Grandmothers often act as role models. They generously share their life wisdom and values. The best of them also offer important messages about money and financial independence.

Over the past decade of doing interviews for my Rich Thinking® research, many women have talked to me about their grannies/nanas/bubbies…and the positive impact they’ve had on their own lives.

Here are some of my favorite Canadian stories:

Advice: Choose your Own career

Nadège Nourian, Executive Chef/Owner, Nadège

“I come from a family of four generations of very strong women. I had an intense connection with my grandmother and observed her strength. Her husband was a pastry chef – at the time a man’s job in France. She was supposed to be in the front, serving customers, but she always wanted to make pastry. My parents wanted me to be a lawyer but when my grandmother was 80, I told her I was going to be a pastry chef. She had tears in her eyes. She understood me. When she passed away, I felt incredible pain, but afterwards incredible strength. Today I feel as stable as a rock.”

Advice: Have your own money

Denise Cole, Deputy Minister at Ontario Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility

“Over the years, my grandmother taught me— through action and words—the importance of having my own money. I was the first in my generation to graduate from post-secondary school. My grandmother was so proud; she took a Greyhound bus from New York to attend my graduation ceremony. She gave me $200 and told me to do whatever I wanted with $100 of it, but to save $100 because you never know what will happen in life. She said if you are ever with a man and in a situation where you need to leave, you will have enough to buy a mattress. At 22, I knew what she said was significant, but I didn’t fully understand the weight of it at the time. Being able to take care of myself has always been important to me.”

Advice: Re-invest dividends

Loren Francis, Stewardship Counsellor & Principal, Highview Financial Group

“My grandmother lived through the Great Depression and was always frugal with her money. I remember as a young Chartered Accountant, I helped her with her tax returns and was amazed at the portfolio she had built for herself while employed as a schoolteacher. She only bought dividend-paying stocks and Canada Savings Bonds. She reinvested the dividends and rolled over her bonds into new ones as they matured: a simple plan that helped her build wealth over a long period of time. She stayed the course and never wavered. She was my mentor, and she always reminded me that I should be able to depend on myself; that we are each responsible for the life we create.”

Advice: Be financially independent

Solange Strom, Lead Partner, The Strom Group

“My grandmother was born in 1900 and decided upon finishing school in 1918 to get a job instead of getting married, as was the tradition. She took an assistant position to Dr. Collip, a member of the medical team that discovered insulin. She was passionate about her work which also allowed her to be financially independent. She was engaged to my grandfather from the age of 20—but made him wait 12 years before agreeing to marry him in 1932! She passed away at 102, having stayed active and curious her entire life. My grandmother remains a tremendous source of inspiration. Earning my own money and feeling independent – this is core to how I manage my finances. I could never live my whole life raising kids and waiting for my husband to give me a cheque. I like to spend but this has never been a problem because I’ve always made my own good money!”

Advice: Study, study, study!

Zemfira Khisaeva, Vice President of Enterprise Strategy, Scotiabank

“Growing up in Russia, it is common to see extended families living together and my grandmother was more influential in my upbringing than my parents. When she was young, she had the opportunity to study to become a doctor, but her mother told her “No.” Meanwhile her best friend left to study medicine and became head of the largest hospital in the area. My grandmother lost the only opportunity she ever really wanted. All of my childhood I was told to “Study, study, study.” And I received strong messages like “Forget about cooking…you will learn cooking when you have to.””

And, something about me: To close with a personal note, I remember my own Mimi told me that she used to leave her husband at home, cooking dinners for their three daughters, while she went off to the dog track. I’m not exactly sure what financial wisdom I learned from her…but I do have a great dog and a husband who cooks.

Barbara Stewart, CFA is one of the world’s leading researchers on women and finance, focusing on real life financial behaviours and providing global insights into how smart women think and communicate. Barbara is an advocate for women, for diversity, and for financial education. In addition to her Rich Thinking® research, Barbara uses her proprietary research skills to work as an Executive Interviewer on a project basis for global financial institutions seeking to gain a deeper understanding of their key stakeholders, both women and men. Barbara is a frequent interview guest on TV, radio and print, both financial and general interest. She is a contributor to the CFA Institute’s Enterprising Investor website. For more information about Barbara’s research, please see