4 Women, 4 Money Points You Need to Know

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I had the pleasure of being a last-minute pinch hitter on the Women and Finance Panel at the 92nd Street Y this past Wednesday, joining Alexandra Lebenthal, Karen Finerman and moderator Julie Menin. (Suze Orman’s emergency appendectomy pulled her away – get well, Suze!) The idea for the evening grew out of informal salons that longtime friends, now business partners Finerman and Silda Wall Spitzer, have been holding to give women a chance to ask their questions – all their questions – about money. Over coffee, Spitzer and Menin (another friend) decided to try to bring the salons to a bigger forum. Later that day Spitzer ran into the head of the 92nd Street Y and – voila.

One of the nice things about this grouping was the very different skills of the women on the panel. Finerman, the president of Metropolitan Capital Advisors, runs a hedge fund and is a noted value investor. You’ve seen her on CNBC’s Fast Money (where they call her the Chairwoman for good reason). Lebenthal, CEO of wealth-management firm Lebenthal & Co., whose last name is synonymous with muni bond expertise, now manages money for clients with between $2 and $20 million. And, despite a few early years on Wall Street, I come at personal finance more broadly and as a journalist. So questions about credit scores came my way. Lebenthal handed asset allocation. And those about BP stock went to Finerman (more on that momentarily).

Here are a few of the things I took away.

There are unseen values in this market. Early in the evening, Finerman commented on how “interesting” she thinks this volatile stock market is. Asked to elaborate by an audience member, she said there are values on quality stocks, measured in p/e ratios – Kraft, Hewlett-Packard, IBM – she hasn’t seen before in her career.

Long-term care insurance is more important than life insurance. That’s Lebenthal’s take. She spoke about couples who save and invest for years only to face a very long – and expensive – good-bye when one of them gets ill. Not having LTCI can erase years or proper planning, she pointed out. And waiting to buy the coverage is often a big mistake. If you acquire a neurological disorder like Parkinson’s, you won’t be able to get coverage at all.

Finance is a great career for women. Finerman started the evening recruiting women to Wall Street and ended it on the same note. Interestingly, she made a point of the fact that careers in big investment banks are not going to give women the sort of flexibility they’d need to not only have spouses and kids – but spend actual time with them. Instead, she suggested paying your dues but doing it with an eye toward eventually finding a partner who will compromise on a schedule that works for both of you.

Even financial advisers understand they may not be the right advisers for you. This comes from Lebenthal, who is one. If you’re looking for an adviser, create short-lists by getting recommendations of people from friends and colleagues. Then sit down with each of them and ask all of your questions about risk, pricing, performance – whatever you want to know. And listen to your gut. You’re looking for a person with whom you feel comfortable. That’s the only way you’re going to be able to have a relationship that’s open enough and honest enough to get you to financial success.

Let’s hope an event like this leads to more events like this! We could certainly use them.

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