Let’s talk a little bit about money and some basics of creating a great financial life. First, understand women’s financial needs differ somewhat from men with several contributing factors. We women tend to live longer; our lifestyle can take us in and out of the workforce and cause us to have a lower lifetime of earnings. We also tend to be more conservative investors than men. Below are my top 10 things women should know about personal finance. After reading this, I hope you find you are better prepared than you thought you were.

  1. Have accounts in your name, in addition to your joint accounts. Maintain your own individual credit history.
  2. Control your money, don’t let your money control you. Financial security comes from our ideas about money, so define your relationship with money. Decide what being financially secure means to you and write it down.
  3. Share the financial decisions with your spouse/domestic partner. Talk about money and learn to speak the same money language. Start by listening to each other’s goals and identify the ones that are the same. Write down your goals and start tracking them together.
  4. Make sure you have access to all financial documents. Know where brokerage accounts, insurance policies, retirement plan statements, and tax returns are so they are easy to find when you need them. In this digital age, make sure you know current computer, and account passwords.
  5. Pay yourself first. This is one of the best pieces of advice my father ever gave me. He started us saving when we were just earning babysitting money. Balance your savings between tax deferred, tax free, and taxable accounts.
  6. Make your plan and work your plan. Another piece of great advice from my father. Create a financial plan and write it down. A good plan is the foundation for achieving your financial goals, for now and for your future.
  7. Choose a financial advisor or planner wisely. Their role is to help you create a formal, written short-term and long-term plan to balance your cash flow now and invest for your future. Find someone you trust. Ask friends for referrals and schedule an introduction meeting. A financial planner learns just about everything about you and your family and can become a trusted advisor. Part of their role is to help you create the team of advisors for your insurance, estate planning, and tax needs. If your advisor isn’t listening to your specific needs, it might be time to find another.
  8. Do a little research on your own. Understand the basics of money management and investing. There are articles like this one, other blogs, books, and resources online. Knowledge is just the beginning, wisdom is knowledge applied. Gain the wisdom of experience from your parents, grandparents, and other trusted mentors and friends. Ask them for their experiences of success and failures. These “nuggets of wisdom” can be time and money savers.
  9. Talk about the “what if” and plan for it. Life can throw you a curve ball. With a plan in place, marriage, divorce, widowhood, or a long-term illness won’t derail you financially. Your team of advisors will help you create the right plan to see you through these changes. Make 2018 the year you get your estate plan, life insurance needs, retirement plan, and tax plan in place.
  10. Align where you invest your time and money with your values. When you define what is truly important, you spend and save wisely, and create peace of mind. Identify where you are and get started. It is never too early or too late to create and implement your plan.