Working for Justice

Q&A with Debrah Farnell

Posted February 27th, 2015 by in Employment Discrimination.

Many women in this country have a complicated relationship with money. Research tells us that women fear becoming bag ladies, even when they are not even close. Women are less likely than men to initiate salary increase negotiations, and whey they do they’re labeled as bitches. Overall, they are less likely to be socialized in financial matters and less likely to be financially literate than men. So I was excited to talk with Debrah Farnell after hearing her speak at a recent event about her work as a financial advisor. Debrah is a registered representative and investment advisor representative of H. Beck, Inc. Securities and investment advisory services offered through H. Beck, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. DKM Planners, H. Beck, Inc., and sanfordheisler.com are unaffiliated.

In 2008, Debrah started DKM Planners, which stands for the names of her and her two daughters, Katherine and Morgan. The mission of the company is to “help women gain the confidence to manage their finances and achieve the kind of retirement they’ve always dreamed of.”

Kate: Can you talk with me about what inspired you to help women become educated about money and financial planning?

Debrah: I saw my grandmother struggle with money; it seemed she never had enough. I saw my mom doing the same thing. And when I was in my early twenties, I did not have a lot of financial skills. I was not planning for the future, and I realized that I did not want the same thing to happen to me. I did not want to arrive at retirement without having what I needed.

So I took it upon myself to learn what it takes to be on strong financial footing. I didn’t want to worry about money; instead, I wanted to plan for my future. Later, I taught the same money skills to my two daughters. I teach them that women do not have to be afraid of money. I teach them to reach out and get the information they need to assure themselves they have a solid foundation. I got involved in this work because it was very important to me to stop the cycle of generations of women without financial skills.

Kate: Can you talk about particular financial skills that you have seen women master? Or particular challenges they seem to face?

Debrah: I find that many women are very good savers. They save and save for their retirement. But women often have so many other priorities and distractions that get in the way of financial planning. We work. Many of us care for children or a spouse. We do things to exercise and to enjoy our lives. We have so many competing demands on our time that we often do not have the chance to determine whether what we are saving will take us where we want to go.

Kate: What do you mean when you say that—that we do not know if what we are saving will take us where we want to go? If we’re good at saving for our retirements what more do we need?

Debrah: Again, women are great at saving money, but many still do not know if they will have enough for their retirement. They do not know if they will need long-term care and if they will have enough for it. They are working and saving but do not have an overall financial plan. This can create several problems. Without a financial plan, women often save at the expense of feeling free to live the way they want to in the present. They do not have a sense of security. These women cannot rest safe in the knowledge that they have what they need in place in case the unexpected happens.

Kate: That makes sense—I can relate to that. What do you see motivating women to reach out for help in getting a financial plan?

Debrah: Many women are pushed into getting their financial life in order by a major life event. Maybe they are transitioning jobs, getting a divorce, moving, dealing with a death in the family. Other women reach out because their finances have been weighing heavily on their minds and a friend has encouraged them to take action.

Kate: What is something that you wish more women would know?

FA_with_granddaughter-76226-1Debrah: Whatever their situation is, there is a way all women can live their lives in a way that makes sense for them while saving for their retirement. Women do not have to compare themselves to others. Many women think that if they haven’t saved a certain amount by a certain time, the situation is hopeless. That is not the case. I want them to know they’re capable of taking charge of their own financial future.

* * * * *

I think Debrah’s great advice is particularly timely. Women are more likely than ever before to be household breadwinners, but recent studies suggest that we have not taken the steps necessary to feel comfortable making financial decisions. In other words, while our families depend on the money we earn, we do not feel comfortable that we are managing that money as best as we can.

As a lawyer who regularly represents women subjected to unfair pay, I will continue to fight so that women make as many men and, in turn, have as much to save. In the meantime, I think it is important for all women to take Debrah’s advice and learn how to maximize the money they do make.

Kate Mueting

Kate Mueting

Kate Mueting is a Partner in the Washington, DC office of Sanford Heisler Sharp. Ms. Mueting is responsible for managing much of the KPMG gender discrimination litigation and also represents employees in other individual and class discrimination and overtime cases. Learn More

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