Have you ever had a defining moment when you just knew your life would never be the same? I remember the time I was leading a financial literacy workshop called, Smart Women Finish Rich, for the Federal Reserve’s Money Smart Week. This was a very popular topic, so my phone rang off the hook with women wanting directions to the event. In addition, given that I was offering it in an affluent area, something else strange happened. Quite a few women asked if the bus drove by the location of the workshop.

When I arrived at the event, I was told that many of the women had come from the Detroit area, and that they represented the “unbanked,” people who don’t have bank accounts. The Federal Reserve was reaching out to this population in order to teach them financial literacy. I felt really foolish that I really didn’t know anything about this demographic. My clients were all affluent with at least one, if not more, bank account.

Then I wondered, “How in the world am I ever going to reach these women with a seminar called Smart Women Finish Rich if we can’t relate to each other?” I realized then that it was finally time to come out of the closet by getting authentic and telling my story. I had never told any of my peers about my past, and several of them were standing on the sidelines ready to listen to my presentation.
I took a deep breath and looked around at the women’s faces as I began to share my story for the first time. My life was never the same again. There was a shift as I told the ladies about how my father was in the Vietnam War when I was six. He was home and stationed with us at the Army base one winter when he went duck hunting to get Christmas dinner, but he never came home. He drowned in a hunting accident at just thirty-two years old. I was six and my brothers were two and four.

My mother was given enough life insurance to buy a house with cash and a monthly income that was sufficient to take care of us. We were very happy. But she wanted a Prince Charming and ended up marrying a monster. The next nine years were living hell. When there is domestic violence or sexual abuse, there is normally financial abuse, and when my mother finally tried to divorce my father, she was penniless, homeless, and she had breast cancer.

You would think that I would have learned from this, right? But, no. We often go back to the familiar, and I married my own monster. Nine months after our nuptials, I tried to divorce him, but he put me in the hospital. So here I was with no money, no car, and living in a subsidized town house. Worst of all, I had lost my father’s legacy. When he died, I was considered a War Orphan and would receive free college as well as Veteran’s benefits and Social Security while I was in college. But I lost that when I got married.

“How did I get from where I was then to where I am today?” I asked them. “Well today, I am going to show you how. If I can do it, you can too. So, let’s get started.”

After the workshop, half of the women wanted a free consultation, but I did not have a way to help them. It was at that moment I decided to create a program where I could reach out and help women make smart life and financial choices. That was fifteen years ago, and today, that program is Smart Women’s Empowerment and includes this radio show, our expert bloggers, and our upcoming financial literacy course, Unlock Your Financial Power.

Change is normally not fun, but it often takes a wake-up call to get our attention. I want you to think back in your life and identify your defining moment. Have you had one? Do you have a dream that you keep hidden in a box, but it scares you too much? Please share your dreams. Step out of your comfort zone and reach out for support. That’s why we created this program. If you haven’t done so yet, please join our Smart Women Community at www.SmartWomensEmpowerment.org. You’ll receive 100 days of inspirational quotes by women, and every Monday, you’ll receive my Smart Women Smart Choices ezine with our radio shows, articles, and tips.