The Confessions series is designed to introduce a successful woman. Regardless of her age, race, religion, class, ethnicity, or wealth; just a successful woman with her own definition of success. From a young entrepreneur to a mature woman with a blissful career, all of them are role models
Barbara Stewart, CFA is one of the world’s leading researchers on women and finance. During the 2009 financial crisis, she was frustrated by media depictions of women as powerless creatures lacking knowledge and confidence. To set the record straight, she has researched, written and published an annual series of Rich Thinking™ white papers, launching every International Women’s’ Day. Eagerly anticipated, these papers have changed the global conversation around women and finance, with Barbara’s interview-based research showing that women now earn their own money, invest in their passions, and “are not risk averse, they are risk aware.”™
What early life events have influenced your view of wealth?
The thing that sticks out most in my mind is a weekly event that occurred in my home when I was growing up. My father worked for the Canadian government as an engineer and he would come home on Wednesday (payday) afternoons and hand my mother an envelope of cash. This was her ‘housekeeping money’ for the week. Maybe it had something to do with the way he handled this interaction but it always struck me as a rather demeaning thing. He had all the power in the household because he earned the money.
What role does work play in your life?
I have always loved working. I applied for my first job (as a cashier) as soon as it was legal – on my 16th birthday. Certainly there have been times in my career that were more fun than others but on the whole I would say that work and particularly having the ability to make my own money are integral to my sense of self.
If you could solve any problem, what would it be?
Gender equality. I feel that we are living in an unnatural way! It is absolutely crazy to me that in 2017 we are still having to push for things like more women in leadership positions and equal pay for equal work.
What have been non-financial influences on your efforts to build wealth?
I am a fitness fanatic and this is my number one priority in life. I am no good to anyone if I don’t go out for a run or do some sort of workout on a daily basis. There have been times in my career that this meant saying no to an important client meeting and it is possible that I could have ‘moved up’ in the world in a different way if I had been 100% available for all meetings. Maybe I could have been richer as a result. But I would have been a miserable person!
What do you most enjoy in terms of spending?
I spend almost all of my free time with my husband Duncan. We have arranged our lives together because this is what we both want. All of our discretionary spending money goes to travel and that involves many dinners with great wines in interesting places.
What can money not buy?
I must agree with the Beatle’s song that money can’t buy me love. And although Duncan and I have worked hard to afford our romantic lifestyle of travel and adventure, if we had to change our lifestyle for any reason we would still be in love.
What defines someone else as wealthy?
I honestly don’t think that I can answer that question for anyone else. It is such a personal thing. I have worked with hundreds of high net worth clients over the years in my role as a portfolio manager. Everyone has their own way of approaching life. Maybe people are wealthy when they are living according to their values.
My wealth makes me feel ………………
Happy! I am proud of the fact that I have made my own way in the world and that I don’t have to ask someone else for ‘housekeeping money.’ This honestly makes me so happy!
What part has your gender played in the development of your wealth?
It is difficult to know for sure but my impression is that my gender has actually given me a bit of an edge. I have been in sales positions in the financial industry for 25 years and although it is more common today, it is still a bit different for a customer to hear investment advice from a woman. As long as you have similar qualifications and expertise, I think it is easier for a woman to stand out and be noticed.
What does wealth give you the freedom to do?
For me and for so many other women, freedom is the number one goal. Success for me is having the freedom to define, create and finance the life that I truly want. I made the decision to leave my job as a portfolio manager a year ago so that I could spend more of my time doing my own proprietary research and speaking internationally on the topic of women and finance. I could not have made this change without having achieved a certain amount of wealth.