CamilleEditor’s Note: This profile is part of our continuing series on women and money.

For finance expert Camille Gaines, money management is not about setting a budget — it’s about dreams.

“When I work with a client, I begin by talking about what they want to have in their life,” she says. “I encourage women to think, ‘How can I afford that?’ and not, ‘I can’t afford that.'”

Gaines, an accredited financial counselor and licensed real estate broker, founded Financial Woman in 2006, a business that offers a suite of fiscal education programs that reflect her philosophy.

Over the years, the Austin-based business owner has led seminars and conducted workshops for organizations such as Women Impacting Public Policy and the Texas Conference for Women. She has also penned columns for publications such as Ladies Home Journal, and wrote a book  — “Earn, Grow, Give: Simple Steps to Grow Your Money While Creating a Rich Life” — that became an Amazon bestseller.

Through her various efforts, Gaines estimates that she has impacted the lives of well over 100,000 women, each of whom she would describe as “ready to do something new and exciting with their lives … [and] ready to leave their comfort zones”

It’s a lack of comfort with money that Gaines particularly hopes to eradicate. “Surveys indicate that men have more confidence in investing than women. I think that women tend to downplay what they know, while men tend to talk up their knowledge, even though they may or may not actually know more.”

To an extent, Gaines feels that the issues women experience while handling money are generational, as “it wasn’t all that long ago that women couldn’t even vote. The things our parents believed in, that we observed as children, are passed on. It’s going to take time to change that, and that’s starting to happen now.”

And in fact, her outlook on finance is a result of her parents’ influence — albeit in a more positive fashion. Her late mother, whom she referred to as “the original cash flow queen,” was an especially important role model throughout her childhood in Tupelo, Miss. “My parents both lived through the Great Depression, which made them focus on what they wanted to create for us,” Gaines says. “It influenced me to want to pay attention as well.”

She pursued business administration and accounting at the University of Mississippi, and earned her degree in 1980. Soon after, she found work as an accountant with a focus on trading futures contracts. Gaines also paid close attention to her personal finances from the start of her career — she invested in her first mutual fund at age 21, hoping to follow in her parents’ frugal footsteps, and purchased her first home several years after that.

Then, her educated investments paid off. “I put my money into the stock market with good timing — I was able to leave corporate life [using the money I made] and go to work for myself, which had always really appealed to me.”

She initially worked in real estate, but was always on the lookout for new opportunities. Eight years ago, Gaines decided to start Financial Woman when she noticed the growing power of the Internet. “There was this huge movement, and I wanted to be a part of it. I really wanted to share my knowledge of investing with other women.” The untimely loss of her father also informed her decision to found the business, so that she could help others prepare financially for life’s obstacles.

She began by blogging about finance, and as her readership grew, other doors opened for her. She incorporated speaking engagements and workshops into the business — as long as they aligned with her “overall mission of financial empowerment for women.”

Gaines furthered her efforts toward that mission by taking on private clients after obtaining her financial counselor certification. And last year, she graduated from the Texas State RampCorp program for women entrepreneurs, to better run her business.

Looking ahead, Gaines is excited about Financial Woman’s upcoming release of a planner to sell to women. “Women are so busy with the many roles they take on, they often don’t get to implement their plans for themselves. It’s hard, with so many things to juggle.” And the happily married mother of two college-age sons and “the cutest yellow lab puppy you’ve ever seen” shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Through her work, she wants to foster a new definition of financial freedom.

“A lot of people feel like financial security is all about having a certain job or being a smart investor,” she says. “True wealth comes from defining what you really want in life, then moving toward creating it.”

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