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Talking about money is difficult. Depending on your financial situation, the conversation can be uncomfortable and challenging. Capital Group’s Wisdom of Experience Survey found that Americans would rather talk about almost anything besides money. It’s time to remove the stigma and approach money in a new way.
In November I sat on a panel at BlogHer Business and discussed ways for women to be more open about money. One way to gain knowledge and confidence in the topic is to talk with your peers, loved ones, and spouse about money—and as women, we don’t do this enough. You don’t have to plan out your entire financial future in one day. Take steps as you age to make sure you are prepared at every stage of life. Here are the financial conversations to have during the first few decades of your adult life:
Money Talks for Women
Congrats—you’re an adult! Hopefully, you have a job. If you don’t, this is an excellent time to find one. At this stage of your life, you probably aren’t raking in big bucks; however, that doesn’t mean you can’t plan for the future. Here are the financial topics you should focus on and discuss openly with friends.
Knowing where you spend your money is a powerful tool. Get a grasp of your expenses and income so you can plan accordingly. Track your monthly payments to see where you can cut back if needed. Tip: Download a budgeting app, which will make this process a lot easier to manage.
Even with a small income, you can always save something each month, even if it’s only $50 (or less). With compounding interest, you will be happy that you started early. Having an emergency fund will help with unexpected expenses and lower the chances of increasing your debt. Tip: Ask your friends about their high-interest savings accounts, and if they don’t have one, research them together.
Many people’s biggest regret about retirement savings is not starting sooner. Just like your personals savings plan, your retirement plan can be started with any amount of money. Capital Group offers a wide range of retirement options to help you start planning for the future. Tip: I recommend setting up a Roth IRA, which grows tax-free.
I can testify that life hits you hard in your 30s. Your career may advance or change; you may get married or start a family, or you may move to the suburbs or the big city. The bottom line is, a lot can happen financially, and you need to be prepared. In your 30s, you are probably earning substantially more money than you did in your 20s, so now is the time to make the most of it.
Talk to Your Partner
If you are in a relationship and plan to take it to the next level, one of the most important conversations you can have with your partner is about money. If you live together and are planning for the future, you need to be on the same page with your finances, so money doesn’t become a problem. Tip: Start the conversation and continue the dialogue over time. Here are some resources to help.
You should be well on your way to amassing a six-month emergency fund by now. However, if that’s not the case, don’t panic! Saving can seem complicated with living expenses, kids, unexpected home repairs, etc. Look over your budget and see if there is a way to cut back or allocate your year-end bonus toward your savings instead of that handbag you have been eyeing. Tip: If you are having a hard time saving money, check out my post to help get yourself started.
Saving is essential, but to grow your money in a real way, you should think about opening an investment account and diversifying your assets. If you have never invested before, it can be a bit daunting. Talk with a financial advisor and set some long-term investment goals with low-fee funds.
If you find yourself in a lot of debt, take the steps necessary to get it under control. Don’t be afraid to talk to your friends about the small lifestyle changes you can make to help you stay on a debt repayment plan and not accumulate more in the process. Trust me—they will want to support you and will gladly scale back the girls’ night out budget if that helps. Tip: Unsure about the right way to pay off your credit card bills? Here are two methods that work.
Not to add one more thing to your list, but if your employer is matching your retirement contribution, you are leaving money on the table by not putting in the maximum amount you can afford into your retirement account. The best you can do is to contribute as much money as you can early, so you aren’t scrambling later in life when it is time to retire.
This is the next stage in my life, and I plan to be ready for it when it arrives. If you have developed good financial habits in your 20s and 30s, you should have some solid footing. However, your 40s can bring life changes that you may not expect, be it a divorce, a career change, or illness. This is the time to see how ready you are for the next stage in your life and beyond.
If you’ve recently divorced and your (now ex-) husband was the sole money manager, you may face the unexpected task of becoming the head of the household. Alternatively, you may be ready to switch career paths and start your entrepreneurial journey. Either way now is the perfect time to take a look at the progress you have made financially. You may have some equity in your home or investments that need reallocating. Take a look at how much you have so you can plan out what to do with it. Capital Group is focused on supporting women in the area and is here to help.
Long-term Care Planning
One area we don’t talk about but should is how we will be cared for—and by whom—when we cannot take care of ourselves. Long-term care is expensive, and you will need a plan, so the cost does not burden your loved ones. With the right financial plan, you can put money aside now to be ready for that time in your life.
Talk to Your Kids
If you have children, do them a solid and talk to them about money as early as possible. For some reason, financial literacy is not taught in school, so it is your job to help your children understand that money (1) doesn’t grow on trees; and (2) is something they need to be familiar with to afford the lifestyle they choose to live. Having discussions early on will set a solid financial foundation for your kids. Here are some tips to help you have that conversation.
The more you know, the better off you will be. I started learning about money very early in life. My mom would have me help her write out checks for the bills so I could understand how much things cost and start to comprehend what budgeting meant. Investing at an early age sparked my interest in finance and contributed to my studying finance in school.
Later, as director of finance for a nonprofit, I implemented our retirement plan with American Funds and Capital Group, and I am thrilled that they are raising awareness and empowering women to gain financial knowledge.
Don’t let the conversation end here, talk to your friends, spouse, and children about money, and share the power!