A Cinderella story of financial independence

Book aims to get women to be savvy about money

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Personal-finance tomes aren't usually bodice rippers with breathless sentences like: "She wanted him and couldn't wait to have him, was totally addicted to his touch and couldn't resist him."

But Boca Raton, Fla., financial planner Kathleen Grace, 46, wanted to explore women's emotions about money and love — and how those feelings can interfere with managing money.

So Grace, who co-founded Excelsior Capital Advisors, hired a romance writer to help her create a modern fairy tale of Cinderella — "Cindi," a fashion designer in South Florida who is afraid to talk about money in fear of displeasing her current heartthrob of a husband.

Excelsior published the 312-page paperback book, "Prince Not So Charming: A Romantic Tale of Financial Independence," which is sold on Amazon for $12.06.

"I love Cinderella. This is no Cinderella-bashing book," said Grace, a divorced single mom who calls herself a hopeless romantic. But she is also a practical businesswoman now part of a company that oversees about $19.3 billion nationwide.

What Grace said she has found in more than 20 years in working with women is that many still give full financial control to their husbands.

She calls it the "Prince Charming syndrome." Many women — including those with high-powered careers or businesses of their own — want a man to ride in and take control over the family finances, Grace said. "A lot of women are looking for a man to save them financially," she said.

But turning full control over to a dreamboat can sink finances, Grace warns in her foreword: "He can die, become disabled, be a spendthrift or turn out to simply be a jerk."

In "Prince Not So Charming," Cindi doesn't talk finances with Paul, the dream-come-true attorney she marries. But after their expensive honeymoon in Italy, she starts getting hints that she has married a big spender.

Paul suggests $200,000 in home renovations and then buying what Cindi considers a mansion. He also treats himself to long spa visits, including two-hour massages — several times a week. "She liked a guy who took care of himself, but this seemed over the top," Grace writes in the book.

In real life, some women are confronted with divorce or illness that forces them to see the reality of balance sheets, unpaid bills, even bankruptcy court, Grace said.

Other financial planners say they have seen women forced to learn about the family's finances when tragedy hits.

One client had to learn how to write checks and take over the family's finances when her husband had an incapacitating stroke while on vacation, said Tabitha LeTourneau, a financial planner who started Excelsior Capital Advisors with Grace in 2007. (United Capitol acquired Excelsior in 2012.)

"She had never managed accounts," LeTourneau said. But after being coached, the client has become confident in financial matters — enough that her husband, now recovered, has switched roles and often defers to his wife when meeting with financial advisers, LeTourneau said.

Grace's mom deferred financial matters to her husband — until he suffered a stroke when Grace was a teenager. "My mother didn't know what to do," she said. "Fortunately, he recovered."

Grace resolved to control her own finances when she married. That came in handy when she divorced.

But she noticed many of her friends and female clients still took the traditional route of having the guy in their lives manage the money.

So Grace decided to write a book encouraging independence. "It's my passion," she said. She styled it like a romance novel to make it entertaining.

"We're all looking for Prince Charming," Grace said. "Women still kind of think he will take care of them. But you can't think like that anymore."