In Jane Ellegard’s 34 years as a wealth and investment adviser, she noticed that many women seemed to glaze over or be uninterested in talk about money when attending meetings with their husbands. Ellegard realized there was a gap in women's financial education and a barrier to the male-dominated financial industry. However, 80% of women will at some point be in charge of their finances because they will be single, divorced or widowed.

Ellegard, who grew up in International Falls and attended the College of St. Scholastica for her bachelor’s degree, decided to leave investment management and launch Ellegant Wealth in the Twin Cities in 2019, where she coaches women to become engaged and confident about their financial journeys. She has a master's in business administration from the University of St. Thomas and is a certified financial planner and career coach.

“Oftentimes, as girls, we grew up hearing that girls aren’t good at math,” Ellegard said. “I have so many women today still say to me, ‘My brain just doesn’t do numbers,’ and then they extrapolate that they can’t manage money.”

Now, I will admit, I am bad at most things related to money, so I talked to Ellegard about her expertise, as well as her new book, “Financial Empowerment for Women: Your Guide to Courage, Confidence & Wisdom!” In the book, just like in her business, she helps women overcome the “money mindset” that says they can’t learn about finances, which she breaks down through the six pillars of financial empowerment:

  1. Explore your money beliefs

  2. Establish financial goals

  3. Know your net worth

  4. Spend with purpose

  5. Learn to speak investments

  6. Protect and plan

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Ellegard uses analogies and terminology deemed “female friendly” without dumbing it down. For example, she said that the word “budget” sounds like a punishment, similar to how no one likes the word “diet.” Instead, she breaks it down into Tomorrow’s Treasures (goals and what you are saving for), Past Promises (what you have already invested in, like a car or mortgage payment), and anything leftover is for Today’s Joy.

For women just starting out in learning financial independence, no matter their age, Ellegard recommends bringing the topic up at the dinner table or starting a dialogue with girlfriends. She said money can be a taboo subject, but having someone else involved while doing in the exercises in her book, especially a spouse, can make things easier. The divorce rate is 50% in the United States, and Ellegard said money is a common factor in relationship friction.

Another great place to start, she said, is by simply asking questions and not being afraid to admit when you don’t understand something. She also recommends getting involved in conversations about insurance, investments and estate planning if you aren’t already.

“If you don’t understand the basic concept, it’s hard to take it any further,” Ellegard said. “Once you actually start to understand the concept, it makes it more interesting and you can engage more with it. Nobody knows your financial situation better than you do, so if you’re not engaged in the conversation with your spouse, father, financial adviser — whoever — things will get missed.”

Ellegard’s book is available on her website, ellegantwealth.com, and from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. She said people have been buying multiple books to give as gifts, for collaborative financial planning or for book clubs, so she’s running a buy five, get one free special right now.

Laura Butterbrodt covers health and business for the Duluth News Tribune. Contact her at 218-723-5320 or lbutterbrodt@duluthnews.com.