Do you ever feel like certain periods of your life are connected with a common thread? Like the year my daughter got married, my son became a Bar Mitzvah and we welcomed a new grandbaby. That year was sown with celebration, joy and new beginnings.
And then there was the year my husband battled cancer, my father had a kidney removed and my mother-in-law passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. That year was woven together with illness, shock, stress, and grieving.
And last week was banded together with THREE flat tires – two on our car and one on my son’s bicycle.
So I guess it should come as no surprise that in the last month my work has been spun with the tales of women being cajoled, finagled, finessed and guilt-tripped out of money: ex-husbands absconding with cash, investment scams, crafty real estate agents, siblings bleeding mom & pop’s retirement accounts, fancy footwork with a divorce settlement leaving the woman financially disadvantaged, and retiree mom’s being pressured by their kids to cover outlandish expenses.
It hasn’t been so pretty.
Dear smart, talented, gifted ladies.
This is a wake-up call.
Because even if this isn’t you right now, or today, it could be you tomorrow.
Not because I’m jinxing you or giving you the evil eye, but because women who don’t understand money and how money works are sitting ducks.
A little statistics: 80% of men die married; 80% of women die single.
Let me give you a little example. A few weeks ago I received a call from my cellphone company. They have a new offer for this many phones and that many years and if I sign up right now it’s going to save me lots of money.
And they’re going to throw in the Brooklyn Bridge to boot.
I really don’t know.
So I tell the guy I need to think about it and can he please call back tomorrow.
He gives me a hard time. What do I need to think about?
And I calmly explain that I don’t make money decisions justlikethat. I need to think it over.
Now lots of folks and especially women when they get these sales calls or when they’re faced with even bigger money decisions – they shut down. They blank out. They go fuzzy and foggy.
And they either sign on the dotted line today to move beyond the fog. Or they stuff the papers in a drawer and put aside the decision for later. Tomorrow.
And too many times, they get themselves stuck in financial trouble: bills left unpaid, lousy investments, money sitting idly by not being invested, duplicate insurance policies, and recurring fees for subscriptions, online products and services debited from their bank accounts forever.
To name just a few.
The bottom line is – if you don’t take care of your money, your money will take care of you.
So what’s a girl to do?
Here are four things you can do today to get on top of your finances and feel more empowered with money.
1. Look at your financial statements. You know, I have a sneaking suspicion that financial statements are designed purposely with lots of rows, columns and tiny numbers to discourage us from looking at them closely.
Who doesn’t feel jittery and shaky inside and recoil from their financial reports? There’s simply too much information on the page. Soooo many numbers.
Here’s what I suggest – take it in bite sized chunks. Just for today look only at page one. Get a little curious, have a little fun, invite your numbers to tea. Scan the page and get comfortable with the layout. Ask the numbers what they mean.
Giving yourself permission to slow down and to integrate new information step-by-step helps you stay connected. It’s a loving and compassionate step you take for yourself.
Tomorrow you can have a look at page two.
2. Learn about money – how it rocks, how it rolls and how it works in our lives. There are many, many excellent books and blogs in the personal finance space. I share with you two of my favorites:
The Bogelheads’ Guide to Investing by T. Larimore, M. Lindauer and M. LeBoeuf. In this easy to read book the authors share what they have learned and mastered about money by jumping in, making mistakes, course correcting and trusting in the wisdom of their mentor John Bogle, founder of the Vanguard Group and champion of low cost investing using tax efficient, market-indexed mutual funds. This book is packed with practical money information, education and know-how. And it is comfortably accessible to newbies and experts alike.
The Art of Money: A Life Changing Guide to Financial Happiness by my mentor and colleague Bari Tessler. “This is the book your money–savvy best friend, therapist, and accountant would write if they could. It’s the book about money for people who don’t even want to think about money, until the arrival of that inevitable day when we all realize we must come to terms with this thing called money.” I am honored and humbled to work alongside Bari as a teaching assistant in her online money school The Art of Money. I can’t recommend her book (and her online course) highly enough.
3. Track Your Money – Your Spending, Your Income, Your Assets (what you own) and Your Liabilities (what you owe). I know there are tens of things you’d love to be doing rather than tracking your money: swimming at the beach, watching a movie, walking the dog, climbing Mount Everest, even doing the dishes. But getting in touch with your numbers in a real and tangible way is what lifts the fog around your finances. The clarity dissolves the confusion. My clients often say that tracking their money is grounding.
When you track your money you come face-to-face with your financial habits, patterns and behaviors. You get to see what’s working in your financial life and what’s not, what’s in alignment with your values, where you’re sabotaging yourself, where you’re taking good care of yourself, and what needs to change. The awareness that comes from tracking gives you CHOICE to earn, spend and grow your money in ways that feel good, honest and sustainable to your body and your soul.
Tracking your money is a supreme act of self-care.
And it keeps you connected with your money on an ongoing basis so that no one can pull the proverbial financial wool over your eyes.
4. Get Yourself a Money Buddy – You know the old saying “two heads are better than one”? It’s much more fun to learn and explore new things with a friend, with a partner or even in a group. Plus, having a buddy or accountability partner can help to keep you motivated and challenged when life gets busy, when you forgot, when you fall of the wagon.
So invite a dear friend or soulmate with whom you can talk, learn, challenge, encourage and empower in the personal finance arena. Chose a book and together read one chapter a week. Explore the business section of the newspaper. Or discuss some personal finance blogs. And always remember – it’s about progress, not perfection.
Gaining knowledge, confidence and empowerment with your personal finances is a journey not a quick fix. It’s important for men and I believe it is doubly important for women who tend to be more hesitant in this space and who are very likely to be managing money on their own for some part of their adult lives. But as long as you keep on learning, I have confidence that you’re going to get there!
And always keep in mind: you reap what you sew.
If you’d like to take better care of your finances and learn something new about money, sign up for my FREE 5-day Mini Money Makeover.
And jump right in.