Women and money: From first-time on your own to end-of-life decisions

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Women handed over property and wealth to their husbands upon marriage, and while usually granted a household stipend and spending money for themselves, law and custom frequently prevented them making major decisions about their own funds. Women could be widowed or divorced and left with no means of support. They could leave little of consequence to their daughters, thus perpetuating financial poverty and ignorance.

Times have changed, but when it comes to managing money, many women have yet to change their mindset. They still consider their parents or the arrival of a life partner to help manage their assets more important than learning to do it themselves.

A practical approach to changing women's outlook on their assets is looking at life's stages, and what they mean in terms of money management:

Savoring the single life while saving money:

  1. Put together a realistic budget: Use paper and pen, spreadsheet or a service such as Mint, Quicken or You Need A Budget. Use enough categories to account for spending and have one for mad money - to do whatever you want.
  2. Pay your savings first: Decide on a set percentage of your paycheck that goes into retirement fund and an emergency fund. The end of your working life isn't far away and life's "Oh $!#*" moments happen.
  3. Use coupons, think off-season, find free: Not every activity has to cost money. Supplement your singles budget with free or inexpensive outings, find off-season bargains and use apps and coupons to save money.
  4. If your job offers a 401(K) or other investment program, use it: Many companies match the money you invest up to a certain percentage. The company is giving you free money; take it and do not borrow from that fund. Roll it over to another retirement fund when you move on.

That special someone: marriage and money

  1. Conducting THAT conversation: When you know it's serious and the romance will advance, be bold and speak your money mind. It helps if you establish early on that you are a willing and equal financial partner in the dating game (going halves on dining out, cooking a special meal).
  2. Same page, same chapter, same book? You and your partner-to-be don't have to agree exactly when it comes to managing money. It does not hurt to agree on the major points, such as combined versus separate accounts and who pays for what expenses.
  3. Think on a timeline: You are together until death do you part. You don't need to buy a house a month after the wedding. Take time, save money and research what you want and where you want to live before making that investment.
  4. Wills and power of attorney: Marriage means updating your wills so each of you knows the other's decisions. At the same time, consider preparing power of attorney paperwork so you can act for the other if a medical crisis occurs.

Isn't (s)he precious - and expensive!

  1. That bundle of joy is a joy - and it's going to cost you: about $234,000 from birth to age 17. And that's without the costs of giving birth or sending the child to college. Once having children is an agreed-upon part of your lives, start saving.
  2. Research state-funded college tuition programs and prepaid college tuition plans and invest money early.
  3. Babies need food, clothing, shelter, love and attention. The latest gadgets cost money you could invest in their future. Skip the fancy toys or find them secondhand.
  4. Raising children is a blur of expectations, hopes and dreams, and all the bills that come with it. Encourage your kids to follow their desires, rather than live out your expensive failures.

When there's no happily ever after

  1. Divorce and widowhood happen; financial poverty is preventable. Have funds of your own at all times. Keep that money separate and in your sole control.
  2. Know the basics of your household budget, even if you are neither spending nor earning most of the income. This knowledge will help when suspicious bills arrive in the mail, or collection calls start.
  3. Know your rights: You can receive Social Security benefits if widowed or divorced, but certain circumstances apply.
  4. Divorce is painful and expensive, and investing in an attorney to protect your interests and assets is the least expensive part of the process.

The time to talk about life's final journey

  1. Will you have enough? It is a worry that women face because they tend to earn less over a shorter and less-stable working life. Can you make the money you have last a lifetime by working longer, living in a group home, downsizing or moving to a lower cost of living location?
  2. Consider your loved ones and the pain and confusion they face if you don't face the issue of death and money. Keep your will updated and make sure copies are available. Complete a living will and advanced directive so your end-of-life decisions are known.
  3. Keep copies of your credit cards, Social Security card, passport, banking information, insurance policies and computer passwords in a "death file." Survivors will need this information after you die to make important phone calls, pay final bills and close down accounts.
  4. Plan your funeral ahead of time. The average cost of a funeral is just over $7,000. While death is a certainty, the exorbitant expense isn't when you chose and pay for the arrangements in advance.

Contact me today by clicking here to schedule a life line session to help you transition into financial independence.