In late 2014, Teresa Giudice- the captivating, hot-tempered, gorgeous Italian mama from the reality show Real Housewives of New Jersey, was sentenced to 15 months in prison. She and her husband have been convicted of defrauding the IRS over a period of 10 years.
The charges included filing false W-2s, misstating their income in order to receive construction and mortgage loans, tax evasion to the tune of $1M, wire fraud and bankruptcy filing fraud.
Teresa began serving her time yesterday in a federal state prison, just days after the holiday season.
While some may claim that they are getting exactly what they deserve, my heart goes out to Teresa. I can't speak on Joe ( I'm honestly not sure how he does earn a legitimate living), but I literally teared up watching Teresa's interview with Andy Cohen after the sentencing about how she truly didn't know what was going on during the time.
I believe Teresa had no idea what was going on financially during the last 10 or 15 years. Far too often, women leave the financial dealings to their husband. Whether it's because the husband is the breadwinner, or they don't feel like they are smart with money, the vast majority of women do not regularly engage with their finances.
Throughout the Real Housewives show, Teresa and Joe Giudice flaunted their lavish living that included a $4M mansion, a summer home on the Jersey Shore, opulent parties and $2,000 handbags. As it turns out, their wealth was built upon fraudulent undertakings. And the judge, in an effort to show that white collar crime needs to be punished, sentenced Teresa to 15 months in prison. Once she finishes her time, Joe will serve 41 months.
They have each been ordered to pay $400,000. And to make sure they each pay their share, the judge ordered that they separate their business and personal finances. Otherwise, Teresa, who is a best selling cookbook author and successful media personality, may foot both of their bills.
This situation is especially tragic because Teresa has four girls all under the age of 15, who will have to spend over a year away from their mother.
While I can't speak to Teresa's specific situation, the numbers show that most women probably have no clue what is going on with their household finances. In Teresa's case, she filed her taxes every year, but did not review their accuracy and signed contracts without fully understanding what they entailed.
It is situations like this that inspired Amanda Steinberg to launch Daily Worth in order to educate and empower women around the subject of money. Daily Worth is the #1 website for women looking to gain control of their financial lives with nearly 1 million subscribers.
In 2012, the Daily Worth surveyed 10,000 women about their relationship with finances. 90% said they were the primary bill payer for the family, but 60% said that their skills were below average when it came to investing and financial planning.
When it comes to entrepreneurs, the numbers are similar amongst women. And they leave the bookkeeping, accounting and the majority of the financial matters up to someone else or avoid it completely.
My hope is that this situation is a wake up to other women to pay more attention to their household and business finances.
While it's helpful, and advised to work with a professional, make sure you are educating yourself daily on topics like investing, accounting, saving, taxes and financial planning.
If you are working with an accountant or financial planner, meet with her regularly (at least quarterly, ideally once a month) and ask lots of questions. Make sure you are doing your bookkeeping weekly or if you have a bookkeeper, require that they send you a "reconciled statement" report at least two times per month.
And if you have a significant other, schedule a standing weekly or monthly date to go over upcoming bills, any outstanding debts and financial plans.
Here are three things you can do today to help you become the smartest money person you know.
- Schedule a time in your calendar to review your bookkeeping and personal bank accounts every week. My weekly bookkeeping date is every Sunday morning from 9-9:30. Make a note of upcoming bill due dates, including quarterly tax payments, and outstanding invoices.
- Make a date with your significant other to go over your finances. Do this at least once month, ideally every week. You can even do it over champagne to make it fun. #MoneyandMimosas
- Read's Xero's small business guide on how to manage your finances and cash flow as an entrepreneur.
And now I'd love to hear from you! What is one thing you will do this week to improve the relationship with your personal or business finances?
Danetha Doe is an accountant and product launch strategist. She helps women business owners better understand their finances and create plans for revenue growth. To learn more about her services, click here.