Old Hollywood’s glamorous leading ladies charmed the world with their class and sophistication, both on and offscreen, and continue to provide women inspiration for living well and aging gracefully.
Though romance certainly played a part in their stories, these iconic actresses often worked alone to develop their professional and financial successes, at times meeting or even exceeding that of their gentlemen costars. As they say, Ginger Rogers did everything the great Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.
The cast of How to Marry a Millionaire, which starred Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable, was led by Lauren Bacall (herself the wealthy widow of Humphrey Bogart) as the fictitious cash-strapped divorcee Schatze Page. Although this movie parodies three women desperately trying to marry rich men, in real life these three glamorous women were enormously successful in Hollywood.
Actress Hedy Lamarr (six marriages) and the incomparable Elizabeth Taylor (eight marriages) were both single when they died in 2011 and 2000, respectively. Margaret Dumont often played a wealthy widow and brilliant comic foil in Marx Brothers films and was a wealthy widow in real life, too.
This is to say nothing of fabulous, famous, never-married icons like Coco Chanel, who may not have been a Hollywood starlet, but whose influence on perfume and fashion is still being felt today.
These Hollywood legends’ experiences are surprisingly similar to the majority of women. Statistics show that 74% of women are not married at the end of their lives, and 90% of women manage their own money for a period of their lives.
Just like these remarkable actresses, most of the world’s women will have to go it alone, for some time, at some point. So virtually all women can benefit from learning financial literacy, financial planning, and investment.
Financial literacy is the ability to use knowledge and skills to manage financial resources effectively. Women sometimes underestimate their abilities in this area, but they can build confidence through education and engagement.
For women in relationships who hope to promote household harmony, it may be worth noting that money is often cited as a top source of conflict and numerous studies have suggested that couples are happier when they work together to understand their household finances.
To prevent surprises down the road, individuals and couples need to know where their money is going.
At its best, wealth means having the opportunity to be prepared for everything. Married women must face the unhappy likelihood that they will outlive their husbands. This means that it’s important for a woman to have someone other than her husband or his financial advisor to provide advice.
A 2017 UBS survey found that 98% of divorcees and widows would advise other women to take a more active role in their finances.
It also is worth noting that women who control their finances have the power to leave bad relationships, and have the flexibility for personal reinvention, reinvestment, and resetting of priorities.
Having financial freedom and independence means not having to rely on the money of others during hardship or old age.
Older women resoundingly advise younger women to take charge of their own financial investments and to start investing as early as possible.
Women’s fortunes grow when they invest strategically and with long-term horizons. These accumulated funds can be used for retirement, children’s educations, starting a business, or other any other personal goals.
Because women are so adept at running households and businesses, it should be no surprise that women tend to be better investors.
How Conifer Bay Capital Can Help
Our firm’s focus is on advisory services for wealthy families, and my professional focus is on assisting women in all phases of their lives. We have advised younger women just graduating from college who are trying to optimize employer benefits, while also learning how to budget and spend wisely.
After this stage of life, women move into homeownership, marriage, and family roles, where our discussions with them transition to topics of individual versus household finances, retirement planning, and college savings funds. Finally, we serve as a resource and champion for retiring women or those who are widowed or divorced. These women are looking to get on strong footing with their financial future.
Women’s lives are long, complex, and beautiful. They often involve playing roles that were never anticipated. The lessons from our favorite movie heroines of yesterday and today is clear: Regardless of where life takes us, a woman with a sound financial foundation can choose her own next performance.
Lindsay’s Favorite Books on Financial Literacy for Women
- Clever Girl Finance: Learn How Investing Works, Grow Your Money by Bola Sokunbi
- On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Personal Finance by Manisha Thakor