Reclaiming “Wealth”

woman holding coins

photo source: regophotoart’s shop on etsy

A few times a year, I have the honor of teaching a personal finance seminar at my alma mater, Barnard College, in Manhattan.

The class is called “Preparing for Life After College,” and it’s aimed at juniors and seniors. When I walk into the classroom, I’m facing some of the brightest young women in America.

They are beautiful, shiny, funny, eager and they make me want to cry.

Yet despite all their brainpower—which is impressive, let me tell you—these young women still lack financial confidence. (Hey, that’s why Barnard created this course, right? And P.S. the college offers basic money classes, open to anyone.)

During two seminars recently, I asked the students something new—not about money facts and figures, but something more fundamental:

“What does the word wealth mean to you?”

In both classes, nearly every young woman said that she either  didn’t relate to “wealth” or that “wealth was for other people, not me.”

My gut reaction was to scream, NOOOOOOOO! But then I thought, If these whip-smart young women, who voluntarily signed up for this money class don’t identify with wealth, we have a problem.

So I said: You all want financial security (they nodded); you want to be good money managers (they nodded); you want peace of mind (lots of nodding).

That’s wealth, I said.

Maybe it’s time for us to take back the word wealth.

Everyone was quiet for a few moments. Then I resumed the class.

Choose your words. What does wealth mean to you? Do women need to couch “wealth” in different terms in order to get there?

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