When Judy Long, president and chief operating officer of First Citizens National Bank in Dyersburg, Tennessee, began to reach retirement age, she was surprised when she started to feel overwhelmed.
“I reached a certain age and was beginning to think about retirement, and I began to see how complicated it is. And I am a banker,” Long said.
“I thought, if it’s this complicated for me, I am sure it is complicated for others.”
From Long’s experience navigating the world of financial planning, she began to think that she could help other women by guiding them through the complicated process.
From that desire, the Smart Women program was born.
Long calls the program her “brainchild,” and she says she is committed to reaching and educating other women about building their financial future.
Smart Women is a community educational series with a focus on helping women make difficult financial decisions, and it’s gaining traction in Williamson County. Its kick-off meeting in April was a success, and Long looks forward to the program continuing to grow in Williamson County.
Advisory board member Jill Burgin said she believes the program removes the stigma of thinking one has to know everything about finances.”
“I think the program is making it OK to admit that you don’t feel completely confident in making difficult financial decisions,” Burgin said.
“Even if we are successful and college educated, I think sometimes women take on the caregiving role and let their husbands handle the finances by default, and it doesn’t hurt to learn more about planning for the future.”
The advisory board was recently formed, which is made up of 15 women throughout Middle Tennessee, who are invested in making a difference in the financial lives of women.
“We want to bridge the financial gap and help women feel more confident about making financial decisions,” Long said.
Long said that because men seem “more confident” about making financial decisions, she hopes the program can bolster confidence, knowledge and create options among women.
Issues that the educational series will address include how to protect assets for your family, caring for aging parents, planning for retirement, avoiding being a victim of fraud and teaching first-time homebuyers about how to obtain a loan for a home.
Allena Bell of Franklin, advisory board member for Smart Women Middle Tennessee and the bank, said that she believes the program can have a wide reach among women in all stages of life.
“I am grateful we could arm women of all backgrounds and stages of life with relevant details for the aging process for ourselves and loved ones,” Bell said about the first session in April at the public library, which focused on caring for the elderly.
“Topics of long-term care insurance and which type of living facility option for a loved one is not a part of our everyday conversation. Smart Women events are designed to help take some of the anxiety out of these complex topics.”
Long added, “The program is open to women of all ages and men are welcomed to attend as well. We even had some men sign up and say, ‘I need to know these things.’ ”
The program has also opened a chapter in West Tennessee and is looking toward East Tennessee to form the next.
The goal of the Smart Women program, sponsored by First Citizens National Bank, is to help women “bridge the financial literacy gap” and plan for their financial future, no matter the obstacles that might arise. The group will continue to meet quarterly and has partnered with community organizations, such as the Williamson County Library Foundation and the Williamson County Public Library.
The next Smart Women Middle Tennessee event will be July 22 & 23rd in Brentwood and the topic will be FRAUD protection. On September 19th a Smart Women event is scheduled to be held in Spring Hill.
The events are free and open to the public.
For more information about the program, see
Kris Blanton- not pictured
Kerri Bartlett is a writer, editor and counselor, who has been covering the Williamson County and Nashville area for 10 years.