Getting Your Household Cash Flow Back Under Control

Developing a better budgeting process may be the biggest step toward that goal.

Where does your money go? If you find yourself asking that question from time to time, it may relate to cash flow within your household. Having a cash flow management system may be instrumental in restoring some financial control.

It is harder for a middle-class household to maintain financial control these days. If you find yourself too often living on margin (i.e., charging everything) and too infrequently with adequate cash in hand, you aren’t the only household feeling that way. Some major economic trends really have made it more challenging for households with mid-five-figure incomes. By many economic standards, today’s middle class has it harder than the middle class of generations past. Some telling statistics point to this…

*In 81% of U.S. counties, the median income is lower today than it was in 1999. Even though we are in a recovery, much of the job growth in the past few years has occurred within the service and retail sectors. (The average full-time U.S. retail worker earns less than $25,000 annually.)

*Between 1989 and 2014, the American economy grew by 83% (adjusting for inflation) with no real wage growth for middle-class households.

*In the early 1960s, General Motors was America’s largest employer. Its average full-time worker at that time earned the (inflation-adjusted) equivalent of $50 an hour, plus benefits. Wal-Mart now has America’s largest workforce; it pays its average sales associate less than $10 per hour, sometimes without benefits. 1,2

Essentially, the middle class must manage to do more with less – less inflation-adjusted income, that is. The need for budgeting is as essential as ever.

Much has been written about the growing “wealth gap” in the U.S., and that gap is very real. Less covered, but just as real, is an Achilles-heel financial habit injuring middle-class stability: a growing reliance on expensive money. As Money-Zine.com noted not long ago, U.S. consumer debt amounted to 7.3% of average household income in 1980 but 13.4% of average household income in 2013. 3

So how can you make life more affordable? Budgeting is an important step. It promotes reliance on cash instead of plastic. It defines expenses, underlining where your money goes (and where it shouldn’t be going). It clears up what is hazy about your finances. It demonstrates that you can be in command of your money, rather than letting your money command you.

Budget for that vacation. Save up for it by spending much less on the “optionals”: coffee, cable, eating out, memberships, movies, outfits.

Buy the right kind of car & do your cash flow a favor. Many middle-class families yearn to buy a new car (a depreciating asset) or lease a new car (because they want to be seen driving a better car than they can actually afford). The better option is to buy a lightly used car and drive it for several years, maybe even a decade. Unglamorous? Maybe, but it should leave you less indebted. It may be a factor that can help you to…

Plan to set some cash aside for an emergency fund. According to a recent Bankrate survey, about a quarter of U.S. households lack one. Imagine how much better you would feel knowing you have the equivalent of a few months of salary in reserve in case of a crisis. Again, you can budget to build it – a little at a time, if necessary. The key is to recognize that a crisis will come someday; none of us are fully shielded from the whims of fate. 3

Don’t risk living without medical & dental coverage. You probably have both, but some middle-class households don’t. According to the Department of Health & Human Services, 108 million Americans lack dental insurance. Workers for even the largest firms may find premiums, out-of- pocket costs and coinsurance excessive. This isn’t something you can go without. If your employer gives you the option of buying your own insurance, it could be a cheaper solution. At any rate, some serious household financial changes may need to occur so that you are adequately insured. 3

Budgeting for the future is also important. A recent Gallup poll found that about 20% of Americans have no retirement savings. You have to wonder: how many of these people might have accumulated a nest egg over the years by steadily directing just $50 or $100 a month into a retirement plan? Budgeting just a little at a time toward that very important priority could promote profound growth of retirement savings thanks to investment yields and tax deferral. 3

Turning to the financial professional you know and trust for input may help you to develop a better budgeting process – and beyond the present, the saving and investing you do today and tomorrow may help you to one day become the (multi-)millionaire next door.

Citations.

1 – http://washingtonpost.com/sf/business/2014/12/12/why-americas-middle-class-is-lost

2 – http://tinyurl.com/knr3e78

3 – http://wallstcheatsheet.com/personal-finance/7-things-the-middle-class-cant-afford-anymore.html/?a=viewall

Why Women Are Prepared for Financial Success?

We have the ability to excel financially; it is a matter of shifting our outlook.

Statistics don’t mean everything. Read enough about women and money online, and you will run across numbers indicating that women finish a distant second to men in saving and investing. Only 42% of women save a specific amount money each month for retirement, the State Farm Center for Women and Financial Services at the American College finds. Aon Hewitt says that the average 401(k) balance for a man at the end of 2012 was about $100,000, while it was only about $59,300 for a woman. And so forth. 1,2

Depressing? Well, consider that you can be the exception. (Maybe you are right now.) You may already have the discipline and patience central to smart investing and saving.

Is making a household work all that different from making your money work for you? You may or may not have to broaden your skill set a bit to save and invest well for retirement; chances are, though, you already have some abilities you can draw on effectively.

The latest edition of Prudential’s “Financial Experience & Behaviors Among Women” study (2010-2011) shows that 54% of women either feel “very knowledgeable” or “somewhat knowledgeable” about financial products. The previous edition of the study noted that 95% of women are financial decision makers within their households, with 84% of the married women surveyed solely or jointly in charge of household finances. 3

Given that level of participation and control over household finances, is it such a stretch to believe many women could become equally financially literate in their understanding of stocks, bonds, commodities, and insurance? It isn’t a stretch, especially when you think about how much good financial knowledge is out there, some of it free of charge.

Most household financial decisions are short-term decisions. They are geared toward this month or this year, and often relate to cash flow management or debt management. The simplest step toward financial freedom for many women – perhaps the most valuable step – may be moving from a short-term financial outlook to a long-term financial outlook.

Think about becoming the “millionaire next door.” In many cases in this country, wealth is grown slowly and steadily. We all dream of a windfall, but usually individuals amass $1 million or more through a variety of factors: ongoing investment according to a consistent financial strategy, the compounding of assets/savings over time, business or professional success, and perhaps even inherited wealth.

When the focus moves from “how do we make it work this month” to “how do we make moves in pursuit of our financial goals”, the whole outlook on the meaning and purpose of money begins to change. What should money do for you? What purpose should it have in your life? What can you do to make it work harder for you, so that you might not have to work as hard in the future?

Women have the wisdom, prudence and patience to make superb investors. Understanding the financial world is ultimately a matter of learning its “language” and precepts, which will quickly seem less arcane with education. Today, do yourself a money favor and ask to talk with a female financial professional who can help you define long-term and lifetime financial goals and direct some of your money in pursuit of them.

1 – http://www.cnbc.com/id/100732440

2 – http://blogs.marketwatch.com/encore/2013/08/14/401k-gender- gap-is- bigger-than- pay-gap/

3 – http://prudential.com/media/managed/Womens_Study_Final.pdf

House and glasses on papers

When Mediation is NOT the best choice.

As a woman it’s easy to let your feelings of guilt, desire for closure and avoidance of conflict to undermine your divorce process, especially when engaging in mediation. When the emotions are running high you may be better served with a lawyer who can intervene when you are not making the best decisions for your future.

In mediation while the lawyer can suggest steps you should take to clarify financial values they can’t do more than just suggest. You may need someone to take you by the hand and lead you to the path that is best for your future. Remember in most cases it’s not just YOUR future it often includes your children as well.

Remember that it’s important to speak to a financial advisor, before, during and after a divorce, as lawyers are legal representatives, not financial ones? Please let us know by posting your comments on our Financially Savvy Women Fanpage.

Woman looking through binoculars

What do Women Want from their Financial Advisor?

Women are now the principal breadwinners in four out of 10 families with children younger than age 18, reports Pew Research (63 percent of such women are single and 37 percent out-earn their husbands). The financial-services industry is taking notice of gender differences, and so should you.

Finding an Advisor who speaks the female language is crucial. Presentations that focus on a portfolio’s return, investment style, market capitalization and performance compared with a benchmark tend to work well with men. This style does not work with women. Women prefer a more personalized conversation that focuses on their visions and goals.

When speaking with your Advisor, do you know what you want? Please let us know by posting your comments on our Financially Savvy Women Fanpage.

Boomer Couple in Front of Their Beach House

Women and Financial Power

Too many women lack the confidence necessary to take control of their financial lives. Women fear making investments, managing their finances, planning and monitoring their spending, managing investments, and increasing their wealth.

Why aren’t women more confident with their finances?

The answer is that women are stopping themselves from being assertive. Many women leave their financial lives to their husbands, boyfriends or parents, and because of this way of thinking, they lack financial power. Financial empowerment must come from within. Women must seize it with fervor, reflecting an unshakable determination to take control of their financial lives. You must tell yourself that you can become empowered, and that you will not let outdated notions of gender hinder your success. Keep “EMPOWER” in your mind as an acronym representing these concepts:

Education is critical
Motivation inspired by your values
Protection against risk
Ownership of your future
Work — claiming what is yours requires effort
Emotions should be kept out of decisions
Responsibility to yourself

Do you use any acronyms to motivate you with your finances? I’d love to learn about yours! Please let us know what you think by posting your comments on our Financially Savvy Women Fanpage.

Gibbons, EmpowHer! Why more women are taking the financial lead

Financially Savvy Women have the wealth they deserve

5 Myths about Women and Wealth

There are several myths about women and wealth that you might not be aware of. Below are the top five myths about women and money:

  1. Women are not good at math: Nature, not nurture, accounts for the gap in math skills. However, there is a growing movement to expose more women to learning and mentoring opportunities in the fields of math, engineering, finance, and science.
  2. Women are impulsive spenders: Money is an equal-opportunity, all purpose mood changer. Just as many men impulsively spend and overshop as women. One major difference is how society labels it. Women overshop; men collect, a term that gives the activity an intellectual cast. However the underlying impulse behavior is the same.
  3. Women are too emotional to invest wisely: Female investors outperform men in the long run. Men try to compete with the market and chase returns, leading to more frequent trading and high transaction costs. Women take a long time to make an initial investment decision; they are committed to the decision in the long run. Women are less reactive to short term changes in the market, trade less frequently than men, and realize better long-term investment performance as a result.
  4. Women would rather let men manage the family finances: Women are the chief financial officers of their households in 66 out of 100 homes (2010 Women and Affluence Study by Women & Co.). Women in the ultra high net worth market reported they play a high to moderate role in the management of the family’s assets. When it comes to retirement, 90 percent of women participate in decisions that affect their household’s retirement and investment accounts.
  5. Women are not interested in wealth management: The gender gap in finance is diminishing as women enter the field. Advising clients lends itself to a woman’s strengths in relationship building and communication, allowing female advisors to have the opportunity to outperform men. Organizations like Directions for Women and The Female Affect offer forums and networking opportunities to facilitate the advancement of women in financial services.

Kingsbury, How to Give Financial Advice to Women

Understanding these myths will help you overcome and fears that you may have had when it comes to managing your finances. Do you know of any other myths about women and their wealth? Please let us know what you think by posting your comments on our Financially Savvy Women Fanpage.

 

The Bag Lady Syndrome

Many women worry about ending up destitute and in the streets in their senior years. This is the bag lady syndrome; it often stems from lack of confidence in knowing how to make and manage money. The bag lady syndrome ranges from women who have a lot of money to women who have a highly emotional relationship with money. To build up confidence you must explore your money mindset. What is your thought or belief about money and its purpose in the world? Your money mindset ultimately dictates how you save, spend, invest, and gift daily.

Source: Kingsbury, How to Give Financial Advice to Women

Is Your Relationship with Money on the Rocks?

A relationship is defined as the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected. A relationship does not necessarily need to be between two people; it can also be between a woman and her money. Your money needs attention, respect, and understanding; all components are needed in a compatible relationship.

If you are struggling with or misunderstanding your finances, there are a couple steps you can take to acquire the relationship you WANT. First talk to a professional; make an appointment with a financial advisor. Next, educate yourself about money. Read something about finances everyday, that way you UNDERSTAND the other half of your relationship. You can also ask your money savvy colleagues for advice. Finally, be careful of rumors and scare tactics; those facts are generally skewed. Once you have defined and developed a healthy relationship with your money, you are on the road to success!

Source: Stanny, Time to Have a Love Affair with Your Money

If you won the lottery would you…

We all talk about winning the lottery, some just talk about it while others consistently buy tickets in hopes of winning the “Big Pay Day”. Whether it’s the lottery, a substantial inheritance ,or sudden financial windfall, how would you use that money? Without thoughtful preparation, a windfall can become your downfall. Consider the following:

  • If you won the lottery tomorrow how would you spend the money?
  • What would your objective be or what would you hope to accomplish with this money?
  • How can I make this money last my lifetime and beyond?
  • In what ways can I use this money in meaningful ways?