Duo aims to empower women

FAIRMONT – Women often take care of their family’s day-to-day finances, balancing the checkbook and paying the bills, but they tend to leave the long-term planning to their spouses, say Julie Leichtnam and Lynne Burgraff, wealth advisers at Sweet Financial.

It’s a scenario they’ve seen again and again, regardless of the woman’s age or education.

The two recently founded Smarter Women, a program designed to empower women of all ages through education and guidance to help them achieve their goals.

“We don’t want a man to be the financial plan for women,” Leichtnam said.

Death or divorce has changed that plan too many times for too many women they know. Just look at the statistics, Burgraff said: The average widow is 56 years old, and there are 3 million divorces taking place each year.

The morning of this interview, Leichtnam had just met with a client in her 40s who paid all the bills, but was never involved with the investments, not until her husband passed away.

Often women in their 20s, 30s and 40s think they have a lot of time to figure out their financial plan, Burgraff said, but people in this generation really need to be responsible for their own retirement, given the iffy status of the Social Security system.

Once a month for its Salon Series, the Smarter Women program will host a seminar or workshop dealing with women’s financial issues. This month the theme was “Margaritas and Markets,” and participants met on the patio at Sweet Financial to talk about financial issues women face and possible strategies to help them build confidence in their future.

“I do feel that women are more apt to ask questions when there are just women around,” Burgraff said.

Finances aren’t the only topic that will be explored through the Smarter Women program. Other topics will include self-defense, identity theft, and how to purchase a car.

More information on the program is available at sweetfinancial.com/smarter_women.htm, or by calling (507) 235-5587.

Smarter Women is open to all women, regardless of whether they are clients of Sweet Financial. The annual membership fee for the program will be waived through the end of 2013.