The need for financial literacy hit home when I realized professional, independent women bringing home the bacon (and cooking it up the way we want to) rarely discussed our finances with each other.
By Lena Rizkallah (Founder, Money Moxie)

A recovering lawyer, my path to personal finance was long and windy. Over the years, I’ve served on the “nerd squad” of several financial companies where my role was to present, consult and write about estate and trust planning, tax policy and retirement.

While my audiences were mainly financial advisors and their clients, I have always had a passion for working with business owners and women — primarily because they are under-served but vital contributors to our economy.

More recently, the need for financial literacy hit home when I realized that my friends and I – professional, independent New York women bringing home the bacon and cooking it up the way we want to – rarely discussed our finances with each other. While we had no problem spending long evenings chatting about men, sex, food, shopping and work, the subject of retirement never came up; neither did investing in the market, managing debt or setting a budget.

Since coming to NYC over ten years ago, I have definitely experienced my share of financial setbacks, unnecessary splurges, and nights out when I visited the ATM twice! Being young, professional and single in NYC is like being on Temptation Island; it’s easy to talk yourself into living beyond your means.

Over the years, I realized that the best way to take control of my spending, set savings goals and save for retirement, is not to make more money, but through education and focus on the financial strategies available. I wanted to share this knowledge with women to spare them the mistakes I’ve made in the past, so last year, I gathered a few friends for an impromptu dinner. Over chili and wine, we discussed our attitudes towards money, saving for retirement and investing, and thereafter, I launched Money Moxie.

Money Moxie provides non-coma-inducing education on personal finance for women and small business owners. Our specialty is “pop-up personal finance;” we lead educational workshops in our casual space, as well as conduct in-house seminars for companies to educate their work force. We have also co-hosted events that feature experts on health, fashion and art, as well as finance, so there’s something for everyone.

But let’s face it; learning about mutual funds can be quite dry! Money Moxie provides different formats to make financial education accessible. We hold workshops and boot camps on budgeting, investing and retirement, and (coming soon) webinars on debt management and credit card respect. In addition, last summer we launched a “salon series,” like a ‘smart’ happy hour, during which attendees sipped wine and engaged in a guided debate on various topics like the economy, the elections and the health care bill.

In November, we will introduce a fourth component, the café, which will be a forum for women to discuss more personal topics like what to know if you’re a first-time home buyer, how to negotiate a raise or promotion and budgeting for the single girl.

When I launched Money Moxie, I was already familiar with the popular websites on personal finance geared towards women. Websites like Daily Worth and Learnvest are a great way to gather information and learn (and I always encourage attendees to check out and utilize these sites) but I believe that people – and women especially — are likely to be motivated to take action when they are part of a supportive community that also encourages accountability.

While I get a thrill leading a workshop or salon and talking finance, the most rewarding aspect of my work happens after people leave the workshops. In several cases, women have attended a workshop and the focus on finance stays with them such that they end up taking on a task that we never covered in class. One past attendee made it a point to research and sign up for health insurance; another spent a weekend reorganizing her past tax files; another researched banks and converted an old 401k to an IRA at a bank that gave her cash back.

It can be quite challenging to get women and entrepreneurs to attend workshops but it is amazing the changes people make once they do.

Women 2.0 readers: Do you discuss your personal finance with friends, coworkers or family? Let us know in the comments.

About the guest blogger: Lena Rizkallah is the Founder of Money Moxie. She hosts personal money management workshops that empower women, small business owners and artists to take control of their financial future. The casual interactive workshops focus on smart budgeting strategies, credit card respect, investing and retirement planning. She blogs at Money Moxie. Follow her on Twitter at @moneymoxie.