By: Cortney James, Financial Representative, Northwestern Mutual

1 . Manage your own money. It’s not uncommon that I meet with couples, where the woman oversees household finances, even if the husband is the sole income earner. However, it’s also not uncommon for women to feel that it’s not their place to help manage the money. It’s much easier to jump in after a life event such as divorce or death of a spouse, when you are already involved in the conversation. This is a mistake I saw my own mother make firsthand. It is your responsibility to be your own best advocate. There is no room for “out of sight, out of mind”, because the reality of things is that you don’t know what you don’t know.

2. Ditch the guilt. A lot of us tend to struggle with realizing our own worth and asking to be paid accordingly. Money isn’t a bad thing. Your time is precious and no one else has your unique set of skills. And, don’t you forget that!

3. Check in with your partner. If you’re in a relationship, check in on one another’s financial status and stay informed. Trust me when I say, I know it’s not easy, but the more you make it a habit, the more comfortable it gets. Also, pay attention to ownership and consider the possible loss of benefits if you divorce or remarry. Be sure to know what they have in benefits. If something were to happen to either of you, would you still be able to continue achieving financial goals and living your current lifestyle? Some employers off disability insurance and even life insurance, but when something happens, that’s usually not enough. Also, keep in mind, if there are changes in employment, those benefits don’t follow.

4. Plan for retirement. Life happens fast. Yes, it’s easy to kick the retirement conversation down the road, but there are a lot of benefits to planning early (*cough* compound interest *cough*). Would you rather put a little bit away now or be rushing and forced to put a lot away later? Also, get ahead by knowing that a lot more goes into retirement planning than just having an employer-sponsored 401k.

Food for thought: Do you know how much you’ll need in retirement? Do you know when you’ll be able to retire? How about what you could expect from Social Security? These are things with which my team and I can help you, even if it’s just educating and pointing you in the right direction.

5. Create a plan for debt. Having debt and dealing with everything that comes with it can form quite the burden. Honestly, consult an advisor you trust to form a plan to pay down debt the right way. (Yes, I mean don’t rely on gimmicky names in finance who throw out an all or nothing approach- You know who I’m talking about…) As far as refinancing and student loans, GradFin is a good tool to have in your pocket. They’re always willing to help and offer free advice.

6. Prioritize saving for yourself. As women, it’s not uncommon for us to take on the role of caregiver, whether it’s for a child or another family member (i.e. elderly parents). This cuts into how many hours we can work and subsequently affects retirement savings and future social security benefits.

7. Money mistakes happen. Don’t beat yourself up over them. Most of us are just learning as we go and are afraid to seek advice. All you can do is continue to learn and improve. Remember, your mistakes don’t define you.

8. Break down big goals. This is one I do all the time, no matter the goal. We live in the day of instant gratification, and sometimes it’s hard to think “big picture”. This is one of my favorite activities to do with clients. I like to call it realistic daydreaming, having them paint a picture of what they want life to look like in the future.

9. Plan for the unknown. Life is unpredictable. So, things like inflation, taxes, and even healthcare costs should be worked into your financial plan.

10. Stop operating on fear. This is probably no surprise, but women tend to be more cautious than their male counterparts. But we must remember, life doesn’t stop while we’re busy overthinking. Seek out an advisor you trust and be open about what you’d like your plan to look like. Delegating isn’t easy, but we should all be focusing on what is important in our lives, not just money and if we’re doing the right things with it.

11. Women live longer. This means that a conversation around adequate retirement savings and long-term care insurance are very important ones to have.

12. Understand the “why”. When you do find an advisor that you trust, stay active in your participation and know why they’re recommending what they’re recommending.

I hope these tips point you in the right direction and give you some peace of mind. Remember, no one will advocate for you quite the way you can. You got this!

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