Every March we recognize the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society with both Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day on March 8th.
In honor of these special occasions, we came together to speak on a matter that is paramount to us in financial planning—taking control of your finances!
Women haven’t always been granted the same financial opportunities as their male counterparts. Despite having made great strides, women still earn less than men and struggle with expected gender roles.
What women can do to change their financial future for the better is to take control of their finances.
In order to get some insight on the subject, we asked our team: "How Can American Women Take Control of Their Finances?"
Here's what we had to say:
Melissa Sotudeh, CFP ®
Director, Advisory Services
Knowing your value and having confidence to ask for advice/help on education, career and money matters enables you to have more control over your finances. Women have traditionally lived their lives multitasking everything from careers to familial responsibilities and everything in between. So understanding how to simplify finances and reduce everyday tasks frees up time to learn more about creating wealth and financial security. For example, automating savings eliminates a task, increases savings and controls spending. You then have time to learn more about setting short and long term financial goals and how to plan to achieve those goals.
Senior Wealth Advisor
Find a fiduciary advisor that you trust. Partner with them to develop a customized planning and investment strategy around short, intermediate and long term goals. Your advisor can also streamline your financial life by working with your CPA and Estate Attorney to craft the most optimal approach for your specific situation. At the end of the day, this is about peace of mind, feeling good about yourself and knowing that you and your team of professionals are being proactive and working towards your future.
As with many things, one key to controlling your situation is to focus on the things actually in your control, and don’t be bothered when things may not go as planned. Shifting your focus to creating your own individual plan, ignoring social pressures, and setting small achievable goals you will be able to “check the box” when your goals are met.
The reason these steps are so impactful is because of how they impact your relationship and behaviors with finances over the long term. Specifically, by achieving small goals you can start to reframe your mindset to a positive relationship with money and be motivated to continue the positive goal reaching habits you are building by setting loftier goals over time.
While there is no simple solution to taking control of your finances, if you work on increasing positivity, optimism, and focus around your finances there is no doubt that over time you can gain more control.
Kirsty Peev, CFP ®
Director, Portfolio Management
Knowledge is power! The first and most impactful step to taking control of your finances, is simply getting a firm understanding of what is actually going on in your financial life. This can include:
-Cash Flow. Examining what is going on each month/quarter/year from a cash flow standpoint – both income and expenditures. If you don’t work well with a very detailed budget, at least get a broad understanding. Once you have that knowledge, it’s much easier to plan to make sure you have sufficient reserves for upcoming expenses and limit nasty disruptive surprises. On the flip side, you can also then plan for larger influxes of cash – and determine how those should be allocated optimally to various goals.
-Assets and Debts. Complete a ‘net worth’ statement regularly – once a year may suffice, but more often may be motivating too! This way you keep a firm handle on consistently working towards growing your net worth figure over time. This also avoids common missteps like forgetting about an old employer-sponsored retirement plan – which happens far more regularly than you might think!
-Access. Make sure you know how to ‘see’ all your information. In whatever secure manner you favor, make sure you keep track of your log in and access information for all your financial accounts and assets.
-Don’t give up control completely. If you are part of a couple, it is fine to let one partner or spouse take the lead on finances. However, make sure to have a ‘financial check in’ at least once each year. This also helps with the points included above.
-Seek assistance or education. Personal finance is sadly not generally taught in schools, and it can be intimidating to many. If this is not an area you feel comfortable managing by yourself, take steps to work with a trusted advisor. Or, take advantage of resources to learn some basics if your situation is not complicated and you are comfortable managing yourself.
Director, Client Experience
In my opinion, setting financial foundations with basic concepts on financial responsibility, smart decision making, and goal setting is key. It is important to have a real gut check of your actual spend and the ability to save. Engage in conversation with your significant other and work with a financial planner, either ongoing or with annual check ins. Over the years I have worked with women who've transitioned through divorce, illness, or widowhood. They had to re-engage and start from scratch getting a handle on the basic foundations because their better half handled the finances, so I encourage all women to always have a finger on the pulse.
Include the Donna Summer song in your financial playlist and have fun taking control, “She Works Hard For The Money”!
Women can take control of their finances by being financially literate on topics such as investing, loans, estate planning, and retirement. Unexpected life events can lead to tough situations if you are not prepared. Having knowledge about money management, setting goals, and saving for your future will not only give you confidence but create financial independence.
#1. Have a budget; see it on paper. Debt, such as car payments, the mortgage, vehicle insurance, utilities, health and medical expenses, credit card payments, and other expenses such as groceries, gym memberships, dining out, spa/salon treatments, necessary or unnecessary purchasing of wardrobe items, elaborate vacations, entertainment, etc. Ask yourself, are cash allowances going through your fingers? Are you a shopaholic?
#2. Be Aware. How much is going into retirement plans? What are the entire household expenses for all the members of the family including elderly parents, and for children’s sports, yard maintenance, housekeeping, pest control, etc.?
#3. Learn to Save. For those with children, learn about college savings plans, always have a reserve of 2 to 3 months of expenses saved in case of a family emergency. Learn to save and invest, be financially educated as possible, and search for the very best investment strategies. A large percentage of women live longer than their male partners, so it is very important for women to know their lifelong wealth situation.
Retirement Plan Consultant & Portfolio Administrator
American women can take control of their finances by creating a budget to help track how much money comes in and how much goes out each month. Once a budget is created, it is important to stick to it as much as possible, to make sure you don’t spend more than you can afford. This avoids potentially costly moves like taking on high-interest debt, or overdraft expenses. Review your spending habits periodically so you can make tweaks where needed.
It is also helpful to build some wiggle room into your budget for things like ‘wants’, or luxury items, or unexpected expenses. Including some flexibility in your budget can help change your mindset – so you don’t view budgeting as a negative thing.
Everyone has a major opportunity with their finances when balancing spending today with saving and investing today for the future. Saving is a challenge in itself, but it is just half the battle. The other half is investing in pursuit of real returns above and beyond inflation. Investment account balances can eventually grow to the point where a good year of market returns adds as much, if not more, new wealth as a year of disciplined cashflow savings. Maintaining purchasing power and growing investment account balances over time in the market is critical for long-term savings goals, whether that’s purchasing a first home or being able to retire by a targeted age.