Reese Witherspoon Has Learned Lot Since Blowing First Check At 11

Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon and Draper James CEO Andrea Hyde talk about financial literacy at the "Girls Just Want to Have Funds" conference at Nashville's Music City Center.(Photo: First Tennessee Bank)

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When her third-grade classmates at Harding Academy told the teacher they wanted to grow up to be a lawyer or an astronaut, Reese Witherspoon had another dream job in mind.

“I told her I wanted to be the first female president of the United States of America. I have no idea why,” Witherspoon recalled recently.

“Good,” the teacher said. “I’m going to vote for you.”

Of course, Witherspoon later told everyone else she wanted to be the next Dolly Parton.

That didn’t happen either.

Her first job — at the great age of 11 — actually was a little less interesting and less lucrative. But recently, the now 39-year-old Witherspoon found yet another dream to pursue.

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In 2015, the Hollywood actress embarked on a new career as business owner. She launched her Southern-inspired retail brand, Draper James, online in May, and, in November, Witherspoon opened a brick-and-mortar store in Nashville’s 12South neighborhood.

In addition to selling affordably luxurious napkins and tote bags, Witherspoon is using the Draper James brand to empower at-risk Nashville girls through a program teaching economic literacy skills in a partnership with the YWCA.

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That partnership kicked off with a “Girls Just Wanna Have Funds” conference at Music City Center the day before her store’s grand opening. And that is where Witherspoon told a ballroom filled with young girls and their parents all about her dream jobs.

As she shared stories about her very first rebellious purchase and talked about how she learned to manage money as an Oscar-winning actress and producer, she encouraged the girls in the crowd to take risks, follow their dreams and not be put off by fear.

Her advice — and funny memories — fit for all of us as we enter the new year where undoubtedly many of our resolutions will have something to do with money.

“I think it’s so important as women that we share,” Witherspoon said. “We have to share information. We have to share job strategies. We have to support each other and lift each other up. …

“We want to lift you guys up,” Witherspoon continued, addressing the girls in the audience, “because someone gave us a helping hand, and it’s so important that we reach out and mentor each other.”

Witherspoon’s mom was her first financial mentor. Mom was “thrifty,” Witherspoon said, always cutting coupons and seeking out sales. She preached about never spending more than you earned and always having a job no matter what. “Your job is your life insurance,” her mom said.

At age 11, Witherspoon got her first job, modeling Easter clothes for Castner Knott. The Nashville department store paid her $50, and “I thought I was rich,” Witherspoon said. Her mom took her down to get a checking account. And that, Witherspoon said, is when she started to learn about money.

“I did not save anything,” Witherspoon recalled. “I went to the candy store and toy store and spent it all.”

When her second paycheck came, Mom talked to her daughter about always putting part of the money away. It was actually her brother, Witherspoon recalled with a smile, who taught her about money market accounts and interest. “Sister,” he told her, “if you put in $10, after a year it’s going to be $10.07.”

“I am still not very good at math, at all, but it helped having the family all talk about it as a unit,” Witherspoon told the audience at “Girls Just Want to Have Funds.”

Her mom worked as a nurse, her dad as a doctor. Her parents never gave her money to buy the stuff she really wanted. Instead, they wanted her to experience that feeling you get when you work really hard and buy something you have really wanted with your own money.

Witherspoon still remembers that rush, especially with one particular item.

As a girl, she wasn’t allowed to wear black clothes. She didn’t specify why, but she found a way around the rule. At 14, she sneaked out to the mall and bought a pair of black jeans from GAP Kids.

It was her first “secret purchase” — the payoff for saving her money.

“The feeling of success and investment in yourself is so great,” she said. “And I think that’s a really important thing for parents to understand.”

Witherspoon learned a lot about money as a kid, but she learned even more when her acting career took off and those once $50 paychecks turned into thousands.

Money is scary at first, she said. There’s a feeling of intimidation in big banks, when you sign your first rental agreement, buy a house or purchase a new car. Women need to feel empowered.

“You are giving them your money, and it’s important that you are wise, aware … and willing to learn,” she said.

As an adult — and especially as a new business owner — Witherspoon said she has learned to ask questions. And if she doesn’t understand, instead of being embarrassed, she simply asks people to explain it to her in a different way.

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 (Photo: Shelley Mays / The Tennessean)

She also has learned not just to save, but how to save, diversifying her funds and not always blindly doing what a bank tells her to do.

And she still carries with her a lesson her mom taught her at 17, which is to always have money left at the end of the month. That’s critical, she said, so as you get older and develop your independence you can pay for the plane ticket home to see mom and dad. Or go buy that perfect pair of black jeans.

And now, with her own teenage girl, Witherspoon works to model those same lessons. So many times, she said, families talk to their sons but not their daughters about finances. But, she said, a lot of women in the world are the ones who ultimately end up paying the bills and budgeting for the family.

So, when Witherspoon writes checks and pays bills she has her daughter watch, explaining to her the importance of paying a credit card and parking ticket on time.

“All those little life lessons,” Witherspoon said.

That may one day lead to accomplishing big dreams.

Reach Jessica Bliss at 615-259-8253 and on Twitter @jlbliss.

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 (Photo: Shelley Mays / The Tennessean)

Source : http://www.tennessean.com/story/life/2015/12/21/reese-witherspoon-has-learned-lot-since-blowing-first-check-11/74683780/

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