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Susanna Alvarez is a financial adviser with Morgan Stanley. She has lived in Tucson for 12 years and graduated from the UA in December 2000 with a degree in finance. From a young age, Alvarez says, she enjoyed managing her own money and helping people. Her job allows her to blend those two loves, and she says she takes pleasure in helping clients reach their financial goals. Alvarez offers educational seminars at her office each month; at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 24, she will conduct a free lecture, "Smart Women Finish Rich®" at 5151 E. Broadway Blvd., on the 17th floor. Call 519-2356 to RSVP.

Tell me about the talks you give.

I speak regularly on a variety of investment and financial planning topics including both the Smart Couples and Smart Women Finish Rich books, written by David Bach. These talks are conducted with my colleague, Debbie Coyle. I also give talks on retirement planning, estate planning and 401(k) rollovers.

I see.

With the "Smart Couples" and "Smart Women" talks, we give out workbooks that go through the steps to finishing rich. ... There's a big disconnect from what we are doing and what we should be doing. That's why the seminars are so important. The seminars are educational and motivating. They are not product-oriented. ... We also offer the seminars off-site for any companies, nonprofits, clubs, groups and conferences.

You mentioned a difference between what we are doing and what we should be doing. Can you elaborate on that?

Currently, Americans save only 1 percent of their earnings on average and charge much more than that. Women should be saving 12 percent, and men should save 10 percent.

Why more for women?

They live longer than men--usually seven years, on average--and most likely will spend some of their later years without a spouse or companion.

Is that why it's important to have a lecture specifically geared toward women?

Yes. And women face a variety of unique challenges when it comes to financial planning. They tend to be more conservative with their investments, which can make meeting long-term goals, like retirement, more difficult to obtain. Women are also out of the labor force an average of 11.5 years, which decreases their contributions toward retirement and Social Security.

What are some basic tips women must know to finish rich?

After educating themselves, women need to take action! They should sign up for their company's retirement plan, strive to save 12 percent toward retirement and follow a properly diversified investment plan.

What else?

We go over the seven steps in Bach's book, but it's important to learn about money in general, educating yourself and figuring out what is important to you about money. My goals might be different from your goals. It's about asking yourself, "What do I want to do in retirement? What would make me comfortable?" (You need to) figure out where you stand currently, see what you have and what you don't have, and then develop a plan to move forward.

Sounds good.

In the seminar, we go through a typical day and ways to save money: for example, the latté factor. A woman may stand up and say, "I don't have the money to save. I live paycheck-to-paycheck." So you ask her what she spends her money on. She'll say Starbucks coffee in the morning and lunch out. That's $10. So our point is, why don't you spend on one thing and save the rest? We give lots of examples on how to save money. It's a light and fun part of the seminar ... . Everyone has his or her own latté factor.

What are the most common mistakes women make in regard to money?

Like men, many women feel they don't have enough money to get started on financial planning. Everyone should start saving and investing as early as possible and at a level that is comfortable for his or her budget. ... Everyone wishes they started saving earlier. You need to have some type of plan. (Without one), it's like going on a trip without a map.

Do you find there are differences between how men and women spend and relate to money?

Men typically look at money as power and status. Women look at it more as values and freedom. Men tend to think women spend more money than they do. The reality is, no one gender gets the credit for spending too much. We all spend a lot of money. Americans spend; we are big spenders. But often men and women don't really have a clear idea of the costs of the things that the other buys.

Any other advice for women?

Women can greatly benefit from learning more about financial planning. Spend time reading an investment book this year; join an investment club; take a class. All are great ways to become more educated.

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