by Susan Paige
Everyone makes mistakes when dealing with their finances. Spending, saving, investing……there is no end to the possibilities for making mistakes. Women, however, need to be even more careful because they’re more vulnerable. They’re more likely to listen to “advice,” – regardless of whether it’s good advice or not – and they’re more likely to leave financial decisions to the men in their lives – regardless of whether those men are any better at managing finances than the women themselves.
Everyone has their own financial reality but there are a number of basic mistakes that are made more often than others. These are the issues for which women should be aware:
It’s easy to think that, after you’ve paid your bills, you won’t have any money to put into savings. Retirement accounts, emergency funds and other long or short term goals get pushed aside as we live for the moment. But if you’re finding the money to go out for meals and get your nails done, your priorities are backwards.
Every bit of money that you can put away matters. If you forgo one dinner a week and put that $20 in savings, you’ll have $1040 at the end of the year. Do that for 5 years? You’d have over $5000 in your savings account! And if you invest that money, you’ll be adding the investment profits to your savings. So the next time you think that $20 doesn’t make a difference, think again.
If you plan ahead you’ll be somewhat protected from unplanned life occurrences. No one can give you 100% assurance that your planning will protect you from every blip on the screen but it can cushion you, at least financially. This means that you should have the right type of insurance to keep you on your feet in case of a crisis.
There are multiple types of insurance plans – health insurance, life insurance, home insurance, auto insurance, disability insurance, etc. Get your ducks in a row and make sure that you have the needed insurance plan so you have something on which to fall back in times of trouble. Then you won’t be in danger of losing all of your savings and investments as you struggle to cover your downturn.
Despite warnings about the dangers and financial irresponsibility of allowing yourself to get into debit, studies show that in 2017, the average household that carries credit card debt has a balance of $15,654 on their credit cards. In households with any kind of debt, the average debt (including mortgage) is $131,431.
It doesn’t take a PhD in economics to point out that that when you carry that type of debt, you are cruisin’ for a bruisin’. Not only are you paying massive amounts of interest on that debt but if anything unplanned happens and you don’t have the income on which you count, you’ll be in deep trouble.
Not having a plan to get rid of debt is a major mistake in many households, particularly among women who make the majority of household purchases. The high interest on credit card debt will drain whatever is coming in. There’s simply no way to build wealth as you rack up more debit.
You must have a plan to get rid of your debt, even if it means living on a strict budget, with no frills, for a period of time. Create and execute a plan to attack your debt aggressively. Pay it off as quickly as possible and then you can focus on instituting a healthier financial plan.
Ignorance of your finances is no reason for you to allow your financial situation to deteriorate. Many women allow their husband or partner to manage the money. They don’t get involved, either because they think that “it’s not a women’s place” or they “don’t have a head for money.” Sit together to review ingoing and outgoing expenses. Make decisions about insurance policies together. Review bank statements on joint bank accounts. Make sure that you sign a joint income tax return AFTER you review the statement. Discuss investments and look at the paperwork yourself.
Hopefully you are in a successful and loving long-term relationship/marriage. May you live a long and healthy life together. But according to statistics, you are more likely to outlive your partner (if he’s a guy). In the U.S., life expectancy at birth is about 72 years for men and is about 79 years for women. Your investing plan, including your plan for expected social security and pension benefits, should reflect this discrepancy.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 70% of mothers with children under 18 work outside the home. 75% of those women are employed full-time. That still leaves 30% of women who “work at home.” Reasons for not working outside the home vary – babysitter costs, reluctance to leave young children, husband/partner’s preference or the woman’s own preference. Yet here, once again, the woman isn’t planning.
What if there’s a death or divorce? Will the woman be prepared financially? And even if the marriage/partnership is happy and healthy, by stepping out of the workforce, the woman takes a chance that her reentry will result in a lower-paying job with fewer benefits. When a woman leaves the workforce for any amount of time, she averages 84% of her prior compensation if she returns after one year and just 50% if she returns after three years.
When you compare the earnings stream to the salary raises that she would have been likely to receive if she stayed in the workforce the discrepancy grows.
Chances are that, when a woman leaves the workforce, she’s not doing it so that she can sit around and play at an online casino . She might make that decision because of the value that she and her partner see in her staying at home as a caregiver. Yet the decision about whether or not to keep working outside the home should be made with all considerations in mind.