This guest post is written by Professor Karen J. Pine author of the book Sheconomics, a book about the psychology of women and money – because many women have a less-than-straightforward relationship with money.
As one woman once said, “My relationship with money is a bit like my cat. I like it. It’s a comfort. But I don’t understand it and I’ve no idea where it goes’!
If that sounds like you, then we’ve come up with a few questions below you can ask yourself. And there are a few tips to get you on the right path to financial success.
1. Are you afraid to ask for money?
Women are still paid less than men and most hate asking for money. Working your socks off doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get rewarded. Payback is more likely if you’re upfront and ask for it. Never be afraid to set a price that reflects your skills and your hard work.
TIP: Ask for what you’re worth and don’t be fobbed off. Prepare your case and be proactive. If you’ve hit an earnings barrier, consider moving. If you’re self-employed don’t underprice yourself; make sure your rates reflect what you’re giving and the time you put in.
2. Are you financially immature?
One minute we’re all grown-up, running a home, holding down a job or heading up a business. Then a money problem comes along and somehow our inner child is unleashed. It can stem from being over-protected when young. Or from being told we were irresponsible or ‘no good at maths’. A key step to being financially savvy is taking responsibility for your own money.
TIP: Find out about what you earn and what you owe. Sign up for on-line banking and monitor your finances regularly. Open bills and statements as soon as they arrive and deal with them. Tell yourself you’re all grown up now!
3. Are you secretly scared of money?
Money is an emotionally loaded topic. Women especially have all sorts of fears about money, reminding them of the doom-laden warnings from parents, or triggered by all the technical jargon used by the finance world. This can lead to rescue fantasies, or a vain hope that someone else will sort things out.
TIP: Break big goals down into small, manageable steps and take one action now. Visit a plain speaking friendly money website regularly, such as www.moneymadeclear.fsa.gov.uk. Or talk to a financial coach (www.financial-coaching.co.uk). If you want to empower yourself – find out how compound interest works
4. Are you a ‘live now, pay later’ person?
Most women today will out-live the men in their lives. Many will also out-live their own savings. Yet lots are spending for today and not planning for the future. What will you do when you can no longer earn money? The earlier you start putting money away for your dotage, the less it costs you.
TIP: Pay yourself first: automatically divert a set amount from your account into a savings or pension scheme every month. Confused by all the options? Just remember, doing nothing is the worst possible option. If your company has a pension scheme, join it now.
5. Do you have a shopping habit?
Shopping has become the way many women regulate their emotions. Research for www.Sheconomic.com found that women use shopping to cheer themselves up, relieve stress or anesthetise themselves against painful emotions. But that heady buzz from spending quickly gives way to feelings of shame and guilt. The answer is to get high on life, not high on shopping.
TIP: Know why you shop when you do. Spend only when you need the goods, not the buzz. Find alternatives to shopping that boost mood, e.g. exercising, reading, cooking for friends, dancing or gardening. Deal with your emotions, don’t take them shopping.
6. Are you spending more than you earn?
Being well-off isn’t about what you earn, it’s about what you keep. Aim to save 10% of your income consistently and don’t be afraid to invest. Be ready for those unexpected expenses (the boiler blowing up, car repair, job loss or even pregnancy) otherwise they’ll plunge you into debt.
TIP: Track your spending for a month and plug the leaks. Shop around for the best deals on your mortgage, utilities, mobile phone etc. Deal with debt now. Seek help if you’re in too deep (see www.cccs.co.uk for free counselling and assistance). Cut up your credit card until you can afford to pay it off in full every month. Have an emergency cushion equivalent to 3-month’s expenses.
For more tips read Sheconomics by Professor Karen J. Pine and Simonne Gnessen, published by Headline, price £7.99.