February 09, 2018
Finding Your Way With Finances
How women can set financial fears aside, plan for life events and start a trusting relationship with an advisor.
Women are multitaskers. We have to be, with so much responsibility, whether it's work, caring for family or running a household. Among the many priorities we juggle are finances, but sometimes that's the ball we drop because it's less familiar territory. And yet finances need to be a priority for women who have so many choices and decisions today. As women, we need to feel comfortable, confident and in control of our finances. But how?
We talked about the solution at the second event in our series, Your Time Is an Asset, which we created in partnership with Redbook and other financial experts to help women take control of their finances. It's really a matter of accepting what you don't know and knowing you're not alone. Then, learn the importance of being proactive in your financial decision making. Finally, empower yourself to ask questions and get the support you need from financial professionals.
The first step in getting past your fear of finances is to understand where it comes from. Today, despite an abundance of financial information available, a lot of it can be confusing and many of us don't want to admit what we don't know – or even don't understand. But that lack of financial knowledge is more common than you think. Financial literacy is rarely taught in school, so whatever kids learn about money growing up tends to come from their families. If it's a family like mine, we never talked about money, so I didn't know much about managing my finances as a young adult. On the other hand, one of our event panelists, Tonya Rapley, founder of My Fab Finances, had a mom who "really drove home the importance of stability" and paying what she owed rather than taking on too much debt. So she developed her strong money sense and financial independence during childhood. The point is, financial knowledge varies widely. It's better to accept what you don't know, and better still, recognize that you can learn what you need to without feeling intimidated.
Women need to take a deep breath and understand that it's ok to make financial mistakes; that's how we get better at managing our finances. Darcy Beeman, an advisor with Edward Jones and another event panelist, said that one of her mistakes was continuing to spend the same way after switching to a job that had a less predictable income. That made her build up more debt than she was comfortable with, so she learned how to pay it down, and she's decided to never carry those high credit card balances again.
One way to cut down on financial mistakes is to be more proactive in making decisions. Many women don't focus much on finances until a major life event comes up. Marriage, divorce, the birth of a child or even a promotion could send you looking for help from a financial advisor. But by that time you are making reactive decisions. If you think ahead about the different transition points in your life that will trigger critical financial decisions, you can get help beforehand and plan proactively to make better decisions.
What are some key life events that come with financial implications? Perhaps a woman is about to get married and realizes she has to start making financial decisions with a spouse that might have different views on money. Or maybe, just after having a child, she realizes, like Darcy did, that it isn't just about her anymore and every time she makes a spending decision she is spending more than one person's money.
Women on the cusp of retiring could benefit from more proactive planning to ease this very big financial transition. If you have aging parents with health and long-term care needs, you have to be very proactive – especially if your kids are still at home – to make sure your parents' needs don't derail your finances. And women who get divorced have to navigate the substantial financial consequences. That's pretty challenging, especially if you've relied on someone else to run your finances and all of a sudden have to pick up the pieces and move on.
Whatever it is – a life event or just the need for some financial decision-making support, don't wait until something happens before you get help. I know women who were in a situation where they didn't make the right financial decisions and would have been better off if they had gotten help before going in. So I just think we all need to be more proactive.
Part of getting good financial education and support is a willingness to have an open and honest relationship with an advisor. It might feel tough to get started, especially if you're just getting more involved with your finances, but remember: You're the one in charge! An advisory relationship works best if you can be totally honest and you believe your advisor will do the same.
So be an open book. Make sure the advisor knows what's important to you. Are you worried about merging finances with your spouse? Do you want to pay for your kids' college? You've got to share everything — especially anything with a dollar sign on it — so your financial advisor can help you navigate.
Many women find the idea of meeting with an advisor intimidating or complicated, but it really isn't. At MFS, we work with financial advisors from all over the country, and there really is someone for everyone. The expertise of a financial advisor — someone who understands your finances and helps you set goals — can be invaluable. So, why not put a little more focus on something you can control — the decisions you make with your money? Being proactive is your chance to get ahead of your time.
Another way to be proactive is to take full advantage of financial education resources tailored to women. And that's where MFS can help. We've created a full suite of resources — for women and advisors — here at yourtimeisanasset.com, because we believe knowledge empowers women.
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