It’s a well-established fact that women are still less comfortable managing money. As my colleague Michelle Herting wrote last week, women “worry more. They are less likely than men to plan early, engage a financial adviser, or study financial planning topics. Half associate negative words with planning.”
Yet, these are the very things that will set women up to become more fiscally aware and to take charge of their finances with confidence. If you are a woman who holds back from taking charge in this area, what keeps you from taking charge?
In the conversations I’ve had with women who hesitate, I’ve discovered some conflicting agendas that keep women from becoming more fiscally aware and prepared. Does any of this sound familiar to you?
1. I don’t have a clear vision for my future.
“I don’t plan my financial future because I don’t know where I want to be and what that looks like,” says Soledad. “I’ve always worked hard to do the right thing, to pay the mortgage and help keep the kids fed. I guess I’ve lost myself in the process. What do I want? Not to live paycheck to paycheck. Is that a vision?”
Clearly not. But Soledad and other women like her are now solely financially responsible and finding that it takes everything they have to make ends meet. And as women typically earn less than their male counterparts (Yes! Even now!), it’s harder for them to make a life for their families in the way they feel is best for them.
Other women who are in a current financial state of ease can also find it difficult, for various reasons, to identify what they want for their own futures. If this is you, finding a thought partner who can help you begin to identify what will be important is key. Identify someone who can facilitate such a conversation, because creating a vision is really the first necessary step in making a strategic plan for your future, financially and otherwise.
2. I need to make sure my kids are okay.
The fear of saying “no” to what you feel your kids (or other family members) need can keep a lot of women from taking charge of their financial future.
“It’s always something,” quipped one mother. “But how can you say no when your 30-year-old doesn’t have a car to drive to work?”
Simple. Instead of being the “wallet,” direct them to resources that will help them learn to become financially resourceful. If you are doing things for your adult children that they could be doing for themselves, you can do something greater than sponsor them financially.
You can “teach them how to fish,” so that long after you are gone, they will have the resources they need to manage their lives. When women don’t do this, they will often shy away from making a budget or a retirement plan because facing the reality of having to choose between themselves and others is too frightening.
3. I’ll have to forgo immediate pleasure to plan for a successful future.
If your own current lifestyle and perceived needs are draining your bank account, it’s time to recalibrate.
When you don’t save, here’s what you might be saying to yourself: “I deserve this. It’s on sale. I might not find it, again. I never buy anything for myself. Just this once.”
If any of these phrases are in your vocabulary, think about putting a 24-hour pause on a purchase before pushing the button. You can begin to replace whim with reason and put that same amount of money away in a financial account designated to create a new “savings habit.”
4. The goals are so steep, I might be doomed.
Many women fear reality might be too cruel, and that if they review the numbers with a financial expert, they will discover they are doomed to a dismal future.
You would be surprised at how many women put their heads in the proverbial sand. Denial is not wonderful, however, and the stress of not knowing keeps us in a state of constant anxiety.
You may have heard someone else quip, “I guess I’ll just be a Walmart greeter when I’m 80,” or “I can’t retire. I have to help pay down the national debt.” Under this bravado sits angst that is not productive. No matter how old you are or how close to retirement, there are things you can do to support a more successful future.
The chief reason that women are not more fiscally aware is that they are scared. Frightened about what they might discover, about what they might have to do in order to change their financial trajectory. If you are one of those who hesitate to take charge because you are worried about having a sticky conversation, asserting your importance in a relationship, or changing a comfort habit, think again. Learning to confront the things that are holding you back are worth it – because you are worth it.
Patti Cotton works with executives, business owners, and their companies, to elevate and support leadership at all levels. Reach her via email at Patti@PattiCotton.com.