Helping women get Rich

By Melody Hanatani/ Staff Writer
Thursday, April 7, 2005

Sharon Rich wants women to make wise financial choices.

As the owner of "Womoney," a financial management firm that focuses on women, the Belmont resident has helped thousands of clients solve their financial woes for 21 years.

"Women are very good at taking care of everybody else and we're less attuned to take care of ourselves," Rich said. "But my bias is that you have to take care of yourself in order to be good at taking care of everyone else."

When clients come in for one-on-one sessions, they are asked one important question - what are your goals?

After learning the answer to her question, Rich then establishes short-term and long-term financial goals for her client, and maps out a step-by-step approach to achieve these goals through a process of determining cash flow and net worth.

Rich offers expert advice in several areas including retirement, investments, taxes, insurance, socially responsible investments, inheritance, philanthropy, estates and wills, careers and education, taxes, and homes.

Womoney also provides counseling for clients who have money problems, which can range from how to talk to children about money, to how to share resources in a relationship.

No longer taking new clients, Rich charges an hourly fee and does not make commissions on any referrals or recommendations she makes, or sales of mutual funds and insurance products.

Rich's clientele has grown from miniscule when she started her business 21 years ago and handed out business cards around town, to a list of more than 1,500 people made up mostly of women but also including some men and families.

"It's a business that grew while computers grew," she said. "I started out doing everything with paper, pencil, and a hand calculator.

But even with new state-of-the-art business technology available, Rich admits she has trouble parting from her old ways.

"I use a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet, which came before Microsoft Excel," she said.

Getting to Womoney

While Rich was at Harvard, working toward her doctorate in education focusing on women's psychology, she never imagined she would be named one of "America's Best Financial Advisors" by Worth Magazine - twice.

"I initially thought I would teach in a university," she said, but decided she would not enjoy university politics. "I realized I'm an independent soul and would not be as politically savvy."

For two years, Rich attended night classes at Boston University where she received her diploma in financial planning.

"I got started in this in 1984 while I was still working on a doctorate at Harvard," she said, "and I decided there needed to be a safe place to ask questions about money without someone selling you something."

Two decades later, Rich has co-authored books, has acted as a financial analyst to various publications including the Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg's Personal Finance, and Newsweek, and has remained active in the National Association of Personal Financial Advisers.

Working in an office filled with money management books and finance-theme board games, Rich does her best to provide a comfortable atmosphere for her clients who may be there for an uncomfortable purpose.

"There has to be humor," she said. "Money is not the 'be all and end all.' You have to find what is important in life and be able to laugh about a lot of this stuff."