Savings Grace

Liz Davidson teaches women to be more financially secure

She has pulled the plug on her cable-TV account and hung up her pricey cell phone. Practicing what she preaches, Liz A. Davidson, 28, is popping the extra $100 per month into mutual funds. "You'd be surprised at how few people really save enough," she says.

Davidson's San Francisco-based financial education firm, Financial Finesse, has cast its business as something of a crusade: to make women who "traditionally haven't gotten the same information as men" more financially independent. The effusive Davidson rattles off some key demographic trends--how women are marrying later, divorcing nearly half the time, and typically outliving their husbands. "More and more, women don't have the option of depending on others for their livelihood," she says.

That's where Davidson sees an opportunity. For $75, women get one of Financial Finesse's two-hour crash courses and a private consultation with a financial planner. "We learned these small changes in our lives could make a difference in the long run," says marketing exec Ferrell McDonald, who increased her personal savings rate from 5% to 15% after a session.

For Davidson, starting Financial Finesse was no small adjustment. While in B-school at UCLA from 1995-97, she began managing money for friends and family. But she soon tired of trying to help the rich get richer. Last June, she used her own money to launch Financial Finesse, which, with 8 employees, will organize at least 500 seminars in 16 cities this year, reaching 10,000 women. She has also begun licensing Web content and even hosts her own local radio show. Meanwhile, Davidson says she'll continue to sock away a few extra bucks each month. Keeping your independence "takes consistency and discipline," she says. With enough of it, maybe she can get cable again someday.

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