My parents got married in 1967. During the first few years of their marriage my mother was the primary provider and put her husband through engineering school on a nurse’s salary. She became pregnant with me my dad’s last year of school, and rather than continuing to work while I was a baby, she and my father planned ahead and saved months worth of income so that they could survive my Dad’s last semester at school with my mom being unemployed (there was no maternity leave in those days). And despite the fact that my mother was this rock star provider and saver when they went to buy their first car as a married couple, a giant boat of a station wagon, my mom could not get credit in her name. The car had to be financed via my unemployed college student of a father.
Think about that. In the late 60’s and early 70’s a gainfully employed woman with huge savings was considered more of a credit risk than a male unemployed college student. It seems unbelievable these days. And although we have made huge strides since that time, we still have a long way to go as many women still feel uncomfortable with their relationship with money.
If you are one of those women uncomfortable with your relationship with money here are 5 steps to get you on your way.
5 Steps For Women to Overcome Their Fear of Money
1. Educate yourself about money.
All marriages eventually, either through death or divorce, end. And because of longer life expectancies in most cases it is the woman who is left behind to handle their family’s finances. So make a point to educate yourself about your family’s money. Keep track of bank statements, insurance policies, trust documents, etc. Make copies of all of your important financial documents and keep them in a safe place.
**Tip: In my house my husband is a C.P.A., and it was a natural fit for him to be in charge of bill paying, tax preparation, etc. But rather than living in the dark, I had him make a spreadsheet of all accounts, account numbers, account passwords, etc. should I ever feel the need to look at things or if I ever need to start taking care of things in an emergency. Be sure to keep such a document locked up and/or hidden as a safety measure.
2. Learn to think about long-term investing.
Although women by nature tend to be super involved with the day-to-day management of money, they generally do not think about long-term investing. However, waiting for that dream boat of a man to sweep in and start taking care of the long-term planning for you can be a critical mistake when it comes to planning for later in life. Don’t wait to buy your first home, max out the match in your 401K at work, etc.
3. Don’t be afraid to make the big money decisions or to contribute your opinion when it comes to your family’s finances.
The fact of the matter is that although we have come a long way, women still make less money than their male counter parts. This causes some women to think that less money means that their opinions are less important. However, women live longer and need to plan for their future financial lives as single women. Also, women are more likely to be in charge of managing their day-to-day household budgets. Because of these two things women must be as equally vested in their family’s financial decisions as their male counterparts. Don’t be afraid to offer your opinion and insist upon being part of the decision-making process when it comes to your and your family’s money.
4. Value your opinions and skills in the work place.
Women, especially blogging women it seems, are known for giving away knowledge, skills and work for free or less money. Don’t underestimate the value of what you bring to the work place and don’t be afraid to be assertive, demanding from your employers or clients what you are worth. When looking at salary estimators online, they don’t differentiate salary estimates between men and women. Why should you?
5. Ask for Help and Get Support.
No one starts out understanding money or feeling completely confident about their money initially. It’s a learning process that takes time and effort. While you are learning use financial websites and communities such as Mint.com, Wesabe.com and Geezeo.com to track your spending, how much you are saving, etc. Keep track of your credit report scores from sites such as AnnualCreditReport.com or CreditKarma.com. Look at other financial blogs such as Wise Bread, a site that has it’s own great information but also has an excellent listing of the Top Personal Finance Blogs on the net for more the day-to-day decisions that you will need to make to manage your money most efficiently. And finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions from trusted sources if you do not understand something that you are reading about.
My parents are still married to this day and have had a lifetime together making financial decisions. Despite the fact that when they started out women were not seen as having the capability to manage money my mother, because of the busy nature of my father’s career, ultimately took over the family finances. Just a few years ago they decided to see a professional financial planner to see if they could improve upon what they had been doing with their money. The financial planner poured over their investments, expenditures, etc. and finally told them there was almost nothing he could do for them. My mother who could not get car loan back in the late 60’s and who also initially felt uncomfortable with her relationship with money had done such an excellent job with her and my father’s money there was very little to improve upon. She is a great example demonstrating that women and money? It’s an excellent mix, and really, there isn’t much to be afraid of.
This article was written in participation of Women’s Money Week. Check out all of the other wonderful writers that are exploring this topic.
Kelly Kinkaid enjoys writing about such topics as stretching a dollar, personal finance, diet and fitness, and living a life well lived. She spends all of her spare time in her many roles including but not limited to soccer, basketball, swimmer, band, and piano mom, runner and wife. You may contact her via e-mail kellyology(at)gmail(dot)com.