January 16, 2014
by Lou Fancher
DANVILLE — Superwomen, watch your backs. Danville financial planner and author of “Stocks, Bonds, & Soccer Moms: 7 Steps to a Balanced Life” (New Year Publishing, 2014) is bent on destruction.
Myth-busting her way onto the nonfiction literary scene with a two-fisted punch, Michelle Perry Higgins’ simultaneously launched the slim, debut self-help publication and a beefy financial organizer boldly titled “The Everything Binder.” While the financial, estate and personal affairs binder delivers rock-solid checklists and is designed to help families locate their assets at pivotal life points, “Stocks, Bonds & Soccer Moms” is all about the individual woman and finding balance.
“I wanted my message to be crystal-clear to women. Battling this image was the foundation: the superwoman myth is B.S.,” said Higgins, 41, in an interview.
Although she insists, repeatedly, “I have a big mouth,” Higgins is far from simply mouthing off. As principal of California Financial Advisors and a Wall Street Journal expert panelist, she has appeared on CNBC and has been quoted in MSN Money and the Los Angeles Times. But she has also been an off-kilter woman; running herself ragged on the “I can do everything” treadmill she says 21st century females find hard to resist.
“This started with the baby boomer generation — women wanting to work but not wanting to lose their strength at home,” she said. “I grew up watching women juggling it all and keeping their mouths shut. My generation said “whoa,” but that came with guilt.”
With an overall message that reads “recognize, analyze, revise and forgive (yourself first, then others),” Higgins writes in chatty, best-girlfriend style. Underneath the personal sharing and swinging tone — and bulleted in end-of-chapter tips — tools for dismantling the myth reveal her numbers-based, fix-it-now, good-enough orientation.
To supplement her financial expertise, Higgins consulted Bay Area experts like clinical psychologists Dr. Eileen Norton and Dr. Nanette Rowe. Advice on eliminating toxic relationships and guilt, keeping romance alive, understanding the impact of technology on children and building support teams mingles seamlessly with powerful financial awareness messages. Instead of delving into file cabinets stuffed with past receipts, Higgins suggests selecting a budget software program and tracking forward for sixth months.
“If I tell people to go back, they say, ‘You’re kidding!’ Thinking forward? It’s just easier for a busy person,” she says. “I think women innately would rather not deal with money. There are so many other things in their lives. The money chapter had to hook them in; it had to empower them.”
For a savvy businesswoman, Higgins surprises even herself as she admits, “finding a publisher was scary. It was like doing a mini-startup. I interviewed publishers at an author’s conference that was like speed-dating.”
Blessed with a good education, financial resources and a spouse who stuck with her during her “downward spiral,” she selected Danville’s New Year Publishing, in part, because she wanted control of distribution. She has donated a number of books and binders, and a portion of her profits will support Teen Esteem and other charities. (Teen Esteem is a Danville-based organization providing volunteer speakers who advocate safe choices and healthy self-respect through a guided curriculum and workshops for middle school and high school students.)
Higgins’ “learn to be good enough” missive is finding receptive readers. Within one week of it’s release, her eight-chapter book soared to Amazon’s Top 100 books in Parenting and Relationships. Higgins says she deliberately tried to avoid overwhelming readers with clinical information and included raw, personal stories because she “didn’t want it to be anything other than two girlfriends sitting down to help each other.”
Admittedly, the volume is slim when it comes to mothers of boys. Higgins, the mother of two girls, ages 7 and 11, says, “Clearly, I was writing it from a perspective of girls. I wrote it for women and for women to pass on the balance to their girls. I had a niche market in mind … but one of the best Amazon reviews is about how good this book is for men.”