When I was growing up, I asked a male financial advisor about how to invest my money. I knew there had to be more to it than moving funds from checking to savings every payday, but his answer surprised me.
He tapped me on the head (literally! Can you believe that?) and said, “Don’t worry about money. Just find a good man, and he will take care of you.”
I knew in that moment that I wanted to help women understand money. Life happens, and if you’ve been around for any period of time, you know getting a man isn’t the answer to your financial plan!
In fact, in some families, the women, not the men, are the ones who meet with a financial professional like me. In other cases, with both male and female clients, I do a lot of teaching about why it’s important to understand family finances, even if you’re not the one who understands numbers and investing.
Here are five things you must understand about money:
1. Money is an emotional topic.
Many people are uncomfortable talking about money–and women are especially prone to think of the subject as taboo. But avoiding the subject means missing opportunities to learn more about it take control of your finances.
Especially with your financial professional, don’t be shy. She needs to understand your budget (income, expenses and debt), money-related goals (buying a house, paying off debt) and current investments. Be honest so they can provide an accurate plan.
More importantly, you and your spouse need to communicate about money whether it’s the joint checking account, paying off debt, monthly spending or planning for the future. No financial plan is going to work if you’re not communicating.
2. Reviewing beneficiaries is important.
When was the last time you reviewed beneficiaries? If you can’t remember, it’s time to go through every bank and investment account and insurance policy. Many women don’t take care of themselves as they should. They end up being the primary caregivers of not only their children, but also their aging parents, yet they fail to think about what will happen financially with their children and parents should they pass away. This is especially true if you’ve gotten divorced. You wouldn’t want to die and have your ex get your hard-earned money! Not sure where to start? Call a financial professional to guide you.
3. Everyone needs an estate plan.
What’s your legacy? All too often I hear women and couples tell me that estate planning is only for people who have a lot of money, but that’s simply not true. An estate plan includes directives for your care should you become incapacitated and where money and other assets are to be dispersed in the event of your death. Again, we come back to taking care of ourselves as women. We need to think about what we want for ourselves should we become incapacitated and unable to make those decisions for ourselves any longer.
Additionally, we have to make sure our assets and valuables go to the people we hold dearest to our hearts. Otherwise, anything we own, goes through probate before our loved ones have any say in what happens to our personal belongings. Most importantly, an estate plan gives your loved ones peace of mind about your wishes.
4. Saving for retirement should be a priority.
If I had to guess, I’d say that you don’t want to work until you take your last breath, but you also can’t just pick a date to stop working. Having a retirement plan that will fund the lifestyle that you desire is vital. So many women do not have the savings they need in order to maintain their lifestyles through their retirement years, and unfortunately, many women live in poverty during that time of their lives due to lack of planning and saving. Many people begin with an employer sponsored plan and a conversation with a financial professional. Taking the time to plan and start saving as soon as possible is absolutely vital, and finding a financial planner who understands you will help you feel comfortable when discussing this topic.
5. Financing adult children should not be a priority.
This is one of my pet peeves. While I understand there are times when parents take care of adult children or support them financially, your goal as a parent should be to have your children able to support themselves financially. As a mother, you will always feel an obligation to ensure your child is safe, happy and secure, but your children need to be responsible for their own financial wellbeing at some point. You can’t fall into the trap of supporting your adult children. Otherwise you will be spending your retirement financing adults who could be supporting themselves.
As women we’re often told that a financial plan includes a rich husband but we know that’s not reality. We’ve created our own businesses, raised our children and created a lifestyle that no one can take from us. It’s time to take money matters into our own hands and create a financial future of our dreams! With the help of a financial professional, you’re well on your way!