Danville Express

Living - June 8, 2007

'Knowledge is power!'

Seminar to teach women about real estate and financial independence

by Natalie O'Neill

Why depend on a prince when you hold the power to finance your own castle? A woman can be her own Prince Charming.

That's the message Danville Realtor Barbara Bowen will send single moms at her seminar next week on increasing financial independence through real estate.

"I used to think I'll meet my knight in shining armor and he'd help me through. I just thought I'll make some money and he'll invest it," says Bowen, who is a single mom herself.

But as divorce rates increase, many single women in the Danville area are left in the dark when it comes to buying a house, attaining loans, protecting assets and investing.

"They leave it up to their husbands to make their financial choices, just like it was 30 or 40 years ago," she says.

Freshly divorced women in Danville often find themselves ripped from a big house in the hills to rent a condo downtown, Bowen says, simply because they don't know what else to do. More often than not, these same women could put a mortgage down on a similar property - and work toward owning it - for just a couple hundred dollars more a month.

Knowledge is Power!, a free seminar at Alamo Women's Club, will give women the resources to make these decisions on their own. Loan officers, financial planners, attorneys and Realtors will teach single moms tips on how to invest the money they have into owning a home that will give them leverage in the future. All women are welcome.

Learning about loans, credit, properties and assets is empowering, Bowen says. It's just a matter of educating yourself.

"You have to do your homework," explains Bowen, who has papers and books spread out in front of her and is sipping a latte on a sunny morning in downtown Danville.

When Bowen was 29 years old, she made a big mistake financially. Her grandmother died and left property to her in Yuma, Ariz. At the time, she was working two jobs in Fairfield and had no clue about real estate - what holding on to the property could have meant for her life today.

"I trusted a lazy judge to help me make the right decision and it was the wrong one. He told me I could sell it and assigned me a Realtor. It was 1989 and the economy was down, there were $5,000 in back taxes, so I sold it," she says.

About a year later, a housing development went up on her grandmother's property. Had she hung on to the property a little longer, she could have made millions.

"I didn't have family members to help educate me. You're supposed to ask who, what, how and I never asked those questions," she says. "Now it kills me."

Years later, after acquiring her real estate license and thoroughly educating herself on the subject, her goal is to make sure other women don't make the same kind of mistakes.

To women who are intimidated by the thought of dealing with the finances, Bowen says she plans to cater even to those who have absolutely no experience. The numbers, jargon and terms can seem complex, but these are all things anyone can learn, she says.

"There's a million people who talk about how to get rich quick, but nobody talks about the nuts and bolts of buying a house," says Kevin O'Brien, a Realtor in Danville who says he has noticed that single moms are at a disadvantage.

Throughout life, women more than men generally leave work to take on nurturing roles.

"It's nurturing and it's our emotions," she says.

They give birth, raise children and take care of sick relatives, while men more often work continuously through their career, Bowen says.

But single moms need to know the time off does put you at a disadvantage when it comes to retiring. With the right advice and ingenuity, however, single moms can stretch what they have to get more for the future, says Bowen.

Think of it as "your retirement or your child's education," she says.

"Every dime counts because if you invest it properly, you can make money on that dime," she explains.

The all-women seminar will teach what to look for in a loan, how to factor in tax issues, how to make sure ex-husbands don't get control of assets, how to buy a second home and more. Moms will have an opportunity to ask questions, and legal advice will be pro bono.

The goal is to build a connection between single mother Realtors and single mothers seeking homes.

"Single moms are working, trying to get their kids off to soccer practice, and they don't have time to interview attorneys and talk to Realtors. That's why I want to build a reliable network," Bowen says.

A few cases in Danville have prompted Bowen to run the seminar. In one instance, she worked with a waitress who inherited property. Realtors told her it was worth about $1.5 million, when really it is worth about $4 million. She thought back to herself in the same situation at 29 and realized she had to do something.

"You should always talk to at least three people on the subject. Do your research and don't take advice from friends or family," she says.

Using her own research, experience and discussions from the seminars, Bowen now plans to publish a book on the subject to help other women like herself.

"It's a wakeup call," she says.

The free seminar will be held 6:30-8 p.m. Tuesday, June 12, at the Alamo Women's Club, 1401 Danville Blvd. Other sessions are planned for July 10 and Aug. 14. For more information, call Barbara Bowen at 351-3244. No RSVP is needed.

Contact Natalie O'Neill at noneill@danvilleweekly.com

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