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Financial Empowerment: Strategies for Women

The demographics of women have evolved and changed rapidly over the last half-century. Currently, women outnumber men in American colleges and universities. This reversal of the gender gap is a recent trend. As of 2009, 57% of bachelor's degrees, 60% of master's degrees, and 52% of doctoral degrees were awarded to women, according to the Department of Education. Fortunately for women, this increase in education translates into increased influence—and affluence.

Their emergence as leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators is indisputable. Women are no longer just in charge of the household and children. Now a prominent component of corporate America and business, they are increasingly assuming stewardship of family and business finances.

As a working professional mom of three children, I understand that women often have the best of intentions in managing their wealth, but often put themselves last. While it’s not true for everyone, men tend to associate wealth with prestige or power. Women tend to associate wealth with security and peace of mind.

Here is list of strategies that I use with my female clients to help them feel more financially confident and empowered.

  1. Establish goals. It sounds simple, but it’s not easy! Creating a financial plan that helps you see the big picture and establish short- and long-term life goals is a crucial step in mapping out your financial future. When you have a strategy and a financial plan, it’s easier to make financial decisions and stay on track to reach your goals. The planning experience should provide peace of mind, insight, and clarity to you and your family.
  2. Focus on time in the market (not market timing). Being savvy about your financial future is not synonymous with trying to predict the best time to buy or sell investments so you can outperform the market. Focus on creating an integrated financial plan that connects your life goals with your investments. Plan to invest in the market for the long haul.
  3. Raise your voice. There is no such a thing as a dumb question. There is no need to feel like people are talking down to you or over you. Case in point: One of my female clients approached her tax advisor about wanting to pay off her mortgage prior to retirement. Instead of letting her finish her question, he quickly responded, “Why would you think of such a dumb idea?” Fortunately, she decided to fire this gentleman. But I wonder how many women have encountered such a negative experience, and stick with advisors who are not listening or paying attention to what they want for their financial futures.
  4. Value all of your contributions to the household, not just the financial ones. I will never forget presenting a financial plan to a couple when the wife, a highly specialized nurse who works in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), asked me why an advisor once advised her to purchase extra life insurance for her husband, but not for herself. She said that I was the first financial professional to validate—and value—her many roles as mother, wife and professional.
  5. Pace yourself. Allow time to make sound financial decisions. Many women are often struggling to balance their careers with their family responsibilities. It isn’t so much that women procrastinate doing their financial planning, but that they feel overwhelmed, overextended, and overworked. Ensure that your financial professional can provide the education, time frame, and comfortable setting appropriate for your needs.
  6. Strive for balance, not perfection. Being balanced isn’t about deprivation or simply delayed gratification. It’s about balancing consumption today with anticipated consumption in the future. While planning for the future is prudent, we all have to live life a little now! For me, my green tea latte habit might seem extravagant to others, but when I have to get up early to take my son to swim practice, it brings serenity to my day.

One Chinese proverb states, “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.” It’s essential that women be encouraged to vocalize their needs and concerns, and engaged in the management of their financial futures. Working with a CFP® professional is a great way to start.

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