Diane Terman Felenstein, 79, Dies; Financial Adviser to Women

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Diane Terman Felenstein, who represented celebrities as a publicist before gaining renown herself with a best-selling financial advice guide for women, died on Dec. 8 at her home on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. She was 79.

The cause was complications of ovarian cancer, her husband, Marshall Felenstein, said.

Ms. Terman Felenstein had been running her own public relations company when her interest in personal finance was sparked. While on a flight she read an article about the Beardstown Ladies, a group of women in their 60s and 70s who had formed an investment club, named after their Illinois town, and written two best-selling books about their stock-market returns. (A lawsuit later revealed that their gains had been more modest than claimed.)

The Beardstown Ladies focused on picking stocks, but for Ms. Terman Felenstein, what resonated was the idea that women should be knowledgeable about finances to help safeguard their futures.

“I was raised in a generation where women counted on men to handle the finances,” she later wrote in her own book. “I considered personal finance, even my own, to be the world’s most boring topic.”

Her daughter, Deborah Kerner, recalled how her mother had described her financial conversion.

“She used to say all the time that the women she knew could host a charity event for hundreds of people or throw a dinner party, but did they know where their wills were, did they understand their family’s investments, did they know what they would do if their husbands passed away?” Ms. Kerner said. “She asked her friends, and every one of these women answered no.”

In 1996, Ms. Terman Felenstein and a few dozen female acquaintances started a club to educate themselves on investments, stock picking, insurance, estate planning and other financial matters. They called it the 008-Investment Club, a reference to eight as a “power number” in numerology linked to financial fortune.

The next year, she and another club member, Marilyn Crockett published “The Money Club: How We Taught Ourselves the Secret to a Secure Financial Future — and How You Can, Too” (with Dale Burg).

It encouraged women nationwide to take a bigger role in guiding their family finances, and it was a hit.

Aimed at beginners, the book had chapters on investments, retirement and estate planning, insurance, and major life events like marriage and divorce.

The book included anecdotal accounts of what could go wrong for women who don’t take financial control. Many of those were drawn from the real-life experiences of the women whom Ms. Terman Felenstein knew, her daughter said.

“Ignoring your financial safety can lead to disaster,” Ms. Terman Felenstein told The New York Times in 1997. “Learn the language. Assess what you have. Don’t sign papers unless you know what they are.”

She was born Diana Terman on Oct. 23, 1940, in Manhattan to Joseph and Pearl (Scharfman) Terman. Her mother was a real-estate broker, and her father worked in the garment industry.

Dropping out of New York University after one semester because of family financial pressures, Ms. Terman Felenstein worked a series of odd jobs before landing a position as a public relations representative for Audio Fidelity Records. She later set out on her own, founding Diane Terman Public Relations and running it for more than four decades.

The firm handled an eclectic range of clients, including the artist Salvador Dalí, the weight-loss guru Dr. Robert C. Atkins and the company SlimFast, as well as charities like United Cerebral Palsy and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, for which she helped organize telethons and fund-raising events.

In addition to her husband of 49 years and her daughter, who joined her mother’s company, Ms. Terman Felenstein is survived by a stepson, Brad Felenstein; a stepdaughter, Joy Pierson; a twin brother, David Terman; and four grandchildren. Her first marriage, to Robert Smiley, ended in divorce.

Personal finance remained a passion for her, and she built on the success of her book with other ventures like “Women and Wills,” a free lecture series for women over 50; and a financial guidance group, Grandparents for Grandparents.

“If you don’t do proper planning, you’re going to be left holding a paper bag,” Ms. Terman Felenstein was known to say. “We say, ‘If you’re left holding the bag, there ought to be money in it.’”


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