3 Money Tips for Women
It’s a New Year, and many of us are making resolutions to manage our money more wisely. Here are 3 tips to help you on your journey.
1. For the next 30 days, pause each time you buy something and notice what you did. Don’t beat yourself up and say “I’m an idiot; I can’t believe I spent another $5 at Starbucks! I’m not even supposed to have caffeine; I gave it up for New Year’s!” Just say (to yourself not a loud– no need for everyone to know we’re talking to ourselves!)- “That chai latte was $4.65. Interesting.” Many of us spend mindlessly and slowing down and paying attention to our purchases can help break that bad habit.
After noticing your spending for 30 days, use a tool like Mint.com, YNAB.com, a spreadsheet or even a yellow pad of paper, to track your expenses. Then go through your findings and ask yourself: “Is my spending in line with my values?” If you want to eat healthier, are you spending more at the grocery store than you are at Dairy Queen? If you want the gospel to spread, are you tithing?
Then look for ways to re-direct your spending to match your values. Maybe your family decides that the time and money that you’ve been spending on your daughter’s travel softball team would be better served by giving some of it to the church and contributing some of it in her college savings plan. It’s exciting to think about the difference we could make by investing our time and money in the things that matter most to us!
2. If you’re married, schedule time for a money talk with your husband. It’s common in couples for one person to serve as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and take charge of paying bills, making investment decisions, selecting insurance policies, and employee benefits, etc. This division of labor is common because one spouse may have more interest or knowledge about financial matters, and the set-up works fine – as long as both spouses are physically and mentally healthy. Of course, our health is not guaranteed, so it is critical for couples to have regular “money talks” to make sure financial information is shared. You’ll likely want to have separate conversations about each topic rather than trying to cram them all into one talk and risk information overload and inaction.
How are bills paid? If the CFO spouse died or became sick, what bills are the most pressing to pay? For example, is the mortgage payment automatically drafted from the checking account or does that bill need to be paid manually? When are bills paid? Monthly? Every two weeks? Are there periodic expenses, like insurance premiums or real estate taxes, paid for via check or online funds transfer?
After this money talk, it may be helpful for the non-CFO spouse to sit with the CFO spouse as he/she pays bills to see the process in action and to make notes for future reference. The non-CFO spouse may also have insight on how to simplify the bill paying process, for example, by automating more bill payments or by consolidating bank accounts so there is one operating account.
Where are important documents kept? The CFO likely has a filing system that works for him/her, so the non-CFO may need to make notes about where to find things if that system does not click. Another option is for the non-CFO to take over the file system! Keep in mind that some documents may be in paper format and some may be in digital format. You should be able to put your hands on documents including:
- Social Security numbers and benefits statement
- Personal papers like birth certificate, marriage certificate, military discharge papers
- Income tax returns
- Insurance policies for medical, life, long-term care, auto, home, and umbrella
- Bank and investment account statements, including IRAs and 401ks
- Statements for any debts, like mortgage, car loan, or personal loan
- Employee benefits, including pay stubs and employer provided life insurance
- Beneficiary designations on retirement accounts and life insurance policies
- Real estate deeds, car titles
- Name and contact information for professional advisors including CPA, estate attorney, employee benefits manager, insurance agent
- List of usernames and passwords for online accounts (or master password for an online password manager like LastPass or Dashlane)
When can we meet again to see what information has changed? Six months? One year? Just like other “talks” we have with our family, this “money talk” is not a one-time event. Your financial and family life will change, and it is important to stay on top of these changes.
3. If you have aging parents, ask them to have a money talk with you. We often wait until there is a crisis to talk with our parents about their financial situation and we rarely make the best decisions under such stress. You could start the conversation by making it clear that you want your parents to remain as independent as possible for as long as possible. Then refer to the topics listed in tip 2 to guide your questions.
To make sure your financial resolutions last past Valentine’s Day, take time right now to 1) put a reminder in your wallet to pause and notice your spending and 2) schedule time for a money talk. You’ve got this!
Patti Black is a Certified Financial Planner™ with 20+ years of experience helping clients make smart choices about money. She is Doug’s wife and Anna and Luke’s Mom.