We all know women wear many hats. There is no denying they can multitask. In any given week women can play ten different roles; the employee, the housekeeper, the cook, the chauffeur, the nurse, the tutor, the volunteer, the coach, the coordinator and the bill payer.
Unfortunately, these responsibilities often result in women neglecting their financial lives. At a minimum, bills get paid and contributions are made to retirement plans. What gets neglected is any type of real financial planning. Achieving financial well-being involves cash flow, estate, investment, income tax, retirement, risk management and education planning. Without real coordination, success in one area often comes at the expense of another area. For instance, how many of us max out our 401K, yet have credit card debt? How many of us contribute to a college 529 plan, yet have no emergency fund? How many of us have been unemployed, one benefit check away from foreclosure?
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There is no quick fix to tackle the areas of financial planning but there are ways for women to stop neglecting their financial life. My first recommendation is to work with a Certified Financial Planner™. These individuals are highly trained and depending on their background, specialize in improving the financial well-being of single professionals, couples and/or families. (Full Disclosure: I am a fee-only CFP® professional, which means I am paid by my clients and not by commissions from financial product companies.)
In addition to working with a CFP®, below are three things women can do today to improve their financial life.
1. Understand Your Cash Flow
You can’t save, invest or pay down your debt until you clearly understand what funds are coming in and what funds are left over after taxes and living expenses. When you have entered what comes in and what goes out, subtracting them allows you to see whether you have a monthly surplus or deficit. A surplus indicates you are living within your means. A surplus allows you to save, invest, or pay down your debt. A deficit indicates you are living above your means and most likely not achieving your financial goals.
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2. Reduce Debt
In my opinion, there is no such thing as good debt or bad debt. Debt prevents us from having financial freedom. What is financial freedom? Options. If you are in over your head with debt, you have no options. It’s like wearing handcuffs. Calculate how much is available each month to pay towards your credit cards. One option that I prefer is to pay the smallest credit card balances off first and pay the minimum on the rest of the cards. Although you may save money tackling the highest rate cards first, the mental relief that comes with paying off each card outweighs saving a few dollars.
3. Open a Petty Savings Account
Part of the reason we get into credit card debt is because we don’t save. Start an automatic transfer each month into a savings account. In order to live within your means and not have credit card debt, it is critical to have a petty savings account. A petty savings account will hold money you are setting aside for pleasurable things like vacations or home improvements.
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This is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily reflect the views of the company.