allow us to take a step back from our everyday projects and challenges, and to really see the big picture of our life.  Enjoy this special time of year and make sure you are spending your time and money on the things that make you truly happy!

 

699-happy-new-year

 

 

 

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Why Women Make Great Investors

Women really do make great investors.  Why?  Because investing is about more than just math and numbers.

Women are becoming more and more deeply invested in their own financial success for many reasons:  Careers are being pursued and marriage is being delayed, divorce rates are higher than ever, single-moms and women who are the sole or main breadwinner in the family are increasing, cost of living is rising steadily, job security is virtually non-existent…the list goes on.  There are no guarantees in life and situations can change drastically in the blink of an eye.  Independence and self-sufficiency are more than just words; they are a gateway to freedom.  Women are no longer content or willing to be dependent on others for their quality of life.  

A lot of the Myths about Money & Women floating around out there are simply false.  Statistics show that women are blowing the stereotypes out of the water when it comes to money and investing:  Women are MORE likely to join a retirement plan, women save on average 10% MORE than men, women actually spend LESS than men, and women are MORE likely to diversify their investment portfolio.

True power and independence happen not when you HAVE money, but when you know how to MAKE money.

Just ask any lottery winner or divorcee who has blown through a divorce settlement trying to sustain a champagne lifestyle on a beer budget!  A lump-sum goes away pretty fast when there is nothing in place to replenish it.  The first step is learning about Assets & Liabilities; the next step is doing something with that knowledge.

As Rich Woman Coach Nichole explains in a video Coaching Tip about Women and Investing on Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad website, there’s a lot more to successful investing than just numbers and calculations.  The Rich Woman coaches identified their top 5 characteristics that make women great investors:

  • Asking for help
  • Planning
  • Multitasking
  • Diligent research
  • Value shopping

Let’s take a closer look at these strengths, how they each contribute and add up to a Great Investor Profile:

Asking for Help.  Women typically know how to ask for help when they know they need it.  And in my experience, more often than not, they prefer to ask other women.  Have you noticed all the networks and clubs and resources that are geared towards supporting women in financial and business endeavors?  The Daily Worth, WomenOwned.com, Ladies Who Launch, National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), My Wealth Spa to name a few.  Many of these were created or developed just in this past decade.

Women seek and value mentors that can support and assist them in a non-intimidating, non-judgmental forum.  Although men often view women’s lunchtime or evening gatherings as a sewing circle gossip session, women frequently use friends and colleagues as sounding boards for new ideas, thoughts and perspectives.  Brainstorming and round-table sessions are becoming more and more mainstream, even in the ‘Old Boys Club’ organizations because there is strength and power in teams and in seeking outside opinions and help.

Planning.  Most women become good planners by necessity.  Often in addition to full-time employment or business ownership, women take on, or inherit by default, the monumental task of running the household, juggling kids activities, making and keeping family appointments, planning and organizing family vacations, meals, etc.  It takes a lot of planning and organization to make sure everything runs smoothly from day to day and week to week.

Investing demands a similar kind of planning and organization to be efficient and get the most out of your capital.  The ability to make and stick to short and long-term goals is important but having a system to monitor and track it all is priceless, especially when it comes to finance and investing.

Multitasking.  Women are also known to be exceptional multitaskers.  Handling several issues or tasks at once is all in a day’s work for most women.  This translates well into the world of investing because there are always many different things going on in many different markets and across many different asset classes.

Women who are able to see various market factors and how they can affect an investment will be much more able to predict possible outcomes and proactively make adjustments as needed.  Diversification is also easily appreciated and accepted by women who are more likely to hedge their bets as opposed to going for the glory in a single ‘Hail Mary’ home-run move.

Diligent Research.  Women know how to do their homework.  They are used to budgeting, comparing prices, finding the right pediatrician, school, camp, mechanic, gardener, insurance, etc.  In finance and investing, this means that women know how to investigate and identify investments that will work best for them.

Investing involves a LOT of research.  ‘Due Diligence’ is an investment term that refers to the process of verifying data presented, investigating the investment parameters and terms so that the investor can make an educated decision to purchase or decline.  As a real estate investor, I screen and analyze literally hundreds of properties before finally deciding to offer in on one or two.  Diligently investigating the investment and the people involved is a crucial step in protecting your investment funds up front and finding a good fit for your specific purposes.

Value Shopping.  Warren Buffet once said, “Price is what you pay; value is what you get.”  Women seem to intrinsically know how to stretch a budget and shop for bargains.  They are aware of what’s available, what the going rates are and will go clear across town to get something at a discount.  Women know that it makes sense to get a designer gown at half price if they are willing to find and sew on a couple of missing buttons.

Investing for value or value-add opportunity follows the same principles as shopping for any kind of bargain.  You need to have a good idea of the general market value so that you have a benchmark to evaluate the investment you are looking to purchase and know when it’s priced below its true value, or when a few simple steps are all it takes to realize its potential (add value, like sewing on a button).  Once you know what to look for, it gets easier to spot the gems.

Finance and investing may seem like a spider’s web of intricacy and detail but understanding the rules and knowing how to filter out the junk makes it a lot easier.  Women have the skills and qualities to excel in the investment arena on their own terms.  Women really do make great investors!

~ Eleanor Roosevelt ~

Making Time for Business & Family

Hello, Holiday Weekend!  So good to see you again – it’s been way too long!  I’m looking forward to catching up…and not feeling guilty for taking time off work!

The great thing about running your own business is flexible scheduling.  The tough thing about running your own business is…flexible scheduling.  Family demands somehow manage to creep into the workday.  Work demands (especially the ‘administrivia’!) often get pushed to the weekend or evening when you can work without interruption or distraction.  The demands never seem to end; there is ALWAYS something else to be done and it can be really hard to keep everything in check without going a little nuts.

There are times when I look back longingly at the days of punching in on a time clock.  Things just seemed so simple back then.  You worked when you were at work; you were off when you went home.  You got paid for the hours you put in.  No need to think about the upcoming quarter or reporting or payroll or making decisions.  Boundaries were clearly defined and made it relatively easy to know when to make time for the demands of work and when you dealt with everything else.  As an entrepreneur, those lines quickly get fuzzy.

Dealing with issues as they come up is one way to get things done but it usually means reacting to events and people instead of being proactive and in control.  Flexible scheduling does not mean no scheduling.  It’s kind of like tax time – the more prepared and up-to-date you are, the faster and easier it is to file the return, and the more likely it is you will do it accurately and efficiently.  It’s the same in business.  Someone once told me that the secret to being a successful entrepreneur was self-discipline and time management.  That concept, like the board game Othello, takes a minute to learn but a lifetime to master.

Small business owners wear many hats.  I’ve come to realize that it’s crucial to your business and your sanity to respect each role and dedicate a little bit of time each week to working on specific tasks for each hat, for both business and family.  Notice I said ‘working on’, not ‘completing’.  An on-going business, just like a family, is never actually a finished product.  It will grow and change and evolve, priorities and tasks along with it.  Just like juggling, keeping everything in motion requires that you regularly handle every single ball (task), even if it’s just for a short time.

Making a plan or schedule and sticking to it can really help you stay organized as well as dedicate specific time to personal, family and business matters.  It’s much easier to balance your life when you can actually see it in front of you.  It also reduces your anxiety and stress knowing that important tasks and events won’t be forgotten and that there IS enough time to fit everything in.

  • Plan Daily/Weekly/Monthly/Annual tasks.  Some things need more time than others.  Some things need to be done more frequently than others.  Figure out what works for your strengths and your business and your family and plan accordingly.  Kids and employees alike really respond well when they can anticipate what’s coming up.
  • Be Realistic.  Set up for success by giving yourself the time it actually takes to do the task.  Consider outsourcing personal or business tasks (bookkeeping, writing, groceries/meals, cleaning, etc.) if it makes sense.
  • Be Disciplined.  Stick to the schedule.  If you plan an hour for a lunch meeting, keep it to an hour.  If you set aside a day for the family, don’t bring home work.  You have to respect your own time and trust your own schedule if you want it to work.
  • Give yourself a break.  Not just scheduled breaks (which are important), but mental ones as well.   Don’t beat yourself up when you stray from the schedule.  Things happen and unfold even with the most disciplined of entrepreneurs.  Adjust accordingly and move on.
  • Build in Catch-Up sessions.  Make sure you include a daily or weekly block of time to tie up loose ends or account for unexpected adjustments.  Just knowing that there will be time to finish something up later can help your business and your blood pressure.
  • Review.  Things change, including people and schedules.  Things work for a while, then they don’t.  It’s less stressful to simply recognize and accept when something isn’t working so that you can try something different.

It doesn’t matter what you start with, it just matters that you start.  By no means am I a master of life balance either.  I struggle with all the things above and am constantly trying to find a ‘just right’ formula.  If you have any ideas or tips to add, I welcome and encourage you to comment below and share them.

That being said, it’s now time for me to ‘unplug’ and spend some scheduled time with family and friends.  Thanks to my schedule, I can rest assured that my business won’t suffer while I enjoy the weekend and have some fun!

 

 

Women & Business: Too Nice to be Successful or Too Successful to be Nice?

I’ve read and heard a lot about women and success lately, most recently in the form of a TED video by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.  She talks about the lack of women in business leadership, and suggests that women could be making better headway in the corporate arena if they change some key behaviors and make a concerted effort to get in the game.  I agree, but think it might go even deeper than that.

The statistics are staggering and still pretty pathetic when it comes to the number of women in power and leadership roles, in executive and corporate positions, salary discrepancies and the like.  It’s easy to blame the ‘glass ceiling’ and the ‘old boys club’ but when it comes right down to it, it’s possible that we women might just be resisting our own corporate success.

Women should be shattering that ceiling and crashing those clubs.  In fact, a post on Daily Worth cites a 2010 economic committee report which found that companies with women promoted to senior positions consistently outperform their competition.  It goes on to highlight the proven success in the corporate arena of collaboration, team-building and mentoring, skills that women naturally tend to use and excel at.  We should be leading the C-suite charge and taking the business world by storm.  Instead, we seem to be consistently undermining our own efforts and thwarting our own potential success at every juncture.

Sandberg suggests that women tend to take themselves out of the game when it comes to business advancement and promotion.  She notes some disturbing patterns and trends and then raises some great questions:  Why don’t women pursue goals as actively as their male counterparts?  Why do we tend to defer to spouses when it comes to domestic situations?  Why do women often capitulate or back off in business settings?  Are we being ‘too nice’?

There are probably as many reasons for it as there are women.  After all, success is actually a very personal and subjective term.  Being successful means different things to different people.  However, one common denominator seems to be happiness in some form, and regardless of the amount of money you make or titles you earn or values you uphold, it’s pretty hard to be happy if you think that no one likes you!

Whether they choose to work inside or outside the home, women often seem to get the short end of the judgment stick, and unfortunately, we women are often the worst offenders when it comes to bashing our own.  Have you ever commented on or criticized the ‘soccer moms’ and ‘helicopter moms’ for not being ambitious enough, or the ‘working moms’ for not being involved enough, or complained that the ‘bitchy boss’ needs to get…a life?  Women need to support each other irrespective of priorities and choices instead of perpetuating negative and counterproductive stereotypes.

In business, successful men are typically seen as confident and assertive, whereas successful women are more often than not considered aggressive and cold-hearted.  The stereotype of the ‘Bitchy Boss’ stubbornly persists and can be found all around us – it’s in movies, magazines, photos, story lines, even in our conversations.  So why on earth would any girl or woman ever want to aspire to be ‘successful’ in business if it means being seen as cold and hard, shunned and resented by everyone around her? 

Historically, success in the business world has also represented sacrifice, most often at the expense of family and relationships.  As a woman, it is often considered selfish to actively pursue work-related goals, but ironically, men are seen as ‘go-getters’ and good providers.  Gasp, what kind of woman/mother would ever put her work or self ahead of the needs of her family?!  She might be successful but at what price?

Guilt can a pretty strong motivator, especially when it plays on our existing doubts or insecurities.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t experience a little self-doubt every now and then.  People tend to put others down to feel good about themselves and to rationalize their own choices.  It takes a very confident and self-assured woman to overcome that kind of guilt, ignore societal prejudice and judgment and feel secure in the knowledge that she is living according to her own values and priorities.   

As Sandberg suggests, maybe women need to be more assertive in pursing promotions, more confident in their abilities and in presenting their ideas, more diligent about sharing domestic responsibilities.  These are positive key behaviors that will serve us well no matter what we choose to do.  Maybe as a society we should judge a little less and accept a little more.

But maybe the apparent lack of progress with women and corporate success is not really about insecurity or refusing to step up to the table.  Maybe it’s a little more complicated than that.  Maybe it’s about rejecting the notion that a powerful, successful business woman must, by definition, also be a bitch.  Maybe it’s about an unwillingness to compromise priorities or to sacrifice family to fit some arbitrary definition of what it means to be successful.  Maybe women DO want it all and are no longer willing to accept less.

Maybe, just maybe, women are collectively rejecting an antiquated industrial corporate model and are refusing to do business in the manner that its always been done.  A recent analysis reports that the number of women-owned businesses has increased by 50% over the last decade and a half.  Company size and revenues have not increased but maybe that’s by choice and design.  Maybe it’s possible that progress via the corporate ladder has slowed because women have embraced the spirit of the Gen-Y Millennials and are actually in the process of redefining success and rewriting the rules to do business on our own terms.

Maybe women are realizing that we can have it all.  It just might look and feel a little different than what our grandmothers, mothers, aunts or even we ever imagined!

One thing is for sure though – it’s a lot easier and faster to succeed if you are the one writing the rules.  We do need strong, confident and capable women in corporate-level and Board positions.  Not to increase statistics or reflect equal representation or even to just show ’em all that women are just as able as men.  Women need to be an integral part of making the decisions and policies that shape the way business can be done and to redefine success.

Author Note:  Check out the TED video by Sheryl Sandberg and share your comments to let us know what you think we can do to help redefine the rules and roles of women leaders.

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