I admit it. When it comes to money matters, I’m illiterate. I rely too much on my husband to ensure the bills are paid on time, filing our taxes, keeping our credit scores in good standing, etc. When it comes to numbers, I have a tendency to turn the other cheek while hoping I have enough to purchase that next handbag without the embarrassing, “Your credit card has been declined” coming from the cashier in front of ten other customers standing in line. (It’s never happened, but it’s a fear, nonetheless.)
Although I work — I’ve grown too comfortable counting on my husband for everything. The irony is that I pride myself on being a “woke” woman. What a lie! How can I be #woke when at this point in my life I wouldn’t be able to take care of my financial affairs if, God forbid, one day I’m left to have to handle money matters on my own. What would happen to my kids, to my home, to me?
With that in mind I was on a major search for information on how to be responsible with money. Luckily, I didn’t have to look too far before meeting Oraynab Jwayyed — a money management consultant based in Oklahoma (yes, there are Muslim women living there, too!) After reading this interview, I guarantee you will be doing more to become financially responsible.
Muslim Girl: Please tell our readers what you do for a living. I may be naive, but I always thought of this line of work was more geared toward men. How am I wrong – and if I’m not wrong, how is it becoming more popular with women?
Oraynab Jwayyed: I am a money management consultant for women. I help women start on their path to saving and investing to secure their future. What I do is an off-shoot of finance, more in the realms of financial literacy. My job is to build bridges between the financial tools and information available out there and the women who are unable or unwilling to start saving.
Since the 80’s, statistics show that women lag behind men with respect to investing and understanding basic financial concept. There also is a lack of representation in the number of women holding jobs in the industry. So, you are right that it is a man’s world.
Tell our readers a little about your background. What pushed you into the direction you are in now with your work and how is it so important for women in particular?
I hold an MBA and a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. My journey has been an unorthodox one. The direction I took toward a money management consultant for women was influenced by two factors: First, there was my divorce. After 19 years of marriage, I had to start over financially, just like that. Even with my business school degrees, I was terrified of the idea of having to take care of myself and children. I didn’t have control over the family budget pre-divorce, and I wasn’t very astute at managing money.
Before enrolling in business school, I was in a completely different industry. I was also working only part time and seasonal. By the time my divorce was finalized, I was starting at the bottom of the barrel in the accounting industry, which meant that my kids and I would not enjoy the financial security we were accustomed to.
The second factor came when I realized I wasn’t the only woman going through this. In fact, I was surprised by the number of women I ran into in the same predicament. These were women who at one time held positions in management and engineering but, like myself, left behind their full-time careers to raise their kids. Then they were facing divorce and scared as well. I vowed to put my degrees and experience as a single mother to good use. I launched Business Interludes, LLC, started blogging and offering workshops. Then I published my first two books, and I was on my way to where I am now.
Times have definitely changed since our mother’s days of traditional marriage and rearing children. Women need to take a role in their financial security more than ever before. Why do you think there has been a change in societal expectations, and how do you help in dispersing the information needed for women to become more financially savvy?
As a Muslim woman, I notice how much women in our culture are changing. We’re no longer bound by the traditional roles our mothers were molded into. We’re more educated and independent so we don’t need to stay in destructive marriages for financial support. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make divorce any easier.
Many of us are still marrying the traditional way, meeting husbands through courtship, and giving up our careers to raise kids, which makes starting over difficult. That independence comes with a price, but we’re more determined to take that risk than our mothers did.
The new generation of Muslim men are taking notice, so those old cultural expectations are slowly changing. Yet we must still learn to manage our money, pay bills, and raise children alone, and that makes my work even more important. So, I reach out to them through my writing, website, and holding Facebook workshops, where I also post advice on money management. Lately, I’ve become more politically involved to become a greater influence and voice for working mothers.
You stated you published a couple of books for women about money matters. Can you tell me about it and provide a link to how they can order your book? What is the most important message they can take from your books?
I’m working on my third book now, which is a compilation of essays on money management. My second book, “Starting Over: A practical guide for women after a money crisis,” targets women who find themselves thrust in a divorce or separation and must learn to support a household, many times on a small salary. The book has an 8-step guide that shows women how to start on a path to financial success. It covers the basics, such as choosing the right bank account, and progresses to investing and even how to pay for a divorce.
There’s a section about buying a home as a single mother, because it is possible. I know because I purchased one within two years of my divorce with an entry-level salary. In fact, Starting Over is testimony to my own financial challenges and success. Whatever worked for myself and the women I worked with was included, but there is no scripted remedy or false promises. My work encourages women to adopt financial plans and set financial goals that work for them personally, because our experiences are different.
The most important message in my book is that with a little determination and commitment, any woman can become financially successful. To purchase the book, which is sold as an e-book, readers can visit my website at www.businessinterludes.com.
Can you provide our readers with some easy go-to tips that can start them off early in life to be financially secure?
Here are 5 simple ways to start becoming financially successful:
- Invest in automatic savings. Anyone with a bank account and a paycheck can work out a plan with the payroll department to deposit a pre-determined amount into a savings account. You decide how much to set aside from your paycheck and then forget about it. You won’t miss it being deducted from your paycheck because you’ll learn to adjust, and you’ll watch your savings grow.
- Open a company-sponsored retirement fund. By investing a small portion of each paycheck into your company’s retirement fund, you receive free money to save for your future. The best thing about retirement funds is you can adjust the percentage deducted from your paycheck as you please, as long as you meet the company’s required minimum match. On good days, increase your contribution. On bad days, reduce that amount.
- Monitor your spending. Make the commitment to sit at your computer for 15 minutes a week and review your financial accounts. Take note of where your money is going and cut back when you can. You’ll be surprised at how much money you free up along the way.
- Use reward cards to your advantage. Banks are now offering credit and debit cards with a variety of reward points. Some come in the form of cash-back incentives, points to use against your monthly balance, or the opportunity to convert points to gift cards. Find the one that works for you and use it wisely.
- Find a trusted financial advisor. They have a bad reputation after the 2008 banking crisis, but the right advisor will set you on a path of saving. However, you must learn the basics about savings and investing, and be part of the decision-making process. It’s your security on the line.