Peek In Your Purse

Cindy McField-Asamoah views  herself as a minimalist. “I don’t carry a lot of makeup or other items in my purse. I have an iPad 2 that I sometimes carry, and a BlackBerry Torch that I carry everywhere.” The 37-year-old married New York real estate broker switches up her purses according to her outfits, but they’re all hobo style–large crescent-shaped handbags with a long strap. “I need a large handbag because I often travel with my son [2-year-old Kaleb].

I am carrying things for both of us.” A vice president with the Corcoran Group in Brooklyn, New York, she keeps her wallet or clutch organized. “It doesn’t have sections, but my money is grouped together in one area, my credit and debit cards are in another, and my receipts are all in another.”

Why should it matter what’s in McField-Asamoah’s handbag? Robin A. Young, a certified financial planner, says a “purse check” is one way women can do a quick financial assessment. Financial behavior often reflects how you feel about yourself, says Young, president of Women Behaving Wealthy in New York. Money is personal and emotional–and what you carry around every day says a lot about your relationship with it.

For example, the credit cards McField-Asamoah carries in her purse are indicative of her challenges with debt. She admits that she was a frivolous spender before her son was born. “I tightened the purse strings because a lot of money now goes toward his needs.” McField-Asamoah is expecting another baby this summer. She avoids department store charge cards and currently has a MasterCard and American Express card. She pays with cash whenever possible, often using her debit cards, as she pays down her debt, including a $10,000 MasterCard balance.

An independent contractor, McField-Asamoah has a SEP-IRA account through Merrill Lynch to which she contributes on average $20,000 annually when feasible. She also contributes 10% of her paycheck to savings, mostly joint accounts with her husband, Kobla. The couple lacks structure. “We have goals in place but not a step-by-step plan for achieving them,” she says.

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