- Katey Psencik American-Statesman Staff
In 2016, more than 30 percent of Millennial and Generation Z women didn’t know how much credit card debt they were in, and more than 40 percent didn’t know how much student loan debt they were in, according to a national study. Millennial women are also more likely to have college debt and less likely to have access to high-paying jobs, according to the Institutes for Women’s Policy Research. The majority of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts, and saving money is a particularly big problem for women: in 2016, 38 percent of women did not have any money saved for retirement, according to a banking survey.
That’s something Kara Perez wants to change.
She was in her 20s and making less than $30,000 a year with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. So she doubled down, took on five jobs and worked seven days a week to pay it off -- and a year later, she had more than doubled her income. And she thought if she could do it, she could help other women do it too.
“I started binge-reading stories of female entrepreneurs,” Perez said. “I read about women who had managed to claw their way to the top of the business world like it was my job. I wanted what they had — a business that provided for me, and meant I could afford the lifestyle I dreamt of living.”
But she noticed a common theme throughout the books.
“None of them spoke to the financials of how did these women funded their lives while starting a business,” she said.
So she founded Bravely, a company which now hosts financial literacy events for women across the country.
“I wanted to create a platform where women could learn from other women in business,” Perez said. “There needed to be a place where a woman could go to find the hard numbers on what it’s like to start a clothing company, as well as tools to pay down her student loans. I wanted to see actionable advice for women to get their money right. I felt like it didn’t exist anywhere and so I figured: I can do that.”
On Jan. 20, Perez is hosting a retreat at Cheer Up Charlie’s and encouraging women to plan for their financial future in 2018 in beyond. The event will feature discussions around “mindful money intentions,” how to organize and save money, a question-and-answer session with a finance professional and a conversation with local business owner Nina Berenato, who owns a jewelry company. But it all starts with yoga “to get present in the moment and comfortable with ourselves,” Perez said. Then the goal-setting begins.
“The idea is to come together and take the time to discover our financial WHY for 2018, set a financial goal, and get the tools you need to achieve it,” she said. “I always like to have more than just a presentation, because money is more than just a presentation; it's a fact in our every day lives. If we have a fear of money, that comes out in our financial habits. So with Bravely, I really try to be frank and honest and get people feeling comfortable talking about money, so they feel comfortable and empowered to change their habits and change their lives.”
The event will also feature opportunities for women to mingle and talk with each other, as well as a cocktail party the night before the retreat, all in the effort to remove the fear and hesitance that often comes with discussing finances.
“I think Bravely is essential for women because I strive to provide a place where women can come and learn without judgement about money, and where they can connect with other women in the same boat as them,” Perez said. “The only way we change the system is if we work together, and if we call out the problems that exist, like the wage gap, like systemic road blocks for women in business.”
Tickets to the cocktail party are $11 and tickets for the retreat are $55. Tickets to both the cocktail party and retreat are $60. Tickets can be purchased online here.