Barbara Huson: ReWire – Women, Wealth & Power
Imagine you wake up to find that your husband has blown through your entire inheritance, went abroad, and left behind a $1 million tax bill. Oh, and you signed joint tax returns so that bill is now yours. Welcome to the nightmare situation in which Barbara Huson found herself. But she’s here to tell us how she turned those lemons into lemonade. Barbara not only paid back the entire tax liability, but she’s also shared invaluable lessons about women, wealth, and power with thousands of others over the ensuing decades.
“Just because money comes to us, doesn’t mean we will use it; doesn’t mean we’ll use our voices. Take your seat. Use your voice. Make a difference and use your money as a tool for doing so.”
Announcer: The true WELLth podcast is made possible with support from Brighton Jones, helping clients, colleagues and the global community liberate your life. To learn more about how you can liberate your life, visit brightonjones.com.
Barbara Huson: I just stopped and this voice in my head said, “Go for greatness.” Now, huh? I swear, I swear, it said again, “Go for greatness.” I ran back to bed, I took out my journal, and I said, “Oh, my God. I have been so pursuing this path of fame and fortune, of wanting to make millions, give millions, help millions,” but that’s not what my soul wanted. That was my ego. My soul was starving.
Manisha Thakor: Hello, and welcome to the true WELLth podcast. The goal of our show is to help you find your own unique path to becoming healthy, wealthy, which we spell W-E-L-L-T-H-Y, and wise. We do this by bringing you expert voices who approach the topic of wellbeing from a wide range of vantage points. Insights from some guests may feel instantly comfortable and of immediate use to you. Episodes with other guests, however, may feel discordant or out of your real house. Ironically, these episodes are often the ones that inspire the biggest ahas for listeners, simply as a result of considering a topic not normally front of mind, from a whole new angle.
Manisha Thakor: For a number of our listeners, I have a hunch that this episode which, at its core, is about women, money and power, may well fall into that latter camp. If so, I urge you to keep listening with a spirit of curiosity for as Socrates famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Manisha Thakor: As you heard in the intro snippet, today’s guest is a very energetic and charismatic woman. At age 71, Barbara Huson has had quite the life journey. I could tell you about the numerous books she’s written around the topic of women and money, or about overcoming under earning, a unique program she created nearly 15 years ago that still, to this day, has a cult-like following. Or I could talk to you about Rewire, her latest framework for helping women embrace their financial power through a unique combination of neuroscience, psychology, neuroplasticity, and even, yep, spirituality. But to really get a sense of today’s guest, and discover nuggets of wisdom that you can use to enhance your own life, it’s best to hear Barbara’s story directly from her.
Barbara Huson: So, I was raised in a wealthy family. My father, along with his brother, was the founder of H&R Block. My father was the R, the H was uncle Henry. The only advice he ever gave me about money was, “Don’t worry.” And of course, under that was the unspoken assumption that there’ll always be a man to take care of you, which I loved because I didn’t understand money, I didn’t want to deal with money, money was not my thing. So, there was always a man. First, my father, and there was my husband, and my husband was a stock broker, so he was perfect, right? But I found out very early in my marriage that he was a compulsive gambler, and even after I found out he was a compulsive gambler, and I stayed with him for 15 years. I continued to let him manage the money, my money, my inheritance, because that’s how terrified I was about anything with money.
Barbara Huson: After our divorce, 15 years later, I decided money’s not my thing. Same thing, money’s not my thing, I don’t want to deal with money. Well, I had this theory, if you don’t deal with your money, your money will deal with you, and I got tax bills for over a million dollars. Tax money, ex didn’t pay for illegal bills he got us in, my signature was on everything. I did not have anywhere close to a million dollars by that time, nowhere close. My ex had left the country, my father wouldn’t lend me the money, I had three daughters, one was just a baby. I was not going to raise those girls in the street. That’s when I knew I had to get smart.
Barbara Huson: This was a shock to my system because here I was, 38, 39 years old, and I wasn’t supposed to worry about this. I would go to classes and read books, and my eyes would glaze over, my brain would fog up, and I would just feel totally stupid.
Manisha Thakor: So, what changed?
Barbara Huson: I was a journalist, writing for the San Francisco Business Times, and I got hired for a freelance project to interview women who were smart about money. I mean, I couldn’t make that up, and those interviews changed my life. I not only got smart about money after interviewing these women, I have been managing my money ever since, with help from financial advisors.
Manisha Thakor: Fast forward, and Barbara goes on to have written six bestselling books, and a very healthy income as a keynote speaker, financial coach/ therapist, and sought after thought leader. In short, she became a shooting star in the space. So, as Barbara’s star soared, I wondered about her experience with the concepts of more and enough, specifically the way the ego can so easily start pushing us to want more success, more money, more fame.
Barbara Huson: You don’t quiet the ego, you can’t quiet the ego. It will never shut up. I want to go back to something you said, contentment. I remember 40 years ago, I heard a minister, unity minister say, “Be content but never satisfied.” And I have used that as a … I don’t know, it’s a path finder for me. Let me tell you, I believe that all of us have two voices in our head. One is the ego and one is the soul. Now, our ego is not bad, our ego came to being when we were a little child, and our ego is there to protect us. It learned how to protect us because as a child, our whole thing was about survival, and the way we survived as a child was getting love, attention, and approval.
Barbara Huson: So, we learned very on, and our ego helped us learn how to get love, attention, and approval. For me, it was nice girls don’t talk about money, it was children are seen but not heard, so it was always not to speak up. But what helps us survive as a child would suffocate as an adult, so while our ego wants us to survive, our soul, it just wants us to soar, it knows we’re safe. So, the key is not to try to quiet the ego because you can’t, because the way most of us try to quiet the ego is by addiction, by busyness, by workaholism, by substance abuse. That’s how we try to quiet but if you could just get quiet because your ego always speaks loudest, and it is always the voice of fear. And the soul, which is a voice of love, needs you to be quiet.
Barbara Huson: You don’t have to quit your job but you need to have time to sit in silence, you need to eliminate all but the essentials, and just listen, see what your soul has to tell you. And I’m telling you, for most people, that’s health, that is pure health because what happens is not only in the quiet that you find your purpose but in the quietness, you meet the demon that you’ve been avoiding.
Manisha Thakor: The sponsor of this podcast, and a firm I’m so proud to work for is Brighton Jones. Known for being an industry innovator, the firm has a strong commitment to a program called Women Living Richer Lives, and the next segment of the show embodies the heart of that initiative. Now, while you may not be part of the 51% of population who are women, trust me, you’ll want to keep listening to the next portion of this episode. That’s because you are about to hear the kind of raw and uncensored conversation around women, money, power, and even Prince Charming, that bubbles up when women get together to speak from the heart, specifically about their finances. You can think of this next segment as a view from behind the curtain.
Manisha Thakor: I have a friend who’s been working in the financial services industry for almost 30 years now, and in a profit link role, so her income varies wildly. As a managing director to well-known firm, in a ‘bad year’, she may earn $250,000, and in a good year, she can take home $750,000. She drives a luxury car, and she vacations at the top resorts, and looks like the proverbial million bucks, and yet, she has virtually nothing in savings. I’m like, “Honey, what are you doing? You work in the industry, you know the steps, you know the power of compounding, you know how to invest. That’s what you do for a living.” And you know what she said? She said, “Manisha, I’m so embarrassed to tell you this but deep down, despite all of my professional success, there’s this fear, this nagging feeling that I have which I know is totally irrational, that if I start saving for my retirement, it’s like admitting to the universe that I’ll never meet the right man.”
Manisha Thakor: Oh, Barbara, it’s so fascinating and ironic because it wasn’t until she actually took her finances seriously, in her 50s, that she met the most amazing man. Well, let me just say, I think you really hit on something that’s very underdiscussed, and especially among smart, educated professional women. I’m not quite sure how to put it, and I actually feel embarrassed to say I’ve most certainly felt it myself. There’s some female Prince Charming dynamic going on for a number of us that I don’t know if it’s in our DNA or our primal brains, or if it’s good or bad, but I just know firsthand that it’s there.
Barbara Huson: I want to tell you what I think. I don’t think it’s a bad thing but I think it doesn’t serve us. It doesn’t serve us because what we do is we project our power and our capacity unto a man, and we want a man to save us when actually, we have the capacity to do just that. And when we take that power back, because it’s not about the money, it’s about the power. When we step into our power and become good stewards of our money, we change. You take control of your money, you take control of your life. I remember interviewing a woman, she made $750,000 a year, this is from my book, Secrets of Six-Figure Women, way back in 2000, the year 2000. She was making $750,000 a year, she was an executive in Hollywood, executive in the movie industry. She said, “Barbara, I feel like I’m one step away from a refrigerator carton on the street.” I said, “How is that possible?” She said, “My biggest investment are shoes and new markets.” She said, “I forgot to save.”
Barbara Huson: Because Prince Charming doesn’t need to be a man. Prince Charming could be anything we think will come along, and rescue us financially. It could be just an inheritance, usually, it’s just this amorphous something. The reason I say it’s not bad but it doesn’t serve us is it takes away our peace of mind. It takes away our sense of power and purpose. It robs us of this peace of mind that it is not fair to us.
Manisha Thakor: It’s funny, I can remember right out of undergrad, I was interviewing at Goldman Sachs, and they were looking at my resume. While I studied economics, I also, essentially, had this dual degree in women studies as well, so when they were looking at past summer internships, they said something along the lines of, “Your resume looks like a social worker. Why on earth are you interested in investment banking?” I remember saying really clearly, and this was back in 1992, “Because money gives you a voice and a seat at the table, and I feel like I can do so much more good if I have that base from which to support the causes I believe in.”
Manisha Thakor: And you know what? It was like, case closed. Not one person questioned after that, and I’ve never forgotten that sense of stepping in, however it comes out your self or your mouth that stepping into that place of owning it. I have to say, in my experience, the universe sure did listen because from that point forward, it worked.
Barbara Huson: That’s the work to be done. Just because money comes to us doesn’t mean we will use it, doesn’t mean we’ll use our voice, that we will take our seat. Because that’s what I want women help women to use their voice, to take their seat, to make a difference, and to use their money as a tool for doing so.
Manisha Thakor: So, what’s been your experience as a woman navigating the financial services industry as a client?
Barbara Huson: I remember when a pollster who was working … This way years ago, my first book came out, so this is 20 years ago but he was doing a big poll with one of the major financial firms but I never did find out what it was, on other women and money. And he had contacted me because my book, Prince Charming Isn’t Coming, had just come out, so he wanted to pick my brain. I remember one of the times we’d talk, he had just come back from a series of focus groups, and I said to him, “What’d you find?” He said, it was a shock, “Wow, when it comes to money, women are really emotional.” And it was like, well, duh. The financial industry doesn’t get this. For women, it’s very emotional, and when women show up at a financial advisor’s door, it’s often because it was a crisis that pushed them to do that when they’re in no shape.
Barbara Huson: So, for women, it’s not just the practicalities, it’s who they have to become, to become a good steward of their money, the internal changes they need to make. And I think the financial industry, which is so male dominated, not that there aren’t enlightened men in there. My financial advisors are both men, and they are amazing but the financial industry is all about sales, it’s all about performance because that’s what men want. They want performance, they want sales, they want to be right, they want to beat their poker buddies. But women, we are all about relationship, we are all about getting to know you. We are all about forming that relationship, and the financial industry doesn’t get it.
Barbara Huson: I think women take a lot more time but we are so loyal. Once you got us, you got us, and we’re referring all our friends to you too. So, I just think that the financial industry does not know how to talk to women, they talk to them like they’re men.
Manisha Thakor: It’s ironic. These days, it feels like every financial firm has a women’s initiative, and there’s a solid business case behind it. I’ve heard this over and over, you probably have to, over the next 30 years, we’re going to experience the largest intergenerational wealth transfer in the history of the world, and statistically speaking, the majority of that money’s going to end up in the hands of us women. Yet, most of these firms aren’t having success, so what gives?
Barbara Huson: I know, that’s what pisses me off. We have all these women’s programs. Someone just called me the other day, some big company, and they wanted me to do a women’s program but they weren’t doing it for women. So, anyway, they don’t get women, but you know something? Women like Sallie Krawcheck, and she’s spreading the word on major TV, she is spreading the word, it’s going to change. It’s going to change, and those companies, those financial firms that don’t get it, they’re going to be lost in the dust, just like those who didn’t realize that Amazon was powerful.
Manisha Thakor: Reflecting back, my conversation with Barbara covered three broad themes. The first was her own personal story of loss and redemption from a financial standpoint, in terms of her sense of self and self-confidence, and her journey to finding purpose and meaning in life. What I found so inspiring about the comments Barbara shared with us was her willingness to be open and transparent about topics so often swept under the rug. It reminded me of something Scott Kriens, the chairman of Juniper Networks and founder of 1440 Multiversity, said in a previous true WELLth episode about the power that comes from stepping out behind the screen, and facing your fears head on.
Manisha Thakor: Like Scott, Barbara’s practice of stepping into rather than running away from one’s dark shadows has resulted in great personal and professional growth. That, in turn, left me, and potentially you as well, wanting to dust off the cobwebs and some of those dark corners, and clear them out for good.
Manisha Thakor: The second theme we hit on was the role of the ego, how to be successful and humble, how to strive for accomplishment, and yet be detached from result, how to stand tall in success, and not let your ego propel you to unhealthy elevations. In short, how to deal with the conundrum so many of us struggle with consciously or subconsciously, whether our work is in a corporate skyscraper or in our family home. So, I found it deeply human to hear Barbara say that after spending 71 years on this planet, she had concluded the goal should not be to silence the ego, that this was unrealistic, but rather, as a unity minister once said to her, be content but never satisfied.
Manisha Thakor: That jolted me, yet as she elaborated that being purpose driven from a place of contentment is very different than being purpose driven from a place of frenzy and fear, I suddenly felt as if the Rubik’s Cube of achievement and contentment was finally starting to come into place. And lastly, on the topic of women, money, and power, like Barbara, it’s been frustrating to me to see how little progress the financial services industry has made over recent years, in meeting the needs of women. Yet, on the flip side, it’s also been surprising to me, to hear a number of women state that they are very offended by any effort to treat women’s financial needs as different than men’s.
Manisha Thakor: Clearly, as 51% of the population, there are a lot of us women on the planet, and we most certainly are not all the same but I found a deep sense of insight and hope in hearing Barbara highlight two tangible and powerful reasons why the financial services industry should not stop trying to rewire its approach to working with women. Reason number one, the statistically documented propensity of women to be both loyal clients or long-term revenue streams in business speak, and reason number two, women’s demonstrated track record of having higher rates of referral to their advisory firms than men. When, and these final points are absolutely the linchpins, when that firm takes both the time to get the elusive formula right, and when that firm has the patience to honor what the data clearly shows, that at least for now, in the majority of cases, it takes longer to establish financial trust with a prospective female client than a male. To translate that into the bottom line, it means the sales cycle, to use a brutally clinical term, from prospect to client is longer for women but it can also generate a higher return on investment over the long run.
Manisha Thakor: This episode has been particularly wide ranging in its scope by design. Our hope is that hearing the discussion around one or more of these topics will inspire you to rewire your thinking in a relevant area of your life, and bring you closer to your own unique state of contentment.
Manisha Thakor: To learn more about Barbara, visit our show notes at truewellthpodcast.com where we will have links to Barbara’s website and all of her books. If you’re not already receiving her weekly words of wealth and wisdom, I highly encourage you to sign up for them, and again, you can find that link at truewellthpodcast.com where wealth is spelled W-E-L-L-T-H. If you like this episode, we’d appreciate it if you referred the podcast to a friend and/or left us a written review on iTunes. That goes a long way towards helping other listeners like you find us. I’m Manisha Thakor, and that’s it for this episode of true WELLth.
Announcer: true WELLth podcast is made possible by Brighton Jones, a wealth management firm founded 20 years ago, in Seattle. Today, Brighton Jones offers wealth management services that go beyond the balance sheet to service clients and offices from coast to coast. Today’s show was produced and edited by Stan Hall, with help from Michael Stubel, Marc Asmus, Chris Sylvester, and John Dougherty. To get in touch with the team, visit truewellthpodcast.com.