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Money Clubs aim to educate women on personal finance

Posted: Friday, January 23, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) The Savvy Women meet monthly at a suburban Chicago library, while the Money Master$ gather at a cafe in Oceanside, Calif.

Both are part of a growing chain of money clubs launched last fall by financial advisers Ginita Wall and Candace Bahr to help women educate themselves about personal finance.

''It's not unlike the Weight Watchers approach,'' said Bahr. She said she and Wall created the non-profit club program for women who generally don't have enough money for financial advisers.

''We wanted them to have a safe place to go, so we created the clubs.''

Women can sign up at www.moneyclubs.com. After joining an online group or locating a club in their area, they can begin working on the 33 ''money zones'' that Wall and Bahr have created. It's all free, and no sales pitches are allowed, they said.

The zone lesson plans prompt club members to discuss topics ranging from money fears to getting organized, cutting expenses, dealing with credit card debt and planning for retirement. Then the women apply what they've learned to their own lives.

''It's action oriented,'' Wall said. ''Our mantra is, 'small steps lead to big success.'''

Women who are participating say they're learning and doing a lot.

Kelly Super, a 26-year-old stay at home mother of twin toddlers, first joined an online club, which she visits when the boys are napping.

''This month we're looking at net worth, next at self-worth,'' said Super, who lives in Minooka, Ill. ''It works like a big support system.''

So far, Super said, she's learned to deal with the credit card debit that ''snuck up on us'' after the twins were born. She's also started a savings account at an online bank. And she's reading books about money, including tactics for investing.

She finds the online club comfortable because ''you don't have to be in front of somebody saying, ''I'm having a problem here.'''

But Super also started the Money Master$ group, which meets monthly at a local public library.

Maru Corrada said she became interested in the clubs because ''I wanted to change how I was living my life relative to money; I wanted to understand it, to be in control of it.''

Corrada, 37, who operates a design business in Oceanside, started the Savvy Women club. Originally a volunteer with the Money Club program, she has since become part-time national club coordinator, paid by Wall and Bahr.

''What's interesting to me is that each woman brings a perspective you wouldn't have seen on your own, and that's helpful,'' she said.

Corrada said, for example, that she had been putting off planning for retirement.

''One woman who joined (the club) sees it as so natural to plan long-term,'' she said. ''She's confident about her future. So why was I afraid of making decisions about retirement?''

Corrada has since begun consolidating the retirement benefits she accumulated at several corporate jobs ''so everything is in one place and I have control.'' She's also learning more about how much money to set aside, and how to invest it.

The clubs, she said, ''become your cheerleaders.''

Wall and Bahr emphasize that women don't have to divulge anything personal about themselves to participate.

''You don't have to disclose your personal situation at all,'' Bahr said. ''Money has been such a taboo subject, and the whole idea here is to get women together to talk about it.''

Wall said the Money Clubs site also offers 21-day makeovers that participants can do individually. The first series is about getting out of debt. Coming soon, she said, is a 21-day series on savings strategies.

So far, about 300 women have completed the debt makeover, she said. Nearly 4,000 have signed up at the Money Clubs site, and two to three clubs are forming every week sometimes made up of neighbors, sometimes different generations of the same family, sometimes strangers.

''Our goal is a million,'' Bahr said. ''If we got a million women actively talking about money, it would be so incredibly powerful.''

And what about the men? Wall and Bahr don't think most men will find their model of gathering and chatting to their liking.

For those men who do, Wall said, ''We've told them to sign up and start a club or join a money club online. We don't want to exclude anyone.''



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