Perhaps you, like many women, have 1001 tasks on your plate, like managing your career, raising children, and caring for aging loved ones. Those responsibilities can push financial decision making to the bottom of your to-do list.
Growing your financial knowledge allows you to protect yourself – both for your ideal retirement, and in the case of unexpected life events. Building relationships with professionals you trust and gaining a working understanding of financial planning basics is a good first step. Where do you begin?
Move Beyond Judgement (Give Yourself a Break)
Don’t apologize for not knowing. Remove the word “should” from your vocabulary. Too often we see women fail to engage in financial decision-making because they “should” know more, “should” have more money invested or “should” spend less. Nothing could be further from the truth. Stop apologizing and start learning. Financial education with engagement is a fluid, come-as-you-are situation, not a standardized pass/fail test. Find a tribe who “gets it.”
Remove the Pressure
You have enough on your plate: a demanding career, a busy household, growing children, ailing parents… there is barely energy left to program the remote, let alone manage an investment portfolio. But here’s the catch; it’s highly likely you are or will drive your family’s financial decisions at some point in your life.
Not to mention the fear of making a mistake. It’s overwhelming and easy to avoid altogether. Rather than avoiding the issue, be kind to yourself and start small. Understand that even the smallest bite is progress when you are eating an elephant!
Women already possess an innate thirst for knowledge and education. Leverage that skill by getting comfortable asking questions about the financial aspects of your life. Be discerning with the information you receive. Expect to be given respect and be spoken to in transparent, plain English. Ask friends and family what financial resources they use. Seek an education style that works for you.
Here are three questions you can ask to learn from those you respect:
- Where do you go for financial advice?
- How are you charged?
- What kind of value do you get from it?
By asking these key questions, you’ll gain insight about how others handle financial situations. In the process, you will learn how they work through financial questions and challenges of their own as well as the items that matter most to them.
Understanding who your friends and family turn to for financial advice can help inform your own approach to financial planning.
Invest in personal finance education
Engage in a way that is reasonable for your style. Women working with a financial advisor can add to that partnership by staying engaged – understand how to read your statements, know where the accounts reside and how they are registered. Ask plenty of questions and expect clarifying answers.
There are hundreds of sources online where you can learn about all aspects of investments and financial planning. A good book to read is Warren Buffet Invests Like a Girl, Wall Street Journal series of guidebooks. Actually, any book that you will actually read is a good book! Or listen to this on audio version while doing other things at the same time!
Collaborating with others that you respect is often the best way to gain knowledge. SYM has formed a strong initiative where women come together to gain financial insight and strategies with a tribe of brilliant women. Lead by CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER ™ Michelle Hipskind, this is a carefully curated program that educates on many important aspects of financial planning and brings in additional professionals that provide advice in their areas of expertise, giving members access to the appropriate professionals that can help solve the problems many women face. You can learn more about being part of this group here.
Seek professionals where a female voice is included
Too often, advisors bill themselves as specializing in women. However, women are not a homogenous group. You deserve an advisor who gets you. Demand someone who understands your unique profile and values. A skilled advisor can communicate clearly, explain thoroughly, and listen with compassion.
Be willing to put yourself first
The next step is to determine what works for you. Perhaps learning how to read a statement or understanding the S&P 500 index is of interest to you. Maybe you’d rather start with a checklist of documents to organize. Tackling the universe of financial education is overwhelming – eat the elephant one bite at a time, with people you trust.
If you have children, we recommend you take time to put your estate and long-term care plans are in place. Having difficult decisions made ahead of time can relieve some of the burden your children or other family may face someday. And it will provide instruction for how you’d like your wishes to be carried out.
Above all, be involved
If you are making the decisions solely, don’t go it alone. Employ other professionals that will leverage your time and add expertise. If you are making decisions with another family member, be sure to attend the visits to your financial advisor, the CPA, or the attorney.
After all, building financial intelligence means making sure you have a seat at the most important tables.
Disclosure: The opinions expressed herein are those of SYM Financial Corporation (“SYM”) and are subject to change without notice. This material is not financial advice or an offer to sell any product. SYM reserves the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs. This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute investment, legal or tax advice and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a professional legal or tax advisor. Information was obtained from third party sources which we believe to be reliable but are not guaranteed as to their accuracy or completeness. SYM is an independent investment adviser registered under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. More information about SYM including our investment strategies, fees, and objectives can be found in our ADV Part 2, which is available upon request.