Why I’m So Thankful My Mom “Went First”

By Melana Carbary

Seven years ago, we said our final goodbyes to my mom. Some days I still can’t believe it. She was a huge part of my life. Ed once said, “I hope I’m not around when something happens to your mom.” Unfortunately for all of us, that day came way faster than anyone would have imagined.

I’m still humbled by the outpouring of support I received during my mom’s illness and since her death. So many of you were a part of that support. Thank you!

In reflecting on my mom’s life, and her impact on mine, I can’t help but think of the work we do every day. I wonder, if it weren’t for her, would I be a financial advisor? I didn’t set out to be an advisor—this was never a goal. I was not applying for financial jobs; instead I was contacted about a position as an advisor. It was not on my radar but seemed like an opportunity worth exploring. I remember talking to my mom about it. She said, “Melana, even if this job doesn’t work out, you are going to learn so much about finances. It will benefit you for the rest of your life.” Wow. How right she was.

I am so grateful for my mom’s openness about money. She wasn’t trained in finances, she was a nurse by trade. But she oversaw the money in our house—both the day-to-day budget and the investing/long-term planning. My dad earned the bulk of the money, my mom managed it. She facilitated a conversation around money. She normalized talking about bills and budgets, how tight (or not!) money was, saving and planning for retirement. She went first.

The Best Worst-Case Scenario

We need more women to go first in talking about money. We must normalize the conversation and normalize our involvement with money. In a best-case scenario, perhaps we can break down some of the barriers around women seeking positions in financial services. In a worst-case scenario, we can bring so many more women to the table. More women at the table means more awareness of and participation in household financials and decisions. More women at the table helps mitigate the issues women face in planning for their future—the impact the death of a spouse can have, divorce, the challenges faced when planning for retirement. The worst-case scenario is amazing! It is the goal of our work here at BRAG and eH.

When women give up control of their finances, the variables are so much greater. The guardrails are further apart. Life is happening to them. Perhaps you get “lucky” and the person you’ve given control to has your best interest at heart. But how many times have you felt that someone’s idea of what is right for you falls so far from what you want? How many times do you wish you could have chosen? This is something you can become involved in, something you can take back some control and choice with. If you don’t do this, it will be done for you—either by someone else, or by negative inertia (doing nothing!). 

Women Realizing Their Power

When it comes to money, our desire is for women to realize their power. Women are controlling an increasingly greater percentage of wealth in the U.S. but are still deferring control to men. Sadly, we have seen it in our own practice! When I talk about women finding their power and having a seat at the table, that could mean different things for different women. For some, just becoming involved in the conversations and understanding what is going on might be enough. For others, taking back some actual control might be right for them. For others, handling their own finances independently might be best. 

“Equal” can mean different things. We strive for equality, but we each get to define what that means for us. What it must mean, though, is having a voice in financial matters. And using that voice to stand up for what we feel is truly right for ourselves. And using that voice to talk about money and encourage other women to get involved in theirs. By doing something so fundamental to who we are—talking and connecting—I believe we can change the outcomes for women in money.

Seven years ago, at the age of 57, my mom left us here on earth and forever changed who I am. Seventeen years ago, I walked into a profession I knew nothing about and found my way into a career helping women. Some of these seven’s feel awfully unlucky, but I can’t help feeling I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing the work I am supposed to do. Work my mom had a distinct role in me doing. Work I know she left this world believing was so important for women, and so needed. 

Begin the Conversation

In honor of my mom, and in response to something I feel so strongly is critical to our advancement, please begin the conversation with money amongst your friends, daughters, nieces, sisters. Someone must go first. Someone must start the conversation. I think you’ll be surprised how well it goes.

And remember that you don’t have to start this journey—or continue it—alone. We at Burning River Advisory Group are here to guide you through these conversations and on the path to financial independence. Reach out today to find out how we can help by calling 216-404-2420 or emailing evargo@burningriverag.com

About Melana

Melana Carbary believes it is time for women to take control of their money and, in doing so, take control of their lives. As a Private Wealth Manager with Burning River Advisory Group (BRAG), Melana helps women maintain financial strength and independence no matter what life throws at them. 

Melana has a particular passion for women experiencing a significant life event such as divorce, widowhood, or leaving the rat race. These transitions bring both financial and personal life complexities with them. The challenge of navigating both effectively can be overwhelming, requiring financial expertise, as well as empathy and understanding. She gets to know her clients on a personal level and collaborates with them to build financial life plans centered on their values and lifelong dreams. Together, they take action and work toward making their dreams a reality. 

Melana’s unique approach puts the client, not their money, in the proper place of prominence—at the top. As she helps her clients organize the puzzle that is their financial lives, she simplifies and educates so they can consistently make smart decisions. 

Melana aspires to help her clients experience life with less stress by taking a burden off their shoulders. Clients can be comforted knowing someone is looking out for them, someone who understands them and who has their best interest at heart. 

Whether her clients are in their happiest moment or their hardest, Melana is there for them, helping them live their lives to their fullest potential.