by Wendy Richards-Edwardson | Featured Contributor
Sheownsit.com is a wonderful place to read inspiring stories of talented and fearless young women who are building businesses, relationships and putting themselves out there. Ladies, do you know how truly special and courageous you are?
As a relatively successful entrepreneur who didn’t get going until much later in life, I hope, from time to time, I can provide tidbits of wisdom from the School of Hard Knocks.
So if you are feeling a sense of bravado at the moment, I would ask you to pause and give me your attention for a minute. I know you are all very busy planning, building and imagining spectacular success stories, but this is news you can use!
As my biography suggests, I am a late bloomer, discovering who I was and what I wanted to become after my 50th birthday. Sometimes I think my circumstances were a blessing and other times not so much. Life is full of twists and turns and when you are young, you cannot see the whole road ahead.
Unlike many late bloomers, I was not merely shifting gears and setting out on a new adventure of self discover. Without pointing fingers or making excuses, the truth is I found myself having to give up my home, my savings and all the resources I thought would be in place for my retirement. I was, in the truest sense of the word, broke after 50.
I am far from alone. Female friends and business acquaintances I have known for years are finding themselves in the same boat. The circumstances may not be the same: divorce, disreputable money managers, addiction, bankruptcy or poor health, have contributed to women ending up with little or no resources in mid to late life.
At a recent business luncheon, I recognized a woman (I’ll call her Jane) who I first met over 25 years ago. It so happened that she and her business partner/husband were having work done at the law firm where I was employed. Jane and her husband had a highly successful land development company and her over-confident manner reflected her success.
I approached Jane at our luncheon and asked how things were going. Well, after the marriage failed, so did the business. She ended up declaring bankruptcy and being the sole supporter of their daughter. She is still in litigation with her ex. Jane was a smart business woman. What could possibly have gone wrong? This wasn’t supposed to happen! Jane, like so many others just like her, had put all her eggs and trust in one basket and had no backup plan.
I got no pleasure in hearing this. I too had been an independent, self-reliant woman. I always believed I could do anything! But then again, I thought I had endless years of life ahead of me. There was plenty of time. I also believed that when someone said to me, “Don’t worry about it. I’ve got this.” then there was nothing further for me to do.
I assumed that if I trusted those I loved, believed they had far more business sense and had my best interests at heart, everything would be all right. I don’t know the science behind it but for some reason women still tend to allow others to control their lives by thinking they know better.
After working in the field of litigation law for many years, I can tell you that partnerships usually fail. Approaches to future ideas and money can change over time and partnerships erode. With good contracts in place, protecting your assets and having an exit strategy, you will survive these detours in your plans. Keep YOUR assets in YOUR pockets! I was always told if you want to destroy a friendship, become roommates or business partners. I have found this to be true in both cases.
So here is my advice from the trenches. When someone says to you, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you”, accept the compliment and then ignore it. Take charge, do the work and, under no circumstances, allow someone else to control or guide your life or finances. It is not fair to them or you. Best intentions aside, sh*t happens. You must rely on the one person that ultimately will take care of you. That would be you!
I know it’s hard but fast forward 10, 20, 30 years. If you truly want a successful future, you need a backup plan today. Have you got one? It everything should fall apart tomorrow, you are going to need that Plan B.