Fifty years ago when Jacquelin Susann’s cult novel “Valley of the Dolls” was published, women did not have many choices in life. Few were out in the workforce and even then, their financial decisions were, in all likelihood, taken by their husbands.
This July, “Valley of the Dolls” will be re-released in a brand new edition that the publishers are hoping to target to a new generation of women in their 30s – women who have many freedoms and choices, including financial, but who nevertheless still have a tough time in figuring out what these are.
That’s where financial planner Patricia Allen, founder of Bay Area firm Paris Financial Planning, comes in.
Allen has made it her goal to help women figure out what they want to do in life and come up with a viable financial plan that enables them to live those choices out.
Choice has always been important to Allen — the only girl among seven siblings raised by a single mother — because she was brought up to think that she would never have any.
“My mother was poor, she had no skills and no education and we lived on welfare,” she says. “I grew up in poverty and in the belief that I would never amount to anything. But I knew there had to be a better way and I refused to settle. I knew I had many challenges to overcome to make choices in life and that most of all, I had to be financially independent.”
She set up her firm, she says, as a forum where women can feel comfortable and motivated to take their financial lives into their own hands to make their choices come true. Her “Life By Design” process is based on frank and open discussions with her clients, she says, the primary topic being determining their goals and values in life.
“We really drill down into these and they can be anything from wanting to travel the world, to health care expenses, to giving money to charitable institutions – they are all the things that women care about and are what motivate and inspire them financially,” Allen says. “Without specifying those goals, without purpose and vision for them, money tends to be fragmented and all over the place. Having goals and making choices is what helps in properly segmenting money.”
Allen’s predominantly female client base consists of business owners, divorcees, widows and other women who have decided that they want to be in control of their finances. For many of them, though, the first step of defining their goals and choices is the toughest step of all and it can take time.
Allen is not pressed, though, for she believes firmly in the importance of fostering and cultivating lasting relationships with her clients. And inevitably, she says, the self-discovery process — no matter how long it takes a client — “gets them excited about their choices and excited about the future. It gives them a new perspective about their money, what it can do for them and how they can use it to lead more fulfilling lives that mean something to them.”
Only after a client has defined her choices does Allen switch the conversation around to investing and to formulating a nuts-and-bolts financial plan that includes the right kind of products to provide a guaranteed income stream for life, one that will provide for whatever a client wants to do in life.