Monday, May 26, 2008

I am woman, hear me spend

There's a stereotype that's been perpetuated through the years and it goes a little something like this: Women are fickle and tend to spend more than their male counterparts. Not only that, but women tend to rely on men more for financial planning -- I don't necessarily mean shacking up with a sugar daddy, but statistically we lean on the men in our lives (our fathers, husbands, etc.) to help plan our financial matters. A lot of what could have been financially saavy dolls often find themselves not peddling through the Napa vineyards with their Love, but sitting infront of a personal accountant after being widowed or divorced, scratching their cutely coiffed hairdo that was just charged to their AmEx because they have $0 in their account and don't realize how they got there. And even if your future is void of divorces or deaths (fingers crossed), if you don't save now, you could still find yourself 40 and penniless, all because you thought all those lunches out with your friends and errant shopping trips here and there wouldn't really matter.

Guess what? In the long run, they do:

  • "At some point in our lives, 9 out of 10 women will be solely responsible for their finances.
  • The average age of widowhood in the U.S. is 56.
  • On average, women live 7 years longer than men.
  • Women live more than 19 years in retirement.
  • The median income for elderly women is $8,198.
  • Women collectively earn more than $1 trillion a year.
  • Nearly 70% of women say they have no idea how much money they'll need for
  • 53% of women are more likely to spend rather than save for their future."

Ladies, let's be serious -- for many of us, shopping is not only a hobby, it's a way of life, an addiction, if you will. But $1 trillion is a lot of potential savings. There have been many times in my life when I just think "oh, it's just one shirt . . . just one pair of heels," but all those "justs" add up to what could have been a substantiative amount to retire (hopefully early!) with. You can't make a pair of killer Christian Louboutins make money for you, but when invested right, you can make killer returns off your savings. I'm not advising to go cold turkey and wean yourself off bottle completely -- every stylish woman needs a cocktail once in a while and perhaps a cute handbag...or dress...or, you get the point. But you need to set your limits and know that before you buy anything, you need to pay yourself, which means setting aside a money after you get paid (and after your Roth is paid), that you can put into a CD or mutual fund, or, if you "know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em," invest in the stock market.

The stats I mentioned prove that while us women are bringing home the bacon, we have, divy up at the end of the day. Here's why:
  • "We often don't set a monetary goal for where we need to be at retirement.
  • We start saving and investing later in our lives and don't have as many working years as men. The average woman spends 15% of her career out of the paid workforce, aka the "sandwich generation" -- caring for children, then elderly parents.
  • 76% of women are too conservative when it comes to investing, where only 64%
    of men consider themselves conservative investors. Women often pass up excellent investment opportunities because we are too afraid to take the leap.
  • Just 53% of women, versus 82% of men feel confident in their investment know-how. That often stops us from making necesarry decisions, also limiting our returns."

For all us money honeys out there, this is a wake-up call to begin planning your financial future. Don't know the first thing about investing? For a fabulous "how to" on all things investing, visit and educate yourself.

And here's a good start for now: Make a list of what you own (bank accounts, stocks and investment, real estate, retirement plans). Then figure out how much you owe (include all bills, i.e., car payments, credit cards, school loans, house payments, etc.).

Now how much money goes toward your List of Woes, I mean, Owes? It's not as easy as simply counting the big, reoccuring payments every month. What makes or breaks many woman's 10- or 20-year plan is that they don't budget for the basics. Can't live without getting your nails done? (This frugal saver would tell you do your nails yourself, but that's a different matter). Need your Starbuck's fix every morning? How much do you drive on average per month and what is that costing you in gas money? What's your monthly budget for clothes? It's these kind of dollars that hold many back from achieving their financial dreams because they aren't budgeted for in the present and quickly add up. I don't know about you, but I really want that villa in Tuscany, and I want to be able to retire early enough to enjoy it.

Bottom line: No one likes a micromanager, but in this case, micro managing can be a fabulous thing. Every dollar counts when you're saving now to live lavishly later!

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