When my granddaughters hit about three years old, I began telling them how important it is to become a financially savvy woman. Oh sure, I slipped it in between reading Pete the Cat and, later, Encyclopedia Brown books, but it’s an important message for us all.
I’ve watched too many women I love hand their financial well-being over to a partner, only to be left high and dry when they break up with that person or the partner dies without walking them through household finances.
Whether you’re just starting out in life or enjoying your third act, now is the time to review your finances. And if you haven’t already started financial planning, the day has come. Here are three good reasons why.
1. You shouldn’t have to depend on someone else
If you’re in a healthy relationship in which you share all major financial decisions, you can skip ahead to No. 2. However, if you’re single and hoping to meet someone or you’re in a controlling relationship, it’s important to know this statistic: According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), financial abuse occurs in 99% of domestic violence cases.
Naturally, this is not a statistic I would share with my granddaughters before they’re of dating age, but it’s one we should all keep stamped on our minds. An insecure partner will keep you around in any way possible, and that could include making you 100% dependent on them for food and a roof over your head.
Abuse could begin with controlling finances and then escalate. NNEDV says that abusers can even make their manipulation look like love. They can charm you into handing over your finances (and power).
I share this not to frighten you but to underscore the importance of having a financial plan that includes the ability to provide for yourself. If you don’t have a plan, you can start today.
2. The earlier you begin, the more time you have to watch your money grow
Let’s say you’re 25 and invest $100 weekly for 42 years in an IRA account, until the year you plan to retire. If your money earns an average of 7% annually, you’ll end up with just shy of $1,200,000, thanks to the mighty power of compound interest.
If you start investing at age 45 instead, you’ll end up with $254,600. It’s not bad, but far short of the amount you would have had in your retirement account if you’d started earlier. To hit around $1,200,000 by the age of 67, you’d need to invest $462 per week.
Do not allow discouragement to prevent you from getting started, even if you can’t come up with much right now. For example, a 25-year-old who invests $25 a week until age 67 still has $298,900 tucked into an account of their own.
Before you invest: If you don’t already have one in place, sit down and plan out a monthly budget. Here’s how. A budget provides the easiest way to see how much money is coming in and going out each month.
Slowly but surely, build an emergency savings account that will cover minor emergencies as they arise so you won’t have to depend on credit cards or borrow money from someone else. As finances allow, add to the account until you have enough money to cover three to six months’ worth of your expenses. Ideally, you’ll have an account in your name only.
3. Odds are, you’ll be alone at some point in your adult life
If you marry or live with a man and are roughly the same age, statistics show you are likely to outlive him. According to life expectancy tables, women can expect to live around three years longer than men. Of course, if you come from a family of people who live much longer, that period could be extended.
Taking control of your financial life now — even if it means sharing the responsibility with your partner — means you won’t go into widowhood with no idea of what you’re doing. Let’s face it: You’ll have enough to deal with. Navigating finances should not be one of them. If you’re not sure where to begin, consider working with a financial advisor who has your best interests at heart.
Did you know that women hold more wealth than men, but invest 40% less? That’s because we tend to be more risk averse, afraid we’ll lose money. The truth is, though, we’re missing out on financial gains. By creating a financial plan, you’re taking the first step toward determining how much money you need to meet your goals. It also gives you time to devise a plan that will help you stay the course when the stock market makes you feel antsy.
While there are no guarantees in life, becoming confident enough to take risks and manage your own finances opens you up to a world of possibilities.
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