When Laura Southall was growing up, her family didn’t have a lot of money, but she knew that one day she wanted to have more. Now in her 10th year as a Kingston financial advisor, she has a new passion: helping others expand their financial knowledge with her second book, Financial Empowerment for Canadian Women.
Southall says the idea for this book came from working with women and finding out that many have a strained relationship with their finances. “I’ve been doing seminars for women for 10 years, mostly financial literacy for women: retirement, investing, that kind of thing, but always for women. And it seemed like there was such a need for this book,” she explains.
She wrote Financial Empowerment for Canadian Women, she says, for every woman who is searching for knowledge about money and who wants to build a better life for herself and her family — from the 18-year-old just starting out, to the 90-year-old trying to settle her affairs, and all the women in between.
“Women want to be educated about money,” Southall says. “We want to take care of ourselves and our families. We know that just making money is not enough; we need to know what to do with it.”
She acknowledges, “Women are making giant strides with money and financial literacy. And in terms of education, too, women are becoming more and more educated, so then they’re getting better and better paying jobs. But they don’t necessarily have the same background knowledge that men might… I’m painting with big broad brushstrokes.”
But why do so many women, in particular, have a complicated emotional relationship with their finances?
Southall says, “It’s a complicated question. When you look back, historically, women have not had the same experiences as men with money.”
Until the late 60s and early 70s, women were not able to open their own bank accounts, nor obtain their own credit cards, she explains. “They often just worked in the home and weren’t in charge of the bigger-picture family finances. So they missed out on experiences with money, and then that sort of gets passed down,” with daughters watching and repeating what their mothers did, while sons followed their fathers.
Traditionally, Southall says, “a man would control the finances in his household… The expectation for a long time was that a father would take care of his daughter until she got married, and then the husband would take care of [her]. So, there was this societal message that women didn’t need to know about money.” However, she points out, the truth is “the exact opposite, because 90 per cent of Canadian women will be solely in charge of their financial household at [some] point in their lives. They really, really need to know — but they don’t necessarily have the background.”
“I think there is a thirst for knowledge. When I do the seminars, women are so excited. They want to know; they want to understand it. They know it’s important, and they know there’s a piece missing for them,” she expresses.
Southall says that as she worked with women, she began to realize they often “have a lot of emotional baggage around money” because of the societal messaging to which they’ve been exposed. “It wasn’t enough to just give them the basics of what they need to know. First, we needed to deal with the emotional baggage stuff, like [them thinking] ‘I’m not good at math. I’m not good with money’… and all this messaging that we received, and [which we] then tell ourselves.”
The first half of the book deals with these emotional hang-ups. Southall works through acknowledging these blocks “and then saying, ‘Okay, now that I know where it came from, I need to know what I need to move forward.’ [However old you are,] you’re at a different stage, but the stages are all sort of laid out for you in the book. And you can go to what you need.”
Will a middle-aged woman be disappointed to pick up the book and realize she has missed a number of “steps” in her financial journey?
Southall simply says, “Yes.” But then she adds that that doesn’t really matter: “It’s like putting a pause on your life for a second and saying, ‘Okay, what are my goals and what are my priorities now? What life do I want? And then how do I get there from here?’ Everybody’s at different stages, everybody has different emotional baggage, and everyone has different basics that they’ve been taught. So [the book] is good for an 18-year-old going off to university, but it’s also good for the 90-year-old who’s reading about [handling finances after] the death of her spouse or how to arrange her money so that it goes to her children… There’s stuff in there for everybody.”
Laura Southall CFP® CLU® is a Senior Wealth Advisor at Assante Financial Management Ltd. here in Kingston. She previously authored the book Rental Properties for Canadian Women and is a financial literacy educator, public speaker, and educational content creator on social media. She lives in Kingston with her husband and three teenage children.
All proceeds from the sales of Financial Empowerment for Canadian Women before Christmas 2022 will be donated to Girls Inc. Limestone, which she calls “an awesome organization… I would have really benefited from Girls Inc., so I feel like it’s sort of paying it forward.” Financial Empowerment for Canadian Women is available at Novel Idea in downtown Kingston, and other places books are sold.