UM’s Week of Well-Being Gets Underway

UM’s second annual Week of Well-Being got underway Monday with an urban farmer giving advice on the importance of sustainable food systems, while Kathy Murphy, president of Fidelity Personal Investing, spoke on financial planning for women.

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UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (April 07, 2014) — It was a “wakeup call” for Kathy Murphy’s mother that came at the wrong time. With three of six children in college, her husband died at 57, and suddenly she had to figure out how to make the family savings last.

“We focused a lot on saving, but not investing,” Murphy, president of Fidelity Personal Investing, told an audience of about 300 University of Miami employees.

If Murphy’s story frightened her listeners, it was for good reason, because despite living longer than their spouses, only 12 percent of Generation Y women under the age of 30 are involved in the financial decisions in their household. “Make sure you know what’s going on in your financial lives,” Murphy told them.

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Her advice formed the theme of her talk, “Focus on Women and Financial Health: Inspiring Better Futures,” delivered Monday at UM’s BankUnited Center Fieldhouse as part of the institution’s second annual Week of Well-Being. Murphy’s comments were delivered in a conversation-style format with UM President Donna E. Shalala.

Named to FORTUNE Magazine’s “50 Most Powerful Women in Business,” Murphy urged UM’s female workforce to take advantage of the University’s retirement savings plan that matches contributions made by employees. “You have an awesome plan, but you have to do your part in signing up and investing,” she said, calling for higher employee engagement.

But first, women must move beyond their fear of financial planning. While they are intimidated by terms such as “wealth management,” women actually tend to be better investors than men once they take the plunge, Murphy said.

As such, Fidelity, the master administrator of UM’s 403B retirement plans, is doing more to engage potential women investors, increasing the number of group seminars it offers (women tend to enjoy them more, Murphy said) and having more of its advisors accessible via telephone.

But one thing women investors shouldn’t do is to get out of the investment market in the face of difficult financial times. “Over time the market comes back,” she said, telling the audience they need to know how much to invest in growth-oriented investments and how much to put into more conservative options.

With more than 7,000 UM employees—or 60 percent of its workforce—being women, Murphy’s recommendations were especially timely.

“I often think of the song ‘You Work Hard for Your Money,’ ” Murphy said. “The more you save, the more you’re planning for your dreams.”

Murphy’s Q&A session with the president was preceded by a presentation by one of the University’s most famous alums, Will Allen, the first African-American to play basketball for UM.

Skeptics told him it couldn’t be done, but Allen, the son of a sharecropper, knew he needed to try something to change the cycle of “food deserts” in the Milwaukee inner city where less than 1 percent of the sustenance was grown locally.

So in 1993, when Allen saw the “For Sale” sign hanging outside the city’s last urban farm, he decided to make an investment in the health of residents, knowing that “good food should go to all people.” Today, his 40-acre Growing Power urban farm is a community resource for Milwaukeeans, growing fruits and vegetables in healthy soil and farming tilapia and perch through aquaponics.

“I had to prove that it could be done on a scale that could change the dynamics of our lives and health,” Allen said. “Eating food should be a joy.”

That was the message the 6-foot 7-inch Allen delivered to an audience on the Miller School of Medicine campus early Monday. Speaking at the Schoninger Research Quadrangle, the former professional basketball player said his Growing Power initiative is now a model for other urban farms. “But building a [sustainable] food system is not just about growing food,” he said. “You need an educational component because everyone doesn’t know what to eat.” Soaring rates of obesity and diabetes can be blamed on poor diets, Allen said.

He decried agricultural practices of growing food in soil contaminated with arsenic and lead, noting that each year his farming project produces millions of pounds of compost—recycled organic matter used as a fertilizer and soil amendment—as a method for producing healthy food.

“It’s really about the soil,” said Allen.

With the world population expected to increase by billions over the next four decades, farming strategies such as those being used by Allen will become even more critical, he said.

“But we can’t do it alone,” he cautioned. “Everybody has to be at the table.”

Robert Jones can be reached at 305-284-1615.


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