It’s Important for Women to be Confident with their Money

I have always enjoyed being a steward of money. Even as a kid, I would count my money; I was excited to open a bank account; I would plan on money expenditures, I thought about money and how to best use it.  As a young adult, I thought about how to ensure I had extra saved money; I enjoyed the world of investing, although, as a woman, back then, there was not a lot of support for women in money matters.

So, I was stunned to recently read an article about women and money that included sobering findings from a Fidelity Investments Money FIT Women Study. Surveying 1,500 women, this survey found that 8 out of 10 women don’t talk to family or friends about money. That is chilling to me. The study also revealed that 50% of those interviewed, mostly Gen X and Yers, said they are nervous talking about making financial decisions! What the what the?!

Even today, where so much is available and expected of us, it seems we don’t include financial literacy as an area to master. As a result, and according to the Fidelity study, women have a confidence gap when it comes to financial literacy.

Is this true for you? Do you feel yourself avoiding money conversations? If so, what can you do to change this behavior and mindset. Here are three tips to begin your positively affect your relationship with your money.

  • Take a moment to answer this question: How do you want money to play an active an enabling role in your life? Answering this question allows you to finally understand what money means to you. Knowing this gives you clarity about how you really view money. It may be that you don’t get money, or, you don’t respect it or, conversely, that you want to get a handle on it but don’t know how.
  • If it is easy for you to accumulate debt and spend more than you have, ask yourself: What is in it for you to continue this habit? Really stop and respond to this with clarity. We tend to do things either because there is a benefit to doing so, because we want to sabotage ourselves, or because we are avoiding dealing with the topic of money.
  • What first step can you commit to make a, one, not all, just one, present unproductive habit move into the shadows of your life rather than being in the driver’s seat to your life? Taking a small step can begin a journey of steps that eventually become a pathway to sustainable and successful habits and behaviors around money.

Need more help? Contact me. Having women be successful in life with their money is important to me! I hope it is to you, too.

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I would like to speak to Millennials for a Moment

Today, every generation, thanks to the mining of so much data, can be and is dissected for quick sound bites and headlines. I, too, stop and read some of the headlines. A couple of these have caught my eye and wanted to focus on them today.

Recently, I saw two headlines addressed to millennials. The first was about money habits: In a poll from USA Today/Bank of America Better Money Habits, 33% do not have a savings account, 40% have less than $5,000 saved,  more than 50% have not funded their retirement savings. Instead millennials are focused on paying off credit card debt. 40% say they worry about their financial future at least once a week.

I have two reactions: the first is Y-A-W-N. The baby boomers were late to the money responsibility, as a generation, as well. So, not too much of a surprise here. What is taught and acted on in one generation often passes on, in some recognizable manner, to the next generation.

My second reaction is in the form of a question: as a species, are we savers? Or is this a luxury for those in a certain income range? In my 20 years as a financial planner (with three prestigious certifications) I rarely found the dedicated saver. And if stock options were available, it was no better. They seemed to equate more money to higher ticket items. It’s difficult to save when businesses spend a fortune on marketing to us to get us to part with our money.  I am not excusing non-savers, I am just painting a landscape that I see. I built my Money Focus program to address this big problem guide those who want to transform their money anxieties to money stewardship.

The second article I read was about millennials wanting to retire early. The take away in this article is not that millennials, as a group, want to chill somewhere, instead it is more fundamental to who they are: they feel insecure about the future, in general. A documentary: Playing with Fire, explores a millennial’s journey to their financial freedom, where health care, social security and social safety nets seem to be eroding and where individual financial future is now one’s own responsibility. Financial literacy is rarely taught in schools or at home. In 2017, only five states were given an A for their financial education efforts from the Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy’s Financial Report Card. These states: Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia require that their students take at last a half-year personal finance course or its equivalent. At least it’s something.

Millennials, this has been happening for generations. And will continue for generations. But you can stop it. You can take control of your own financial life.  It only takes a willingness to change.

Let me know if you want to explore how.

Thank you for caring for your financial well-being!

This Year Money and I will Be Friends

Millennials, 81 million strong, are being scrutinized by researchers to learn about their financial habits and behaviors. One study, from a USA Today/Bank of America Money Habits Poll, found that one in five millennials are not saving money.

Another survey, hosted by Fidelity, found that over half the millennials had not started saving for retirement. Instead this generational cohort are wrestling with a different top financial issue: paying off credit card debt. As Fidelity also discovered, 4 in 10 millennials they survey worry about their financial future at least once a week.

Is this a case of one generation passing on habits and behaviors to another generation? Is this because money has become harder to understand? Is it because it is too easy to spend money?

I know that when I work with people on transforming their money behaviors and habits, there seem to be three main areas around money that cause major problems. They are:

  • the inability to communicate about money without a shroud of anxiety layered over the conversation
  • the feeling of being out of control when there is a constant barrage of decisions to make with your money
  • No reliable system in place to track, tweak and oversee money habits.

My initial recommendation, if money is a source of anxiety for you, is to step back and answer these four piercing questions:

  • What does money mean to you?
  • What do you want it to provide for you?
  • How far away are you from realizing question two?
  • Are you willing to do what you have to do to make question two happen?

These are not easy questions to answer, so give yourself the space to answer these fully for yourself. The responses you come up will not necessarily change your habits with money right away. What they will do is help you to become clear as to the purpose of your money so that you can then direct your attention to the areas of communication, control and systems around your behaviors with money.

As you pursue your mastery of money, make this your mantra for the year: “This year, money and I will be friends, and not part company as easy and as often as we did last year.”

A Ridiculously Brief and Incomplete Historical Perspective of Currency

The ancient Chinese used cowrie shells as currency. Babylonia used barley in their towns and villages while silver (shekel) was used mostly in their cities. As I understand, silver and cattle were used by the Jews for much of their trade while Greeks used silver and ox. The Persian Empire used both animals and gold. Copper and bronze, as materials of trade, were introduced by the Romans, presumably, in the 3rd and 4th Centuries B.C. As you can imagine, trade was difficult on a mass scale or in long distances as animals and barley were cumbersome to move from place to place. Cowrie shells were a lot easier to transport but many villages and tradespeople did  not honor them. They were not valued n their own locales.

Because metal transport was heavy, metal currency stayed local.  Bronzed axes in Gaul and iron swords in Britain were common local metal currencies. By the 3rd Century A.D., the metals in the coins were so minimal that the coins’ value were minimal.  Except for gold. Gold’s value increased to the point when, by the 4th Century A.D., gold was the standard bearer for currency exchange. It too was heavy. As it was also difficult to transport, it was not yet in great quantity. But its value was known, its sources were searched, fought over, and hoarded.

Wampum was a common unit of currency between the English and Dutch in the new Americas. Tobacco notes were issued when wampum beads were discontinued. Metals, such as gold and silver, were hard to come by in the developing territory.

Gold eventually became the standard of measurement for most currency, and more specifically, paper money. Because Its purity could be measured, it had stability. Its size could be measured against its purity. This gave currency a standard and ease in “foreign” exchange, exchange beyond one’s borders. Until recently (the last hundred years), there was a direct ratio between  the amount of gold a country stored and the amount of currency it had in circulation. A modern country “back then” backed its currency by its gold. That is significant to think about. A strong country did not have more money in circulation than it had gold.   Today, that has changed. The gold standard has been removed. Most currency is pegged to the US dollar which, itself, is backed by “the full faith and credit” of its government. More money can be printed as its measure is based on faith and credit. As long as that good “full faith and credit” is supported, its money is valued.

3 Tips to Developing Money Stewards at Home

An effective way to view  money at home is to regard money education as a process rather than as a single event instruction. When money education is set up like this, money behaviors can be talked about, tweaked and managed more easily.

Here are 3 tips to get you started in developing money stewardship at home:

1        Begin by asking your family members what money means to them. Once the question has been asked, listen, without interruption to their response. It is critical that you not interrupt so your family members feel listened to. They do not want to feel this was a set up question for judgement and commands. When your children feel heard rather than feeling like they are being judged, they will more likely be candid with you in their response.

2        Put together an agreed to plan of action to develop valuable money habits in these areas: saving, invest, donating, earning, spending, what we at Focus and Sustain call the 5 S.I.D.E.S. of Money©. You will find your children are drawn more to one or two “sides” more than others. Explore these with them. Create limits and challenges for them to explore their interests.

3        Talk about money. Set up money nights where you talk about topics like: budgets for vacations, issues your children are running into, budgets, how to make money choices, etc.  Open  up the dialogue with welcomed feedback, with parameters around accountability, develop measurability to plans. All these will develop stewards to money at home.

Don’t Let Money Confuse You

Money habits and behaviors have great impact: if you spend and don’t save; if you save but don’t invest, if you invest and can’t share; if you have money but can’t generate money all have their consequences. It may take some time to see the consequences, but they are there. Money issues eventually surface, most frequently when we are in a relationship with someone else and their habits and behaviors differ from yours.

  • If you spend and don’t save, you may find that you don’t have the resources you need for retirement, for medical tests or costs that insurance will not pay for. Strive to save 5% of your net income for that emergency saving. Determine your “zero,” a number you never fall below. Use 5% of your gross income as an initial “zero” if saving is difficult for you.
  • If you save but do not invest, you will find that inflation and taxes will eat away at your savings. Partner with a financial advisor who can help you learn about investing. Make 15-20% of your gross income, your investing objective. Define a purpose for your investment and develop an active relationship with your advisor.
  • If you invest but have not yet helped others with your financial generosity, you might be surprised at how good it feels to assist someone in need. Organizations and causes you believe in can use your generosity in ways that do make the world better. Individuals, down on their luck appreciate your helping hand at an extremely difficult time in their lives. Make 5-10% of your net income a goal for giving.  Find an organization that aligns with your passions and beliefs and enter a giving program with them.
  • If you give money, and do not yet understand the value of generating your own finances, start a project that you personally fund. Become an entrepreneur. You will learn a lot about business and yourself! Alternatively, develop skills that are marketable and search for an opportunity in a field of interest to you. Be creative and bold in your search for work.

Money rocks! Don’t let it confuse you.

 

Two Insightful Money Observations

Money is merely a tool, which means that money itself is not THE culprit. If stays where we leave it, it goes where we move it to. With that as a backdrop, let’s look at two scenarios:

  • More earnings mean more wealth       Y             N

Not necessarily as money is easily spent. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that the personal savings rate is at about 3.20% of income with lesser income earners saving more than higher income earners. The data continued to show that we exhibit one of the lowest savings rates of developed countries; only Spain, China, and Australia save less than we do, currently.

  • Money Can Buy Happiness                     Y             N            

Yes, up to a point. Think of what that Powerball lottery could do for you! Science has researched this question and found that how we spend money has an influence on our happiness. Research shows that happiness is increased when we spend money on others more than on ourselves. Does this have to do with experiencing satisfaction? I don’t know, I am merely asking. One study, I remember reading from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western University, indicated that once people earn more than $200,000, their level of happiness did not increase significantly.

 Money is very personal. Being personal, it is important that you understand what money means to you, so it can be the sharpest tool in your tool chest, doing what you want it to do for you!

 

2 Steps to Take When Money Conversations are Difficult to Initiate

 

Step back for a minute, and take inventory. The inventory I would like you to take consists of: the ease at which you enter conversations about money.

First, take note of what the intention of the money conversation you are about to begin is. If your intention is to blame, shame, or guilt someone else’s behaviors or actions, this conversation could very well be difficult to have. Who wants to be part of a conversation where accusations or disappoints are hurled? I do not know anyone who wants to be part of that.

Reframe your intention so it is not about how you want the other person to feel, but instead, determine what it is you want to achieve from the conversation. For example, let’s say you do not like the spending habits of your spouse or partner and want to let them know this…yet again. Instead of wanting to express how inappropriate you think it is for them to spend as much as they do, talk about how important it is for you to save. Then ask for their support on how to add a savings to your money activities.

When you know what true intention to the conversation you want to have, you can initiate that conversation without attaching attributes of shame, blame, or attack to the person with whom you are having the money conversation. Instead, you are collaborating to further your intentions rather than looking to release an arrow laced with contempt towards someone else’s feelings.

Second, look at what outcome you want from your money conversation. Using the last example, your preferred outcome may be to start a savings program. It is important to know what outcome you are aiming for so you can use this outcome as your reference and return to it when you use trigger points leading the conversation down rabbit holes to discord.

When money conversations are difficult to initiate, know your underlying intention for the conversation you want to have. From there, identify the outcome you want so you can communicate that to your partner. Remember to return the conversation to its intended focus when it goes astray.

2 Steps to Take Now to Reframe Unproductive Money Behaviors

According to a survey by Wells Fargo, nearly half (44%) of those surveyed said that money conversations were the toughest to have, more difficult even than religion, politics or death. If you find that you are one of those who find it difficult to initiate or be in important conversations, you will want to read further. Money holds a lot of judgmental emotions and tension as inappropriate behaviors can usurp the initial intention of the money topic.

Let’s examine the following situations: You are at a dinner with friends and the bill comes. What happens next? Do you grab the bill? Do you wait for someone else to make a move? Do you talk about splitting it in half or per everyone’s individual order?

And how about this situation: You are invited to join an “By Invitation Only” group on a long weekend retreat. The group really wants you to join them but you know you do not have the extra money put aside for this. What do you tell them? Do you make up another “reason” for not being able to join them? Do you tell them you will think about it as a way to avoid talking about it? Do you put it on a credit card knowing it will take you eighteen months to pay it off as well as the other items on your credit card accruing interest each month?

It is so easy in these situations, and many others, to keep your thoughts to yourself; those thoughts like: “Let’s split the bill per each individual’s order.” “I can’t come this year, but let me know the cost for next year, so I can save up for it.” You do not want to appear different, inadequate, or bothersome. You want to do what everyone else is so seemingly agreeable to doing.

Unresolved money conversations create tension because you add a perspective of shame, guilt or judgment about you and money. But when you start talking about money openly and without the shame, guilt, or judgment built into the conversation, you can develop respect and understand around money and your role with it. But how do you do this?

There are two steps you can take immediately to begin to reframe your behaviors with money. The first is to understand what money was like growing up for you. I call this understanding your money stories. Begin by asking yourself: “How was money talked about when I was little?” “What did I do with allowances or financial gifts that I received when I was growing up? How did I talk with my friends about money when I was a teenager?” These and many other questions will give you insight into your own early views on money. You will probably recognize patterns you use today due to your early associations with money.

The second step you can take is to determine how you are going to handle money situations when others are involved, before the event happens. If you are going out for dinner with others, you can send a quick text to share your idea of splitting the bill. Prepare a response when you are asked to join events you cannot afford. Letting people know you have not allocated an amount for a particular “retreat” or other event to your budget presents a sense of responsibility with your money.

I know this just scratches the surface of changing money behaviors and habits but I thought it was important to talk about this.

Let me know how you handle money so money is an ally to you and your goals in life. I would be delighted to hear from you.

Saving Money Is Easier When You Do This

Saving money is difficult for some people. It’s just too easy to part with those bills taking up space in your wallet. Plus, those bills are worn and small denominations. Why keep them when you can just get rid of them on a mindless transaction.

 

There have been several studies, and a recent one, found in the Journal of Consumer Research, stated that: “The physical appearance of money can alter spending behavior. Consumers tend to infer that worn bills are used and contaminated, whereas crisp bills give them a sense of pride in owning bills that can be spent around others,” concluded authors Fabrizio Di Muro an Theodore j. Noseworthy.

 

Participants in several studies were given worn or new bills and their behaviors were observed as they went shopping. The participants favored the newer and crisper bills and they favored larger bills. By favoring, the participants were less eager to part with the crisper bills and would exchange worn bills for goods even if a crisper bill was of a smaller and more appropriate denomination.

 

So, if you want to save money, give yourself crisper bills. If you want someone else to save the money you give them, give them crisper bills as well.

 

Look at how you use your worn versus crisper bills and if you do not have crisp bills, ask the cashier for them when requesting change or ask your bank teller for crisp bills when they give you cash. Tell me your experience with your worn and crisp bills. Which do you favor?   img_5829