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Trends in Fashion & Finance 09.21.2016

Problem solving and competence has always been a hallmark of womanhood in America. So what makes working on one’s financial acumen any different from any other challenge that, we ladies, master ever day?

A High-Design Financial Future

I have been working with women on planning their financial futures for decades and there are comments that I seem to hear again and again. Annette, when it comes to managing my finances, I don’t have time, my husband takes care of it, or I am not good at it.

To which I say: Don’t ignore it and yes, you can do it!

Problem solving and competence has always been a hallmark of womanhood in America. I’ve watched these very same women climb the corporate ladder straight to the C-suite, juggle family and professional growth, manage multiple households, support spouses, and do it all – like Ginger Rogers – backwards and in heels. So what makes working on one’s financial acumen any different from any other challenge that, we ladies, master ever day?

To get to the bottom of this, I asked two of my dearest colleagues to help me as I work to help women act fearlessly and conquer this financial frontier. Susan Brunstrum is the powerhouse behind Sweet Peas Design. Her interior design studio has been serving style-savvy Chicagoans for more than a decade. She coined the term Livable Luxe™ to describe the lifestyle that her interiors embrace. She is gutsy and accomplished and exactly the kind of woman I admire.

I also approached Thierry Roger – couturier to Chicago’s most fashionable. I love, love, love, the custom clothing that Thierry has designed for me. He curates the best fabrics and then charms his clients with his French je ne sais quoi as he works one-on-one with them to bring the perfect look to life. So chic!

Here is what I learned from these two stylish Chicagoans.


  • 1

    Process and Organization Allow for Freedom

    For those of you who love to be spontaneous, this might be the hardest concept to grasp. But, Susan said it best: “Organization is critical right from the start. So often I hear from people that they have become frustrated with a designer because their project is not done on time, they don’t know the parameters of the relationship and the Letter of Agreement isn’t solid. I have a lengthy agreement that a client needs to sign off on prior to starting work with my firm and we have in-depth conversations about cost and timeline before we even get started.


    These are not always fun, spirited conversations to have. At times, they’re even painstaking. But, when you come to a project with a sense of preparedness, respect, trust and two-way communication, it opens the door to amazing opportunities to be creative. Once you have the parameters, you can aim for fabulous while still respecting the boundaries. I do my best work when the foundation for success is sturdy.”

    The RWR Takeaway:
    Getting started with your financial planning strategy is the hard part. That doesn’t mean that it will always be hard. You are not going on a diet for life. This is a lifestyle plan or I like to refer to “The Movie of Your Life.” (You can find this tool on my website) Once you do the heavy lifting…work through your monthly spending vs. income, decide what your financial goals are, and put together a strategy to get there, you can relax. The hard part is done. You have parameters within which to conduct yourself. You can still buy a handbag or take a vacation. You will just be doing so without risking your retirement.


  • 2

    Create Something Just For You

    Thierry told me, “When a woman wears something that is not only beautiful, but constructed exactly for her figure, it is magic.”

    “There is nothing that inspires more confidence. In order to concept and execute that perfect design, though, is a collaboration from start to finish. Here’s my process. I will find a great fabric and think, ‘this would be perfect for Holly,’ and then I call Holly and she comes in and we talk about what she needs and what she likes…and before you know it, Holly is walking away with a timeless piece of couture that will make her feel beautiful and confident for decades to come.”


    The RWR Takeaway: When Thierry said: “Following trends make you look like everyone else,” it made me laugh. It’s easy to talk to friends and hear them tell you about their latest financial coup and feel like you must run, not walk, to make the same move in your portfolio. While this tactic won’t always fail, it is akin to buying off the rack. It’s not made just for you. It is designed to serve the broadest audience – not your unique needs. It’s not exactly wrong, but it is far from right.


    I believe in the collaboration that Thierry underscored with such passion. Find someone who wants to understand your unique set of needs and invest the time in working with them to develop a financial strategy that will serve you decades into the future


  • 3

    Research. There is no Substitute

    “In the early 90s, I came to Chicago from Paris, and I was starting to design clothing. I was young and naive,” Thierry explained. “I designed a line of my looks and showed it to Dorothy Fuller, the Apparel Mart’s iconic founder. She unceremoniously dismissed my work. I spent days feeling deeply disappointed.”


    Thierry continued, “I realized, she was right. I was designing clothes influenced by Parisian style; black fabrics, sheers and short skirts. I wasn’t looking at what Chicago women wore. I hadn’t done my research and it held me back.”


    Susan concurred: “I give every one of my clients a Discovery Journal before we get started. It has 125 questions that focus on more than taste, style and preferred aesthetics. I go to this trouble so that I can really get to know my clients and deliver something exclusively for them. It may sound like a lot of work, but my clients love answering the questions I ask, such as: What three things are important to know about you? Where are you most productive? What is your favorite architectural style? For one couple I realized that the answers to many questions indicated a love for nature and being outdoors, so I chose a lot of organic elements for their home. Unique insights along with a trusting relationship allow me to deliver the perfect look for my clients. That’s how I get it right.


    RWR Takeaway: Susan and Thierry’s stories say it all. Due diligence is key. That means that after you’ve worked to devise the perfect financial and savings strategy for you – then you must stay mindful. This is not a one and done. Savvy financial planning evolves with the financial climate and your changing lifestyle. Review your investments quarterly and read your investor reports. Talk to your financial advisor, stay abreast of financial news and trends. Make decisions to stay with your current strategy or consider a big change – but always base these decisions on your research coupled with the benefit of your gut. Making financial decisions based on gut alone will too often betray you in the end.



    Susan Brunstrum and Thierry Roger are not affiliated with LPL Financial and Stonebridge Wealth Advisors, LLC.

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