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A Message from Tiffany Bass Bukow, Founder of MsMoney.com:

Throughout my life, I have enjoyed significant financial success and endured surprising financial failure. Dealing with the success was easy. Dealing with the failure was not, especially when it was unexpected. I have had to challenge my values and work hard to continue to succeed while learning from failure. And I discovered that friends who had been in similar circumstances were my greatest source of motivation.

I hope that MsMoney.com's Success Stories provide you with the same inspiration I received from my friends. Each week, we will profile a remarkable woman who has confronted financial obstacles and overcome challenges to lead a happy, financially secure, and meaningful life.

If you'd like to share your success story, please e-mail us at editor@msmoney.com.

From Healthcare Giver To Financial Caregiver

By Eileen Michaels

Growing up, I never thought much about money. My family always had enough. I don't know how I determined just how much "enough" was, but somehow I did. We had enough for food, clothing, trips to the dentist, used bicycles, and summer vacations in an upstate bungalow colony. My dad worked two jobs, and my mom stayed home. I shared a bed with my grandmother who came to live with us after her second husband died.

I had always wanted to be a nurse, to wear a blue cape and cap and take care of people. My brother was going to be a doctor and I would be a nurse. And when it came to money, I never worried about how much I would earn because I wasn't going to be the primary wage earner. I was going to get married to a terrific guy who would support me. My career was going to serve as additional income to help pay the mortgage in the early years of our marriage. My career would be a labor of love and passion, and money seemed of little or no consequence.

As it turned out, I met a man three years older than I. The year was 1967, he was 23 and I was 20, and the Vietnam War was in full force. I had graduated from nursing school, and my beloved was working in the insurance industry. When I think back, it's hard to remember what we talked about when we were dating. I know for sure that there were no conversations about money, child rearing, or life-defining issues. They were more along the lines of whose mother we'd be dining with on Friday night. Our first son was born in 1969, followed by a second in 1972. I would describe us as a "fiscally challenged" couple, and, as a result, I had to work. My husband and I had different ideas about debt, savings, and financial planning. There was constant disharmony, and the marriage ended after 10 years and many repeated attempts to understand one another.

During the marriage, I conveniently blamed my husband for everything. It worked well. I had friends who even supported me as I blamed "the Prince," as I so fondly called him. After the divorce, I was forced to look at myself. First, I realized that I could not support my children on $136 a week as a nurse. It was shocking to think I had to leave my career and difficult to figure out my next move. I decided to get experience in sales--any sales, just to prove I could do it. Why sales? Because there didn't seem to be any ceiling on what I could potentially earn. The first job I got was selling time and temperature clocks and airline arrival and departure boards. I even sold the Madison Square Garden Scoreboard. When I won a trip to Europe for me and my "wife," the company wouldn't let me take a man. After two years there, it was my pleasure to move on. By then, I was earning $20,000 a year. My next position was working with psychologists at banks and brokerage institutions to create workshops, and thus began my education in finance and investing. Money still made me nervous because it was like a foreign language, but I wanted to master it.

On Memorial Day in 1978, I wrote in my journal that I was ready to take a chance. In my mind, taking care of people (as a trained nurse) could apply to whatever profession I chose. With respect to finance, therefore, I would use the same care and forethought in managing wealth as I did in managing health. I was scared, but I was determined to learn the language of money the same way that I had learned the language of medicine. That was 22 years ago. I went slowly, took classes, and asked a lot of questions. And my healthcare training really helped; I never wrote a financial prescription for someone without first conducting a financial physical. Based on the medical model I was taught as a nurse, I treated money as seriously and delicately as I had health.

Today, as a Senior Vice President for a major financial institution, I am responsible for and invest more than $125 million dollars for my clients, run workshops and seminars, promote my book, When You Are Entitled to New Underwear and Other Major Financial Decisions: Making Your Money Dreams Come True, and write for financial Web sites. In the days when I struggled in an unhappy marriage with two small babies, I would never have thought that I would be telling this story today. What brought me to this place is my belief that having dreams matters, that money is just another language to be learned, that humor heals, and that I can and want to make a difference in people's lives.

 

 

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