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Smart Women, Smart Money Empowers Through Financial Literacy

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Life. It happens. Whether it’s a surprise diagnosis, a predictable stage of life change like graduation, or responsible tasks like life insurance, it always seems overwhelming when the proverbial road before us invites a decision about money.

We shut down, break out in hives, and begin to wonder why we didn’t make the phone call to start planning when it last crossed our mind.

But life happens.

Life Seasons: Women From All Over

A group of women in southwest Arkansas is planning to change these surprise moments and better prepare themselves for what could come by attending the Smart Women Smart Money Arkansas conference later this month.

One woman is a cancer survivor, mom to a toddler and small-business owner.

Another has recently divorced and is building her online business, raising some little world-changers in her new community.

A third is about to send her only son off to college and will begin navigating life as a single mom and empty nester while looking in on aging parents.

And finally, a single adult in her 20s, growing community leader, and news director at a local radio station in her first full-time job.

It’s easy to find ourselves in any one of these women’s situations because – life happens.

Murriel Wiley, the coordinator of the group mentioned above, shared why she is looking forward to the conference.

“Now that I’m earning a real salary, I’m ready to make wise decisions with my income, and I need knowledge from experienced professionals to do so. I have never set up any investments or retirement plans for myself, but now that I can hear the age of 30 knocking at my door, it is time for me to invest in myself and learn how to be careful and deliberate with my finances.”

One of the main goals of the Smart Women Smart Money Conference is to empower women for life situations through financial literacy. Even keynote speaker, Mary Catherine Hamm, a CNN political commentator and author, shares in the experience of turbulent life circumstances.

She lost her husband in a bike accident while she was seven months pregnant with their second daughter. This thrust her into a different kind of role, caring for her family while picking up the pieces of the crumbling world around her.

Sometimes changes come along based on intentional decisions.

According to an American Express Open report on the census, there are just over 80,000 businesses in Arkansas owned by women who contribute a combined $9.5 billion in annual revenue. This number is up 88% over the last 20 years and makes up nearly 40% of the businesses owned in Arkansas.

Another niche attracted to the financial conference is young professionals. Nearly 70% of female college students in Arkansas will need coaching for budgeting, saving, establishing retirement plans, building credit and using a debit and credit card appropriately.

The traditional home environment has changed. Mentoring and career counseling programs are a curriculum luxury, and “winging it” has become the norm. All while college loans are growing and credit card debt is compounding.

But small, simple steps taught by local financial professionals in a “been there done that” mentality will begin to get to the core of establishing healthy financial boundaries.

The hope is that piecing together a financial foundation will make for stronger long-term decision making.

The Sandwich Generation

As a baby-boom generation grows, so does the population in the “sandwiched” stage of life. This group finds themselves parenting teenagers and young adults but also beginning to care for their aging parents. It’s a weird place to contemplate your retirement: paying for college while exploring estate plans.

While each of these stages is part of life, they each bring challenges and distinct perspectives on bank accounts, cash flow and investment opportunities.

Wiley continued to share the importance of this type of knowledge empowerment for women.

“Many women may have spent time in their lives as caregivers and not necessarily breadwinners, meaning they haven’t had much experience in managing their finances, and it is important for women to learn how to thrive with a sustainable livelihood source through wise choices. This conference can help equip women with knowledge and skills to prepare for what to do when these issues arise and also, how to invest in ourselves and prevent ‘the struggle.’”

All of those are reasons women will load up and commute together to learn more about empowering themselves.

Saving for retirement, paying for college, taking control of the family finances, starting and establishing a business and determining if there is anything left for a travel fund will no doubt be the topics of discussion among these women on their way home.

Between sips of coffee and a favorite dessert, of course.

Indeed, life happens.

The Smart Women Smart Money conference, presented by the Arkansas 529 College Savings Plan and the Arkansas Treasurer of State office, is being held Friday, Feb. 28, at the Embassy Suites in Little Rock. It’s free for attendees from across the state however, the organizers ask that you register if you are planning to attend.

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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in South Arkansas with her husband and sweet Boxer, Bailey and one-year-old son! Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now she is using all of those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom!

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