World's richest moms have lessons for all moms

billionaire momsJust in time for Mother's Day, Forbes magazine is out with a story about the World's Richest Moms.

The article reveals that there are only 70 billionaires on the planet who are mothers, and "just eight of these (women) built their own fortunes." The rest inherited money from their fathers or late husbands.

The Forbes column is a fascinating look at a range of women from varied backgrounds, ethnic groups, and birthplaces across the globe.

The list of the World's Richest Moms includes:

  • Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, who is now running for governor of California.
  • Joanne (JK) Rowling, the British author of the Harry Potter book series.
  • Savitri Jindal, a mother of nine children, and the widowed matriarch of OP Jindal Group, a steel and power conglomerate in India.

Forbes has a slide show of its list of female billionaires, their photos and bios.

Two things struck me most about this list. First, by emphasizing that only eight of the 70 female billionaires "built their own" financial empires, Forbes (intentionally or unintentionally) plays down the achievements of the other 62 female billionaires on the list.

I'm sure that those ultra-wealthy women who inherited great fortunes from their dads or spouses deserve some credit for their roles and responsibilities.

Can you imagine a mom like Jindal, who is now 60, holding down the fort at home with nine kids so her husband could go out and earn a living, building that steel company he founded? By the way, Jindal is now the non-executive chairwoman of Jindal Steel, a unit of the Jindal Group. She assumed that role after her husband, O.P. Jindal, died in a helicopter crash in 2005.

Or what about Abigail Johnson, the granddaughter of the founder of Fidelity Investments? Johnson, a 48-year-old mom of two children, is a powerhouse in her own right. She works at the investment company with her father, serves as chairwoman of the board of fixed-income and asset-allocation funds which oversees roughly $650 billion in assets, and is rumored to be the next head of this well-regarded mutual fund company.

At the very least, these women and the others certainly had to make savvy personal, professional and financial moves -- and avoid certain mistakes -- in order to preserve and maintain the fortunes passed along to them.

I'm not alone in this line of thinking.

"Preserving value through generations is a very difficult thing to do, so they should be commended for that," said John Thiel, managing director and head of the Private Banking and Investment Group at Merrill Lynch.

Thiel should know what he's talking about. His group's mission is to help very affluent individuals and families -- including women -- hang on to their wealth. "Our average client has about $42 million with us," he told WalletPop. The overwhelming majority of those clients are men, Thiel said.

Which leads me to the second point: how many of us women aspire to great wealth the way that men do?

We all know that "money isn't everything." Being emotionally and spiritually grounded, having good health, enjoying loving relationships -- all these things are priceless. Yet the fact remains that without having secure financial footing, it's very difficult to navigate the daily demands of life.

Can you imagine being a billionaire?
A few years ago, I wrote a book called "The Money Coach's Guide to Your First Million." It's a money-management guide that describes seven wealth-building strategies that anyone can use to become a millionaire, and stay rich.

In the course of promoting the book, I actually got to meet a well-known female billionaire: Oprah Winfrey.

I appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show
to give financial advice about how to deal with unexpected wealth -- and the people around you -- when you inherit money or suddenly strike it rich. As Oprah pointed out on the show, 70% of all people who come into sudden wealth blow the money in just a few years.

What's been more astounding and dismaying to me, however, is the number of women I've met at book signings and my financial workshops who have told me: "I'll never be a millionaire. But I'll buy this book for my child; maybe it can help her." For some women, the thought of becoming a millionaire was far-fetched and unattainable. Needless to say, the idea of being a billionaire probably seems like pure fantasy-land for most women.

In fact, I have never, ever heard a woman say: "I want to be a billionaire." Not once.

I have, however, heard countless men say they want to become billionaires. (For the record, Forbes says there are 555 fathers who are self-made billionaires worldwide).

Obviously, it's not necessary to be a billionaire -- or even a millionaire -- to achieve happiness, or to be successful in life. But I do think it's important that we women internalize the concept that we can do anything and become anything -- yes, even billionaires -- if we so desire.

We tell our kids this sentiment all the time: "You can be anything and do anything you want to do."

This Mother's Day -- and beyond -- it's high time we took our own advice to heart.
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