It may come as no surprise that studies suggest that women have less financial knowledge than men and, therefore, less financial confidence overall.1 That’s according to a 2018 TIAA Institute-GFLEC Personal Finance Index report. As a fiduciary financial advisor who devotes my financial planning and wealth management practice to primarily serving women, I know all too intimately how a deficit in financial confidence can (and often does) impact the relationship one has with money.
At the risk of sounding cliche, knowledge is powerful. And no matter how powerful you are in your professional or social position, if you aren’t empowering your personal finances, you aren’t setting yourself up for success.
No matter what your background is with money, what you believe about money (and how you, in turn, behave with it) can directly impact your outcomes with money. Here’s how to find out if you’re doing enough to take control of your finances and what you can do to build financial confidence.
1. Decide to Take Charge
Have you actively decided to focus your attention and intention on your personal finances? The very first step in accomplishing most anything is making a clear and purposeful decision. Know that your financial well-being is within your control. Your finances don’t just happen to you. Yes, unforeseen situations that affect finances do, but your reality with money is, unequivocally, yours to determine. Decide to make your finances a priority in your life. Better yet, decide what you want your financial life to be and then proceed to step two.
2. Learn More
You don’t know what you don’t know, and that’s more than OK. You’re not supposed to be a financial expert. You can and should endeavor to know more than you do right now, though. If you feel any amount of insecurity about your finances, whether you’re on track, if you’ll have enough, if you fear you’ll run out of money one day… get more knowledge so that you aren’t guided by your emotions about money. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Some women report to me they feel talked down to by their financial advisor. While it’s true that there is a lot of hubris on Wall Street, you can definitely find a compassionate, supportive professional to partner with! I never use “Wall Street Speak” in conversations with clients, and I’m proud that my clients report to me they feel honored, respected and educated. The more you know and understand about your financial situation, the less likely you are to make misguided financial decisions based on feelings.
3. Talk About Money
Talking about things can be an act of taking control over those things. Therefore, talk about money. This doesn’t mean that you have to talk about income and other traditionally taboo topics with strangers. It does mean that you talk about your financial concerns with your spouse, or you talk about what you want your income to afford you in terms of lifestyle and quality of life. And don’t be afraid to talk about financial mistakes you’ve made, and more importantly, what you learned from making them in the first place. Remember, no one is perfect and no one navigates their finances perfectly all the time. Getting more comfortable thinking and talking about money can only lead to getting more comfortable with handling money in general. So, give yourself the space and freedom to speak your financial truth.
4. Make a Plan
Grocery lists, to-do lists, and checklists. Most of us find comfort and confidence in knowing what we want and what we have to do to get it. Your financial life is no different. Very few people find success by fumbling through life haphazardly. No! People plan for the career they want, the position they aspire to hold, and the roles they want to fill in life. And your financial life needs a plan, too. Your finances are the backbone of the life you live and should support you every step of the journey. When your finances are chaotic or disorganized, that’s when you can find yourself serving your money rather than having it serve you. Know what you need your money to accomplish and then put it to work so you can live a life you love.
5. Earn It
Making money, whether from working for an employer, having your own business, building passive income streams, or otherwise is certainly a confidence-booster. Most of my clients are either high-income earning professionals or entrepreneurs. In either case, these women build a ton of confidence through hard work, discipline, and ambition. Earning money, and not just earning it but maximizing your income potential, is an empowered action.
6. Ask For It
Do you really want to build financial confidence? Ask for what you’re worth. Don’t just settle to earn what you’ve been offered. Ask for more because you know you’re worth more. Learning how to negotiate and then making it a habit to negotiate regularly is one solid way you can build up your financial confidence fast. Know that the worst thing that could happen is the person across from you says, “No.” And when you’re willing to ask and negotiate for yourself, you’ll certainly face your fair share of “noes,” but you’ll also experience more “yeses” than if you never asked in the first place.
7. Automate It
At the end of the day, the less time you need to spend managing your daily finances, the better. Understanding where you are financially, creating a plan, and then automating your finances so that you stick to it can be one of the greatest confidence-boosters in the world. When you know that your money is aligned with your priorities and is funding your goals, automatically, who wouldn’t feel just a touch more confident with their finances? You can automate how much you save and invest, as well as how much goes toward other types of expenses like fixed costs, such as your mortgage or rent, and personal goals like your children’s education.
Greater financial confidence is yours if you want it. You just have to be willing to operate a bit more intentionally when it comes to how you handle your money. As I mentioned before, it’s not that you have to become a financial expert, but by observing these seven steps you can have confidence instead of questions when it comes to your financial well-being now and the future.