By Sheralyn Schofield Belyeu
“A mutual friend referred a woman to me for advice,” says CPA Brianne Smith. “This woman had no college degree, no family, and no help with her two young daughters. She had never held a paying job. She didn’t know if her name was on her home mortgage and wasn’t sure which bank her husband used. She needed to escape domestic violence but felt that she had no options. She was in despair.”
Smith never spoke to the young mother again. A few months later, she learned that the woman had committed suicide.
The experience left Smith with a passion for teaching women about money, a passion that led her to connect with Women In Training, Inc. Smith supported the mission of WIT from the beginning, and recently provided a seminar and lunch to the WIT Leadership Development Circle.
“My usual audience is a room full of women,” Smith said. This is the youngest group I’ve worked with, but financial training is about the same from ages 16 to 55.”
“Women have incredible financial influence,” she explains. “We control over $20 trillion in spending each year, and women are more philanthropic than men. But we also have more financial challenges. Women live longer than men do, we have lower incomes, and we score lower than men in measures of financial knowledge. Women tend to delegate important financial decisions to other people.”
Smith invites women to break the cycle of poverty by taking ownership of their influence and gain the skills they need to prosper.
“We can’t change our past, but we can get the education we need to take control of our future.”
Smith manages investments with a CPA firm and teaches accounting at Auburn University at Montgomery. Her work gives her many opportunities to speak to clients, church groups, college clubs, and sororities about money and about life.
“I also encourage women to steer clear of toxic relationships. If a person doesn’t like you to know things, you don’t need him in your life. A real man wants a partner who is strong and capable,” Smith said.
She is currently developing a series of workshops for high school graduates. “I cover college prep, budgeting, getting paid, and building personal capital,” Smith said. A few simple principles can make a life-long difference in a woman’s financial security.
Women can start learning money management using free resources, like the links on Smith’s website, https://stronghermoney.com/knowledge-base/, library books, and YouTube videos. Many local churches offer financial counseling. A CPA or financial adviser can be an invaluable sounding board to help women work through the ramifications of different options. She highly recommends that anyone going through a divorce seek professional help. “Attorneys don’t explain all the results of a financial settlement, like the impact on taxes.” She also encourages women to have appropriate insurance policies.
“My mission is to teach women to be prepared for anything. I want you to have options you can pivot to as your life changes,” Smith said.
Financial Principles Smith gave to the WIT Young Leaders are as follows:
Acknowledge your personal capital
Participate in financial decisions
Get formal education and professional training, focusing on earnability
Nurture your skill sets
Maintain professional certifications and networks even if you leave the formal workforce
Practice self-care to preserve your mental and physical health
Understand principles of compound interest to build your savings
Gain financial knowledge
Consider starting a business you can run from home
The author, Sheralyn Belyeu, is a Colorado native who lives deep in the woods of Alabama. When she’s not writing, she advocates building stronger communities through volunteer service. Sheralyn is the JustServe Specialist in Montgomery, Alabama, and connects volunteers with community organizations that need support.