Kirstin Carley and Jen Estrada are sponsors of South Surrey Financial Divas

Education priceless for Financial Divas

Local group holds workshops for women on money matters

Recognizing that finances can be a confusing – if not intimidating – subject for some, a number of female professionals have joined forces to empower local women with financial knowledge.

The South Surrey/White Rock Financial Divas not only help publish a free quarterly magazine on money matters – a collaboration with other Financial Diva chapters – but also hold monthly seminars in the community to educate women about everything from estate planning to home selling and purchasing.

The local chapter of the non-profit organization is run by a group of sponsors representing various financial fields, including real estate, accounting, home staging, and debt and bankruptcy services.

Jen Estrada, who brings expertise from her work as a mortgage broker, said women of all ages and backgrounds are invited to the free seminars, held every third Thursday (except July and August) at Semiahmoo Library.

“It’s an open forum for women to ask questions in a non-threatening environment,” Estrada said.

The concept began when businesswoman Kelly Landry started a two-page financial newsletter for women on Vancouver Island.

It eventually became a magazine and led to the formation of coffee clubs, where women could discuss and learn about markets, business and other money issues.

Financial advisor Kirstin Carley expanded the movement to the Lower Mainland about two years ago, when she was searching for a way to reach out to women.

“I was looking for something more broadly based to educate women in the community.”

The mainland chapter was formed, issuing its first magazine issue last year and organizing its own coffee clubs.

“As the groups grew, we branched out,” Carley said.

Financial Divas now has branches in communities throughout B.C. – including Langley/Cloverdale, South Delta, Richmond and Vancouver – as well as in parts of Alberta, and is currently awaiting the launch of its new, interactive website.

Sponsors on each team write articles for the organization’s magazine, and their annual fee is used towards its publication and distribution to grocery stores, libraries, coffee shops and businesses.

And not all sponsors are in financial professions.

There are therapists, life coaches and, in one chapter, a chocolate-shop owner.

Anyone is welcome who adds value to the Divas’ readership and shares the desire to help others, Carley said.

“The primary reason someone would want to get involved is to give back to the community without wanting anything in return.”

Which is why sponsors are not permitted to solicit attendees, Estrada said.

“It not our goal to get them as a client.”

Those attending the workshops have various degrees of financial knowledge, and it is not uncommon to see women who are forced to handle their own finances for the first time after losing a loved one or going through a divorce, Estrada noted.

Each workshop is presented in laymen’s terms to make topics easy to understand, allowing those attending to make well-informed financial decisions, she added.

“It’s good for them to know what’s going on.”

Up to 20 people are invited to sit in, Estrada said, but the groups have had as few as just three to four people.

“It’s meant to be a small, intimate meet up.”

Carley has seen firsthand how much of an impact such sessions can have.

One of her clients, a single mother, had been going through a divorce and career issues upon attending Financial Divas meetings.

“She had never had a handle on her finances – she did not care for finance,” Carley said. “Once (her husband) was gone, she was left with not knowing where to start and what to do.”

That woman is now in a new career and financially stable, and – in a recent meeting with Carley – became teary eyed when reflecting on the accomplishments.

“Now she’s holding herself much higher and (is) excited about the changes instead of being fearful,” she said. “It makes me feel really good.”

The more knowledge people have, the more confident they become, Carley said, which is why it’s never too late to learn.

“I think people procrastinate about things they don’t understand, and that can create fear. If you let something grow into a bigger problem, it gets harder to solve.”

Local women wanting to learn more about finances can start with the South Surrey/White Rock Financial Diva’s next workshop June 16 at 7 p.m., called It’s Not Rocket Science.

“It’s an investment class for women who don’t like investment classes,” Carley said.

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