Glinda Bridgforth advanced quickly through the ranks of a California bank after graduating college in 1974, becoming an assistant vice president in only 12 years.
She had married a former professional basketball player, jetted to luxurious vacation spots and lived in a large home overlooking San Francisco Bay.
Bridgforth had it all, at least on the outside.
By 1988, however, the dynamics of her job had changed, her marriage had ended and she was $50,000 in debt, living on disability and facing foreclosure on her home. She calls that period of time the "three B's: Breakdown, Breakout and Breakthrough."
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Through therapy and financial counseling, Bridgforth recovered emotionally and monetarily, but not without a lot of work and self-examination.
What she learned, and what she now shares with others, is that we all need to look at our financial picture holistically, not just practically through budgeting and planning.
Bridgforth — financial consultant, economist and author of three books — is the guest speaker for the 16th annual Black Women's Conference sponsored by the University of Kentucky's African American Studies and Research Program. The theme of this year's conference is, "Black Women, Work and Wealth: Economic Self-Sufficiency During Tough Economic Times."
"There are aspects of our lives that will prompt us, trigger us to go out to do something," said Bridgforth, the founder and owner of Bridgforth Financial Management Group. "Our emotions get involved, our history, our culture."
Spending money excessively becomes a drug for some people, she said. "Some are seeking short-term fixes for problems that are longer-term."
That is what happened to her, she said. She and her former husband made a lot of money, but they spent more. The lifestyle of the rich became hypnotic.
"I'm going to share with the Kentucky audience steps they can take to avoid going through what I've gone through and what my clients have gone through," Bridgforth said. "Income is not about how much you make but how you spend it and what you do with it."
Sonja Feist-Price, director of the UK research program, said the theme of this year's conference evolved from a statement made by Eleanor Jordan, executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Women, during a speech at last year's event. Jordan listed economic self-sufficiency as one of the challenges facing African-American women, Feist-Price said.
These uncertain times invite us to look at economics more critically and use strategies that helped our parents and grandparents survive difficult times, she said.
Bridgforth, who will explain ways to look at our relationship with money, is just one of an array of speakers during the three-day conference. Topics to be addressed include how pennies were pinched in the old days, how an inward look could find our entrepreneurial spirits and how investing and saving now could keep future economic wolves at bay.
"Whenever I go to Africa where opportunities are limited, " Feist-Price said, "I never leave without being awed in seeing the creative ways people make money."
Today's economy forces us to do the same, she said.
At the Village Potluck on March 20, Kay Jones and Mary Engles, two women who have managed households in much more difficult times, and researcher Ingrid Adams, with UK's Department of Nutrition and Food Science, will discuss ways to both manage a budget and keep nutritious food on the table.
"There is a lot that women of today can learn from women who made it work back then," Feist-Price said. "They did a whole lot more with a whole lot less. They didn't have the debt we have and were so much happier."
After exploring how to manage what money we have, the conference will focus on controlling our money instead of having it control us.
Bridgforth will speak at the Student Town Hall Meeting on March 24 and at the Mary McLeod Bethune Luncheon and Lecture on March 25.
The conference, which is free except for the March 25 luncheon, helps us better understand our relationship with money.
The primary problem with overspending, Bridgforth said, is low self-esteem. Buying things, binge spending, masks what really needs fixing. Bridgforth said she knows that from experience.
"I survived this," she said. "I can teach this to other people."