Women are more educated and successful than ever. Yet, when it comes to their money, they still tend to stand on the sidelines, according to financial experts.
It’s something advocates are trying to change.
“We still abdicate our money decisions to other people,” said certified financial planner Stacy Francis, president and CEO of Francis Financial.
“It’s a problem that could haunt you for the rest of your life.”
According to a 2018 UBS study, 59% of widows and divorcees said they wish they had been more involved in long-term financial decisions and 74% don’t consider themselves very knowledgeable about investing.
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Yet, women increasingly have more money in their pockets. By 2020, women are expected to control $22 trillion of U.S. personal wealth, according to a 2015 BMO Wealth Institute report.
“We need to stand up,” Francis said. “We can no longer ignore our money.
“Women cannot be secure, be independent, unless they understand what’s going on with their money.”
That means grasping the basics of budgeting and cash-flow management, as well as how to adequately save for retirement.
Experts believe the lack of financial awareness stems from poor communication about money and a belief system that dates back generations.
“It’s not that many generations ago that we were still taught that we had no power in terms of money and that we had no control over our own money,” said Dr. Kate Levinson, psychologist and author of “Emotional Currency: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Healthy Relationship with Money.”
“There is still a lot of internal resistance, biological resistance and in society, as well, to women stepping up and owning their power [and] taking control over their finances,” she added.
Here are steps women can take to become financially savvy.
Own your feelings
Women are taught to remove their emotions when it comes to managing their money, said Levinson.
However, “from a feminine point of view, our feelings about money are really valuable to the decisions we make,” she said.
Therefore, she suggests embracing them.
“Get to know them and understand where they come from,” Levinson explained. “See which of our feelings have to do with us and which of the feelings are our mother’s or father’s feelings.”
Talk about it
Women learn, in part, by talking with others. Yet, there is a taboo around discussing finances.
“It’s another way that we are marginalized or cut off from fully engaging with money in our lives,” Levinson said.
So, find your people and talk about it — and realize that wherever you are with your financial knowledge, no one is going to judge you, advises Francis.
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One of the things you can do is start a book club, and instead of fiction works, focus on non-fiction books that have something to do with money.
You can also start to talk to your friends, see what they are doing with their 401(k) and savings.
“It works out really well if you do it over cosmos,” said Francis.
Another option is what’s called a money circle. Francis does it with her company. Every month about 15 women gather and talk about money for a couple of hours while “sipping Champagne and eating sushi.”
“We don’t necessarily talk about numbers,’ she said. “We talk about our relationship with money, we learn from each other.
“It is really powerful.”
Figure out your learning style
Get your team
Women need to make sure they have the right support, said Francis.
“Maybe it is that book club, maybe it is an hourly financial planner you see once a year like a check up with primary doctor, or maybe it’s an ongoing advisor,” she said. “Find that team.”
Another option is a money coach, which she said costs no more than your cell phone bill.
“There are so many options for women, based on where you are financially and with your budget and what your needs are,” Francis said.
Work with your partner
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Just because you are financially secure doesn’t mean you cut off your partner or spouse. Instead, work together — each focusing on his or her own strengths.
“One of the most powerful things that you can do is to be on the same page with your partner, financially,” Francis said.
She suggests financial date nights, like once a month or, if you have been married for a long time, maybe once a quarter.
For Francis, she’s worked out a plan that has her husband on the indoor stationary bike, looking on and contributing as she works out their finances on the computer. Because he doesn’t like to sit still and doesn’t like to deal with money, it’s a good way to make it work, she said.
Give yourself credit
Remember, you know much more than you give yourself credit for, Francis said.
“We know more about money, investing than we actually realize,” she said.
And by striving for financial wellness, you’ll improve your entire life.
“Money gives you options in life,” Francis said. “It allows you to go back to school.
“It allows you to change your job,” she added. “Getting control of your money is an absolute must-have.”
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.