“Lean In?” How About Simply “Don’t Lay Down”

“Lean In?” How About Simply “Don’t Lay Down”

Sheryl Sandberg’s 2013 book kicked off a public discussion on what it means to be a successful woman in the workplace, and it provided strategies and motivation for women to get ahead in their careers.  More specifically to the financial services industry, Sallie Krawcheck has done some amazing work with her company, Ellevest, and has written some eye-opening articles detailing her experiences of successfully scaling the corporate ladder in the male-dominated world of Wall Street. 

I applaud both of these women – and all women – who are pushing the conversation forward and who are brave enough to shine a light on gender inequalities in the workplace.

I do not have the achievements of these women, and therefore do not have the platform that they both have access to, but I do ask myself from time to time, “What am I doing to promote gender equality?  How am I proving to our children every day that Mommy can do everything that Daddy does?”  My husband and I co-founded a consulting firm that we think will have a hugely positive impact in our niche market.  I have held management positions at a multinational conglomerate, I was a financial advisor to high net worth clients and business owners, and I operated a successful equestrian business for ten years that paid my college tuition.  I am a mother to two beautiful children.  I am a wife.  I cook, I clean, I juggle four calendars, I manage all finances for both our business and our home, and I am also solely responsible for exterminating and/or removing any and all insects, spiders or creepy crawly critters that enter our house and its surrounding perimeter (sorry for outing you, honey!). 

If I’m going to be perfectly honest, most days I’m too damn tired to even think about gender equality or my place in the workforce.  While our son knows that Daddy goes to a big office building every day, he knows that Mommy takes conference calls and sends emails from a little desk in our small guest bedroom.  While Daddy goes on big airplanes, Mommy stays home take our daughter to her medical specialists or to oversee the nurses, therapists, teachers, and caretakers that come by the house every day to work with her; and to make sure the business and household run smoothly while he is away. 

Some days, all I want to do is lay down and sleep.  Other days, all I want is to lay down and cry.  Sometimes I just want to lay down to read a book or a magazine or surf the web.  It would be so nice to lay down and catch up on the phone with a girlfriend from time to time or just lay down and not move for an hour...But I don’t.  There’s just too much to do.

Many people like to sit back and strategize how they will achieve their long-term goals.  Others like to plan their next job after they leave their current one.  Some people like to complain about the size of their paycheck compared to someone else’s.  While all of these activities have their place, more often than not it leads to “paralysis by analysis.”  Planning tends to lead to more planning, and too often, no real action ever happens.

I try to make a little progress every day. Every. Single. Day.  Did we reach out to a new prospect today (or even better, did a new prospect reach out to us)?  Did I research a new treatment plan for our daughter?  Did our son learn something new?  Did the laundry get done?  Did we publish a new article in an industry publication?  Did the groceries get bought and put away?  Did I remember the milk?  Are the financials ready to be sent to the accountant?

I probably won’t be profiled on CNN anytime soon, highlighting all I have done for women in the workplace, but I am very proud of what I accomplish every day for my business, my family, my household, and myself.  If we can multiply my daily accomplishments by every hard working female out there, we are a true force to be reckoned with.  If we can draw attention to all that we accomplish on a day in and day out basis, the public consciousness will quickly realize there is no “gap” in productivity.

To combat gender inequality in the workplace, women don’t need to do more; we simply need to continue to do every day.  Do not lay down. 

Women like Sheryl Sandberg and Sallie Krawcheck have continued to stand up, have a voice, and persevere.  By refusing to lay down, women voicing their accomplishments on whatever platform is accessible to them will further validate and solidify our achievements.

Now I am off to research “firetruck airplanes” for my three-year-old son, who’s requesting to see them this weekend.  Do they exist?  I have no idea, but he’s pretty confident they do!  On to my next mission!

Larissa Marcontell Sonnen
Advisors in Transition
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Larissa Sonnen is Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of PFI Advisors LLC. She handles the day-to-day operations of the firm and provides experience and expertise both in t ... Click for full bio

Retirement Planning Has Its Limits: How to Prepare

Retirement Planning Has Its Limits: How to Prepare

Retirement planning is one of the issues that commonly leads clients to consult financial advisers. One of its essential aspects is creating a plan to save and invest in order to provide a comfortable retirement income. Ideally, this starts many years ahead of retirement, even as early as your first paycheck.

As retirement comes closer, planning for it expands to take in a host of other considerations, such as deciding when to retire, where to live, and what kind of lifestyle you hope to have. When retirement becomes a reality, the focus shifts to carrying out the plan.

All of this planning is crucial. Yet, for both financial advisers and clients, it's good to keep in mind that planning has its limits. In the post-retirement years, it may be helpful to think in terms of preparing for old age rather than planning for it.

The older we get, the more important this distinction between planning and preparing becomes. Too many life-changing things can happen without regard to our best-laid plans. Often they occur unexpectedly, resulting in emergency situations where urgent decisions have to be made. A stroke or a fall, a diagnosis of terminal illness, a broken hip that leaves someone unable to go back to independent living—and suddenly, right now, the family needs to find an assisted living facility, arrange for live-in help, or sell a home.

What are some of the ways to prepare for these contingencies?

  • Explore housing options well ahead of time. Find out what assisted living, home care, and nursing home services and facilities are available where you live and whether they have waiting lists. Have family conversations about possibilities like relocating or sharing households.
  • Research the financial side of these options. Investigate the cost of hiring help at home, assisted living facilities, and nursing care centers. Find out what is and is not covered by Medicare and long-term care insurance. For example, people are sometimes surprised to learn that Medicare does not pay for nursing home care other than short-term medical stays.
  • Designate someone to take over decision-making, and do the paperwork. Execute documents like a living will, medical power of attorney, and contingent power of attorney. Update them as necessary, and give copies to your doctors, your financial planner, and appropriate family members.  
  • Start relatively early to downsize. Well before you're ready to let go of possessions or move into smaller housing, start considering what to do with your "stuff." Focus on the decisions rather than the distribution. There's no need to get rid of possessions prematurely, but decide what you want to do with them—and put in writing. Do this while it's still your choice, rather than something your family members do while you're in the hospital or nursing home
  • Do your best to practice flexibility and acceptance. No matter how strongly you want to live in your own home until the end of your life, for example, it may not be possible. The physical limitations of aging can limit our choices, and even the best options available may not be what we would like them to be. It is a profound gift to yourself and your family members to accept these realities with as much grace as you can muster.

Finally, please don't underestimate the importance of planning financially for retirement. Because the bottom line is that you can't plan for all the things that might happen as you age, but you can prepare to deal with them. One of the most useful tools to cope with those contingencies is having enough money.

Rick Kahler
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Rick Kahler, MSFP, ChFC, CFP is a fee-only financial planner, speaker, educator, author, and columnist.  Rick is a pioneer in integrating financial planning and psycholog ... Click for full bio