Guest post by Susie Mathias, financial planning intern
“Educated, caring, empowered young women are essential to our world.” Nerinx Hall, an all-girls high school in St. Louis, is built on this belief. Fortunately, attending Nerinx ran in my family. I was the youngest of three girls to attend.
Aside from the obvious advantages of attending an all-girls school—not feeling the pressure to wear make-up, getting to wear uniforms, and all school spirit directed at women’s sports—attending a school built on strong values taught me I could do anything! It gave us unique opportunities and held us to high standards.
From an early age, we were the leaders in our organizations—we were the presidents, the computer wizzes, the captain of our teams, the geniuses behind a water filtration system. Failing was not in our vocabulary. Not because we didn’t "fail," but because we were taught to view it as a learning experience and an excuse to try harder the next time we set out for a goal.
Because I had older sisters, this strong "I am a girl, hear me roar" attitude was instilled in me early. This mindset became a pillar in my family’s beliefs. Around the time I was 5 years old, my family became involved in an organization called Women in Charge. This St. Louis-based organization gives women the skills to take charge of their lives and helps them prepare for their HiSET tests (formerly GED) so “they may provide a better life for themselves and their children.”
When I was fourteen, I became more personally involved in the organization, creating video and picture montages of the women and other showcases for the annual gala. I even had the opportunity to interview two of the women and hear first-hand their experiences, what led them to Women in Charge, and how it changed their lives. I felt honored to be a part of an organization that not only gave them the tools to succeed not just in school, but helped improve their lives.
Like many teenage girls, I was expected to have a job on school breaks. Instead of waitressing tables or working at the local Target, I worked in the community outreach department at a bank. In my position, I had the opportunity to teach financial literacy classes. My background with Women in Charge came full circle when I had the opportunity to teach a class there. The whole experience gave me a different perspective on how we can uplift women through the tools of financial independence.
Many of the women had never opened a bank account or realized the importance of saving up to have an emergency fund. We stressed the “pay yourself first” mantra, which focuses on putting a percentage of money away in savings before buying any “luxuries”- luxuries was a loose term in this context. However, I think most importantly, we talked about time. I fielded many questions about college and what I was studying. They talked as though they were reflecting on a missed opportunity and felt it was too late for them to start that chapter of their lives. We just reiterated that it is never too late to set goals, make a plan, and work towards it - and definitely never too late to get an education.
Through teaching financial literacy at Women in Charge, I experienced first-hand the need for more accessible financial education and planning for women. I didn’t know it at the time, but the journey to my internship at Plancorp started a long time ago. When the Women’s Initiative was discussed during my interview, I instantly felt drawn to their mission and goals. A program that brought women at Plancorp together to help women in their community better understand their financial lives – I couldn’t have imagined a program better aligned with my values.
Throughout my—albeit relatively short—life, I have witnessed the effect education can have on a person’s life and the power it provides. It lifts people up and provides the necessary tools to set goals and have a purpose. Knowledge is power.
When I was asked to write for the Women’s Initiative, I was so appreciative to be a part of helping women in our community! As I thought about what to write, I decided to use this as a platform for encouraging outreach.
So here is my task to you: find a platform to uplift and support a woman in your life or community. It could be as simple as passing on the you-can-do-anything message to your daughter or young woman in your life; finding an organization that supports women in your community in improving their lives and their children’s lives; or writing a kind note to your next door neighbor who always lends a helping hand.
We are all in this together! Through supporting each other and our community, we can help all women find their financial voice.
This post was written by a guest blogger for the Plancorp Women’s Initiative, which strives to advocate for clients and women in the community by addressing topics specific to their financial lives. For more information about the Women’s Initiative and how you can get involved, email email@example.com or visit the Plancorp Women’s Initiative page.