Money management in the cards

Zalika Adamson is banking on a deck of cards to help women in Whitehorse who are struggling with their finances. She won't be dealing out a lucky ace of spades or any wild jokers.

Zalika Adamson is banking on a deck of cards to help women in Whitehorse who are struggling with their finances.

She won’t be dealing out a lucky ace of spades or any wild jokers. Instead, she’ll be using a deck that reads into people’s money habits.

Adamson is one of 25 people who will be hosting workshops this weekend at the Westmark Hotel about money management, financial literacy and business development.

The two-day conference, playfully named Smart Cookies and their Dough, is targeted specifically for women who want to better manage their finances.

Adamson, who teaches financial literacy courses in Calgary, will be using the seemingly innocuous pile of cards at the conference, calling it one of her most useful tools.

She has people divide the deck into three separate piles: cards that describe one’s spending habits; cards that sometimes describe those habits; and cards that don’t at all describe them.

When the cards have been separated, Adamson can tell what their money personality is, and that is usually pretty eye-opening, she said.

“People are often surprised about what their money habits are.”

Karen Gabryelczyk is a case in point.

Gabryelczyk is one of 10 women who took a workshop organized by Adamson to learn to teach other women in her community how to manage their money.

The workshop isn’t related to the weekend conference, but it allows opportunities for financial planning sessions to happen when facilitators, like Adamson, have packed up and left town.

Gabryelczyk works at the women’s shelter in Dawson City and was impressed by how much the cards taught her.

“I can’t wait now to get back to my husband and show him where he can save,” she said, adding that the workshop has the potential to be “life-changing” for both her and her husband.

“My husband tends to spend more money than I do,” she said. “I budget my money. But we can sit down and budget our money together.”

Visual learning methods allow a mirror to be held up to a person’s own spending habits. And once a person recognizes what their money personality is, then it becomes much easier for them to accept and change their habits, said Adamson.

And finding simple and palatable ways of doing this, makes it that much easier, she pointed out.

“Most people don’t want to attend money management courses. They think it’s boring or that you’re trying to control parts of their life, so you have to find ways to personalize it.”

The weekend conference is free to women, an incentive to help attract them to the forum but also to give back to the community, said Julie Menard, chair of the Yukon Advisory Council on Women, which organized the event.

The motivation for the conference came from a recommendation at a Yukon women’s aboriginal meeting in 2007, said Menard.

“We heard that women wanted tools to be more independent in financial situations,” she said.

All 75 of the conference spots have already been filled and a waiting list has been started.

“The fact that we actually respond to the needs we hear from women in the community is a reason the conference has been so successful,” said Menard.

The conference also reserves spots for two women in every Yukon community to attend, paying for their transportation and boarding.

They’ve also set aside spots for women receiving social assistance, a segment of the population that faces more financial hardships than most.

“We tried to attract some low-income women to the conference and, I think, we succeeded in that,” said Menard.

“Often you build these things for women who need it but it’s hard to get them out. Usually the people who respond are women who already have some of those tools and want to learn more.”

There are four separate financial streams that women attending the conference can choose from: financial literacy; lifecycle money management; Yukon women in business; and career growth and development.

“The conference is not only good for women, but for families and the community,” said Menard.

Friday evening there is a free session open to the public with speeches, a trade show and music.

The Friday session of the Smart Cookies and their Dough conference runs from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Whitehorse Westmark Hotel.

Contact Vivian Belik at