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9 SMART Ways to Take Control of Your Finances as a Midlife Woman

Kathy Gottberg lives her life in a SMART way, as you can find on her blog, SMARTLiving365.com. Here she shares some simple and SMART ideas for living financially within your means and with a sense of well-being. 

9 SMART Ways to Take Control of Your Finances as a Midlife Woman

I recently read a shocking bit of information revealed by the 2013 Allianz Women, Money and Power Study. That study claims that almost half of the women in the U.S. often or sometimes fear losing all their money and becoming a bag lady. As you might expect, the highest percentage of those with that fear were single (56%), divorced (54%) and widowed (47%). But perhaps even worse, 27% of the women who generate over $200,000 per year of income also felt that way. Clearly, many women have a deep insecurity about their finances and how to manage their money in a SMART and responsible way. So here are 9 tips that I believe any woman should consider regarding her money.

Of course, I must remind you I am not an expert or a financial planner of any kind. What I do have is over 40 years experience in what has worked in my life and what hasn’t. And while I’ve made quite a few financial mistakes over the years, I am proud to say that I’ve learned from every one of them. With the help of my financial partner (who happens to be my BFF and husband, Thom) we’ve used our experience to become financially comfortable. And although I don’t consider myself money-rich, I have never ONCE believed I would become a bag lady.

With those disclaimers aside, here are my 9 suggestions for women and their finances.

#1 Know exactly what your financial situation is at all times. I often meet intelligent woman who nonchalantly hand this task over to their partners and know very little about their financial picture. But because about 40% of all marriages end in divorce, and with women typically living longer than men, we owe it to ourselves to be an equal financial partner with those we live with. Organize yourself. Know where your money and investments are located. Most importantly, know the costs your lifestyle requires.

#2 Live within your means. Regardless of what advertisers, your neighbors, or even your mother thinks is necessary to live a “good life,” don’t buy things you can’t afford. Know how much money you have and try to spend less than that on a regular basis. Avoid debt of all kinds. Instead, find things you love to do that fit in your budget, and avoid things that cost a lot and bring only marginal enjoyment. Crave freedom, happiness and peace of mind more than you crave possessions.

#3 Get on the same financial page as your partner/spouse as quickly as possible. It took Thom and I about 15 years to really work through all our money issues with each other. We started 38 years ago with different styles, but have learned what works to make us both comfortable and happy. It’s not easy but it’s extremely important. If you don’t get together until later in life, do your best before you marry or commit to another relationship to find out if your financial perspectives are compatible.

#4 Never assume someone else cares more about your money/investments than you do. Far too many single/divorced/widowed women turn their financial life over to a financial planner and passively agree to everything they are told. While that might work for some, there are thousands of examples of what happens when it doesn’t. Bernie Madoff instantly comes to mind.

#5 Find someone you trust to talk to about finances. According to a 2007 study done by Gender Differences in Investment Behavior at Iowa State University, women prefer to receive investment advice in person or in a group rather than seek it out on their own. Much of the time we are uncomfortable talking about money, and will likely talk more about our sex lives than our finances. For that reason alone I am thinking about starting or joining a local Women’s Investment Book Club as part of my 60-for-60 project. The more comfortable we get with investing money, the easier and perhaps more rewarding it will be.

 #6 Rightsize your life as soon as possible. I define rightsizing as finding a lifestyle that suits your personal needs, your personality and your finances. The sooner you do that, the sooner you will eliminate living a lifestyle that 1) doesn’t make you happy; 2) you can’t afford; and 3) you can’t maintain.   Rightsizing is a big topic that covers everything from the job you take, the place you live and what you plan to do with the rest of your life.

#7 Stop using your money to buy love or acceptance. Regretfully, some women spend too much money hoping it will make other people love them more (their kids?), or that just one more pair of shoes will make them more attractive. Instead, when we are content with who we are and what we have, we seldom spend money that we don’t have.  Learn to sayNO when others ask us for money.

#8 Realistically begin to imagine where and what you want to do and be in the years to come. Because I am childfree, I can’t expect children to bail me out. Yet many mothers I know say they that although they never want to be a burden on their children, they have no contingency plan for retirement or old age. We can’t leave our future lives to chance any more than we can expect others to take care of us if or when the time comes.

#9 Realize that a more simple life with less stuff just might be the solution to most of your financial worries. The good news is that it will probably make you happier as well.

Optimistically, the Allianz Study says that more and more women are hungry for more knowledge about financial planning, with 62% having a strong interest in learning more about finances and retirement strategies. But just the fact that so many of us remain worried about losing all our money and becoming homeless is reason to support and encourage each other. It is SMART to begin thinking and talking about our finances in a more aware and resourceful manner.

 

 

Kathy Gottberg

Kathy Gottberg has been writing on all sorts of topics for over 25 years with three published books and hundreds of articles. But her passion today is exploring ideas and experiences that help to create a meaningful, sustainable, compassionate and rewarding life for herself and others. Beyond that, she lives with Thom, her best friend and soul mate of 36 years, along with their fur-baby Kloe in La Quinta, CA. Instagram: gottgreen

Reece

Tuesday 17th of March 2015

Although I realise I'm not actually qualified to have an opinion on this topic because I'm not yet a 'midlife woman', I just wanted to say how much I liked this post. I'm in my 20s, but everything that you're saying still applies to me, or will apply to me in the future. I think that taking personal responsibility for our finances as soon as possible is really important, especially for women, as for some reason many people end up unprepared for unfortunate life events such as divorce, or the death of a partner. Thanks for the great read. Reece

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com

Tuesday 17th of March 2015

Hi Reece! Thank you so much for your comment! I completely agree that this post is helpful to ALL women regardless of our age. Unfortunately far too many of us wait until it becomes a critical state before we take the plunge so you are way ahead of most. I do think this is changing (in a very positive way) because women are becoming more and more independent and want and need to know how to manage every area of their lives (not just finances!) None of us has a crystal ball to see into the future so educating ourselves and staying up on the latest possibilities is a good idea. Thanks for reminding us all. ~Kathy

Rena McDaniel

Tuesday 17th of March 2015

Great advice Kathy! This is something that is rarely talked about but is so important. I saw my father pass away unexpectedly at 46 and it financially ruined my mother and I have been determined to never let that happen. I have made financial plans for later in life, but I would love to know more about investing. Right now, all we have our 401k and life insurance so I think adding some investments would help alot! thanks for the great advice.

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com

Tuesday 17th of March 2015

Hi Rena! Glad you liked it. As with most of the posts I write, I can use the reminder myself :-) It sounds like you have an up close and personal example of how devastating it can be if we don't take the time and make the effort to know what's happening with our finances. I also think there are different ways to make it more interesting--I'll be letting everyone know about my "woman's financial club" once it gets going. ~Kathy

Brenda Coffee

Monday 16th of March 2015

After my first husband died and left me with bills, three years back taxes, penalty & interest, I took control of my financial well-being. This is such great advice for women!

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com

Monday 16th of March 2015

Hi Brenda! Glad you liked it. It sounds like you had to learn some REALLY hard lessons when your husband passed. Bet that will never happen again right? It's so easy for us to let others deal with things we'd rather not address but that can be very detrimental in the long run. I'm bound and determined to make it interesting and fun and still am working on putting together a women's financial group. ~Kathy

Savvy Brown

Monday 16th of March 2015

EXCELLENT post! The best thing I ever did was hire an accountant. He's helped me through divorce, dealing with my Dad's estate when he passed, my business, my home, retirement and a bunch of things I never thought I'd have to worry about.

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com

Monday 16th of March 2015

Hi Savvy! Good for you for finding a good accountant. But that in itself isn't easy. While I think I have a pretty good one I have still caught her in a mistake now and then. PLUS, I tend to think that even accountants get stuck in solutions that they are familiar with. Sometimes keep our minds open to new input from unexpected sources can be a real benefit. Again, by finding others we can trust (like your accountant) and then talking with others I think we are all better off. ~Kathy

Joan Stommen

Monday 16th of March 2015

Perfect advice that I need, Kathy! #2 and #9 I've had to learn the hard way....but I really like it now....how much I can live without and have stopped caring about! I know my next step will be what to do with my money once my house sells. I have a few more variables due to age (the school of thought not to have any assets in old age!) And whether to rent or buy. I'm lucky to have free financial consults from my credit union and church....but I like your suggestion of a local financial-savvy book group. Well done...thank you!

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com

Monday 16th of March 2015

Hi Joan. What little I know about your past from your own writing is that you were sorta forced to learn some of these. Hopefully by talking about it and sharing ideas like this we can help make more of us aware of the both the need and then things we can do to make sure we can handle it if and when we need to. Good for you for staying strong, brave and open minded through it all. And now you can continue to share with all of us what you learn as you go along. ~Kathy

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