Program helps women curb ‘emotional spending’

Jerrie Merritt recalls the moment she realized she was an emotional spender.

In her closet, she found at least two pairs of the same shoes, duplicate handbags and identical dresses.

“I had to have a talk with myself and ask myself why I was emotionally spending,” she said. “I was only spending it to satisfy emotions and not because I needed it.”

A Bank of Nevada senior vice president and community development manager, Merritt plans to address emotional spending and mentor women on finances at the Women’s Money conference April 5 at the East Las Vegas Community Center.

Women’s Money, a nonprofit financial education and action program, launched in 2012.

Also on the panel are state Treasurer Kate Marshall, who is slated to speak with women about financial security, and Women’s Money founder Gina Robison-Billups, scheduled to address the impact of women’s spending.

Historically, women have been paid less compared to men. For instance, married women earn a median weekly income of $751, while married men earn $951 a week, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The conference is expected to draw about 400, and women can apply for a scholarship to pay the $75 entrance fee at www.womensmoney.org.

“Finances can be tough and depressing,” said Robison-Billups, a former president of National Association for Moms In Business. “You can lose momentum and not know who will help you keep going.”

Robison-Billups said many women don’t get proper financial advice, and she wants to “tear down the intimidation factor that is present when it comes to finances.” More than 2,000 women have gone through the program in the past two years.

“There’s this huge communication gap, and we’re trying to reduce that communication gap,” she added. Robison-Billups believes that educating women about money can help reduce poverty.

The idea for the women’s financial program first sprouted about five years ago, when Robison-Billups discovered that women lack a financial support system to help guide them in budgeting. She started studying different levels of wealth among women.

Emotional spending can be particularly taxing for low- and moderate-income women, Merritt said. Addictions such as gambling and online shopping are often rooted in emotions. In other cases, a mother might not want an adult child living at home to help with bills.

“That decision is usually made emotionally,” Merritt said. “Sometimes you don’t realize you’re guilty of something until someone brings it to your attention. …I’ve always had a passion about helping others learn how to manage their money.”

Merritt wants to help women learn how to control emotional spending.

“You can satisfy your emotions basically by shopping,” she said, “but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to purchase.”

Contact reporter David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290.

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