A Woman’s Guide to Managing Money

The traditional Leave It To Beaver-style existence of the 1950s had the husband in charge of work and the family investments, while the wife headed up the house and the kids. Old habits are hard to shake, and even in 2009, some women still aren’t comfortable with taking the reins when it comes to financial issues.

“Many women just let their husbands pay the bills and then take everything for granted,” says Harrine Freeman, a credit counselor in Bethesda, Maryland, and author of How To Get Out of Debt: Get an “A” Credit Rating for Free Using the System I’ve Used Successfully With Thousands of Clients (Adept Publishers; $19.95). “But women have to educate themselves about finances. You never want to find yourself in a terrible financial situation.”

Personal finances can be a perplexing subject, never more so than right now. Even Wall Street pros are struggling to figure out what’s going on with the financial system. But at the root of our economic troubles is one simple fact: Many Americans are living beyond their means and just can’t pay their bills anymore.

That’s where you come in. While you can’t control Wall Street, you can control your family’s finances. You’re in charge of what comes in, you determine what goes out, and you say what you invest in and why. In a world gone crazy, your personal decisions matter. “I want women to do what our grandparents and great grandparents used to do,” says Marilyn Logan, who describes herself as “The Money Lady” and wrote the book I Can’t Afford To Marry You: A Guide to Understanding the True Cost of Love (Salo Publishing; $20). “In those days they truly respected money, and they had the skills to handle it. Now we’ve lost that ability, and we have to relearn it again.”

However, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. A single woman just starting out in life has very different money priorities than a married woman with children, who herself has different issues than someone who’s divorced or widowed.

In this special three-part series on women and money, black enterprise will tell you what you need to know when it comes to managing your money (Part I), investing (Part II), and preserving your hard-earned wealth (Part III).

To give you a few snapshots of key financial concerns in action——and how you can meet money challenges successfully——we spoke to women at different life stages.  It’s not always easy to keep your financial house in order. But in a frightening era when the global economy is crumbling all around us, it’s more important than ever.