As a topic of conversation, money has eclipsed just about everything else these days—TV shows, sports, the weather. In some ways, predicting the outcome of various recent stimulus measures could be a bit like betting on the Super Bowl—only what’s at stake is the whole country’s cash reserve and possibly our children’s reserves too. And while trying to forecast the end of the recession is at least a little like predicting the weather, at the moment it’s more like three million people standing on a sand dune praying for rain. What we talk about when we talk about money often veers into the realm of fantasy—as in, what would we do if, in the middle of this crazy recession, we happened to win the lottery? (see Rebecca Carrier’s story, below). Or where could we possibly find places to stash our shrinking investments? (see Where to Stash Your Cash).
One thing’s for sure, money is on our minds. It’s certainly in the media, which often keeps economic woes running through our heads in a continuous loop. But we hope that, in the next few pages, the honest portraits of local women and their thoughtful takes on money will be a bit of a departure from the usual national media diatribes. For one, there’s great advice here from some of the smartest women around about how to keep your business (and the rest of your life) in order. At the very least, these stories are proof that, if you’ve spent time worrying about money or serious mental energy wondering where to stock up on silver coins and Beanee Weenees, don’t worry. You are not alone.
An Essay by Jeanne Supin
If my money was my child, I would be reported to the authorities for neglect and abuse. In the last two years, I have stopped balancing my checkbook, ravaged my savings, overextended my credit cards and, at 48, my retirement account remains an ancient government pension to which I have not contributed since leaving that job a decade ago. To make matters worse, my personal financial foibles are magnified by staggering daily reports of our collapsing economy.
by Jess McCuan / photos by Rebecca D’Angelo
It’s a tough time to be a banker. In the last six months, Americans have watched the country’s banking system crumble, with Wall Street investment bankers emerging as the 21st century’s most cunning new national villains. Last fall, for the first time in 80 years, bankers around the country faced the specter of a nationwide bank run, as panicked customers walked into their lobbies and offices demanding to know if their money was safe. “No training could have prepared a banker for the financial crisis of the last year,” says Suzanne DeFerie, who was promoted to president and CEO of Asheville Savings Bank in January 2008 after spending 16 years as the bank’s executive vice president and CFO. Last year, DeFerie, who grew up in Lenoir, held a public meeting called a Fireside Chat, reminiscent of FDR’s radio addresses from the 1930s and ‘40s. Her staff even rustled up a DVD of a crackling fireplace to play in the background as DeFerie spoke to a crowd of nervous customers.
When the economy turns weak, many people, including professional financial planners, look to gold as a safe haven. Laura McCue, president of Asheville’s White Oak Financial Management, believes gold is a great investment right now. “Gold tends to be a place where you can go when the dollar is falling,” she says. Since gold always has value, she believes investors can safely hold anywhere from ten to 30 percent of their portfolios in gold, which will put them in a good position if the dollar falls in value in the next five to ten years.
by Liisa Sullivan
In times of economic tumult, most people hit the panic button. But there’s a special level of alarm reserved for the time when everyone decides exactly what to do with their money. Divvy it up into banks and hope none of them fail? Convert it to gold and bury it in the backyard? We asked a few Asheville financial counselors to help us calm down and protect our (probably dwindling) assets.