Per­sonal Fi­nance Fi­nan­cial Ad­vice For Women

...from money-savvy women. Get smart tips and in­spir­ing words to help you be­come more fi­nan­cially em­pow­ered.

Good Housekeeping (Philippines) - - News -

Women have been likened to su­per­heroes (raise your hand if you’ve ever been called Won­der Wo­man or Supergirl) and it isn’t dif­fi­cult to see why. Although we may not have the abil­ity to fly, walk through walls, or tele­port, we sure have a knack for jug­gling myr­iad roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties ev­ery day—and in our world, that cer­tainly counts as a su­per power.

Helped your son fin­ish his sci­ence project? Drove your mom to her doc­tor’s ap­point­ment? Cooked your hubby’s fa­vorite dish af­ter a tough day at the of­fice? All in a day’s work. To your loved ones, you’re a real lifesaver.

Like any su­per­hero, though, we also have our weak­nesses, our kryp­tonite. Dif­fer­ent women will iden­tify dif­fer­ent things that make them feel pow­er­less. For some, it could be junk food; for oth­ers, de­signer bags. But there’s one weak­ness that pos­si­bly all of us share, whether we re­al­ize it or not: For all that women can ac­com­plish, and all the im­por­tant de­ci­sions we make ev­ery day, we tend to take a back­seat when it comes to money mat­ters. And there’s data to prove it.

THE CHAL­LENGE

Sure, we usu­ally take charge of the fam­ily’s day-to-day bud­get, but re­search shows we are less con­fi­dent about mak­ing big­ger, long-term fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions (like where to in­vest, if to in­vest at all; or how to save up for re­tire­ment) and thus pre­fer to leave these up to the men of the house.

Why? Ac­cord­ing to a 2015 sur­vey by Amer­i­can fi­nan­cial ser­vices com­pany Fidelity In­vest­ments, “lack of fi­nan­cial knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence” and “not know­ing where to turn for guid­ance” are two of the lead­ing rea­sons fe­males shy away from this cru­cial mat­ter. Apart from that, the sur­vey found that women hold back from be­com­ing more in­volved in their fi­nances be­cause of an in­grained be­lief that it is rude or in­ap­pro­pri­ate to talk about money. In fact, 80% of over 1,500 women sur­veyed in the U.S. re­ported to have, at one point, re­frained from talk­ing about it with peo­ple close to them, citing rea­sons like “It’s un­com­fort­able,” “I was raised to not talk about fi­nances,” and “I don’t un­der­stand or know enough to talk about it in­tel­li­gently.”

The good news is that de­spite their lack of con­fi­dence, Fidelity In­vest­ment’s sur­vey re­spon­dents said they would im­merse them­selves more in fi­nan­cial mat­ters if they re­ceived bet­ter sup­port. Ac­cord­ing to the sur­vey, women would be most mo­ti­vated to do so if they could a) find op­por­tu­ni­ties to be more knowl­edge­able about their op­tions, b) talk to peo­ple who have made sim­i­lar de­ci­sions, and c) know that their spouses sup­port their de­ci­sions.

The same trend can be ob­served in the Philip­pines, where, tra­di­tion­ally, women pre­fer to fo­cus on do­mes­tic du­ties while men are re­garded as the pri­mary bread­win­ners, and thus, stew­ards of the fam­ily trea­sury. And while such gen­der roles are shift­ing, with more women join­ing the work force, we are still the ones more likely to forego em­ploy­ment, if needed, to con­cen­trate on car­ing for chil­dren and older loved ones.

More­over, while many Filip­inas rec­og­nize the im­por­tance of sav­ing, that’s usu­ally as far as we go fi­nan­cially. This isn’t all bad; any fi­nan­cial ad­viser will tell you that get­ting into the habit of sav­ing is a good step to­ward fi­nan­cial free­dom. But the same ex­perts will also point out that there are bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties for your money out­side the bank. Many Filip­inas have also ex­pressed an in­ter­est in in­vest­ing, with a few who have joined stock trad­ing sem­i­nars in the hope of learn­ing how to use and ben­e­fit from this wealth-build­ing in­stru­ment. How­ever, they are of­ten put off, or even in­tim­i­dated, by the fi­nan­cial jar­gon, as re­vealed by Good House­keep­ing Philip­pines read­ers in a fo­cus group dis­cus­sion.

BRIDG­ING THE GAP

The dif­fer­ence in the man­ner women ap­proach per­sonal fi­nance com­pared to men can be at­trib­uted to a cou­ple of fac­tors: Apart from be­ing a lin­ger­ing ef­fect of old­fash­ioned and stereo­typed gen­der roles, there’s the sim­ple fact that women re­ceive and process in­for­ma­tion in a dif­fer­ent way— an im­por­tant de­tail that a male-dom­i­nated fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­try of­ten fails to ad­dress.

As shown by var­i­ous stud­ies in the fields of psy­chol­ogy and neu­ro­science, men are more log­i­cal, spa­tial thinkers while women are more so­cial, emo­tional be­ings. This could ex­plain why the for­mer are much more re­cep­tive to the dry, lin­ear busi­ness lan­guage cus­tom­ar­ily used in the fi­nan­cial in­dus­try (and why there seems to be more of them in it). Women, on the other hand, com­pre­hend bet­ter through dis­cus­sions with peers, pre­fer­ring to see the big­ger pic­ture and as­sess the pros and cons of any fi­nan­cial step through their ex­pe­ri­ences.

This gap in the fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­try is so marked that when Worthfm, a U.s.-based on­line in­vest­ing plat­form de­signed es­pe­cially for the ladies, sur­veyed over 1,000 women in 2016, it found that most of them feel dis­con­nected from fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sors and ser­vices, with 87% feel­ing that the jar­gon makes in­vest­ing seem more con­fus­ing than it should be, and 70% be­liev­ing there should be fi­nan­cial ser­vices and prod­ucts geared to­ward women.

All things con­sid­ered, the bot­tom­line is this: The prob­lem is not that women are in­ca­pable of mak­ing im­por­tant fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions; it’s that we of­ten choose not to. And though the rea­sons are valid, they must be over­come. While money cer­tainly isn’t the most im­por­tant thing in this world, it plays a huge role in our daily lives. As such, ev­ery­one should have the ca­pac­ity to han­dle it wisely.

Su­per­man faces se­ri­ous con­se­quences and the risk of world­wide de­struc­tion if he fails to over­come the ef­fects of kryp­tonite. For­tu­nately, the reper­cus­sions of fail­ing to prac­tice proper money man­age­ment are not as cat­a­strophic, though it can surely in­flu­ence your suc­cess and sense of se­cu­rity

in life. In this day and age, when tra­di­tions are chang­ing and fi­nan­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties are be­com­ing more ac­ces­si­ble to a wider au­di­ence, it is im­per­a­tive to level the play­ing field by hav­ing as much of a say in our fi­nances as our part­ners. And as re­search has shown, the best way to do that is to lis­ten and learn from our peers.

Let the fol­low­ing nuggets of wis­dom, culled from women’s real-life ex­pe­ri­ences, in­spire you to step up and take charge of your fi­nan­cial well-be­ing.

1 Do it for your­self.

This may sound coun­ter­in­tu­itive, be­cause women are any­thing but self­ish. Moth­ers, as the fam­ily’s pri­mary care­givers, are known to put the needs of oth­ers be­fore their own. But that’s pre­cisely why you need to do it: You won’t be able to sup­port oth­ers with­out sup­port­ing your­self first.

It’s es­pe­cially im­por­tant to heed this ad­vice now since, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent study by the Pew Re­search Cen­ter in the U.S., 90% of women are ex­pected to be­come the sole fi­nan­cial de­ci­sion mak­ers of their house­holds at some point, given that mar­i­tal sepa­ra­tion rates are in­creas­ing and women are out­liv­ing men by five to six years on aver­age.

By tak­ing a gen­uine in­ter­est in your fi­nances, and tak­ing steps to grow and se­cure your per­sonal funds, you cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment that’s pro­duc­tive and sta­ble enough to sup­port not only your­self, but also those who de­pend on you. The last thing you want is to have noth­ing to pull you and your loved ones through when life de­cides to throw you a curve ball.

“Part of be­ing a par­ent is ac­cept­ing the huge re­spon­si­bil­ity of pro­tect­ing your fam­ily’s fi­nan­cial fu­ture,” says Rissa Manan­quil-trillo, co-founder of home­grown brand Happy Skin Cos­met­ics and mom of three. “Life can hap­pen at any time—death, di­vorce, dis­abil­ity. It is your re­spon­si­bil­ity as an adult and par­ent to al­ways take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the se­cu­rity of your­self and your fam­ily.”

Cathy Bril­lantes-turvill, co-owner and pres­i­dent of Nur­ture Well­ness Vil­lage, a thriv­ing spa and well­ness fa­cil­ity in Ta­gay­tay City, shares this sen­ti­ment. “Even as a mar­ried wo­man, be fi­nan­cially in­de­pen­dent,” she says. “No one can pre­dict the fu­ture and you have to be ready to take care of your­self fi­nan­cially. I went through a mar­i­tal sepa­ra­tion and be­ing fi­nan­cially in­de­pen­dent en­abled me to make tough de­ci­sions.”

Like any­thing worth hav­ing in life, fi­nan­cial in­de­pen­dence won’t come easy. But you have to start some­where. For Manan­quil-trillo, the first step is to ad­dress your own fi­nances. “Per­son­ally, I make it a point to save enough as if I didn’t have to ever de­pend on my hus­band or par­ents to sur­vive,” she says. As for Bril­lantes-turvill, it’s also im­por­tant to make a con­scious ef­fort to learn about your op­tions, and to do this as early as pos­si­ble. “Im­me­di­ately start fi­nan­cial plan­ning. Don’t wait; act now,” she says. “The big­gest en­emy of be­ing fi­nan­cially in­de­pen­dent is pro­cras­ti­na­tion. If you are em­ployed, con­sciously in­vest part of your salary, save some, and spend the rest on the ne­ces­si­ties.”

Clarissa Ser­iña de la Paz, co-au­thor of the book I Wish They Taught Money in High School*, of­fers sim­i­lar ad­vice. “As an em­ployee, pay your­self first,” she says, ad­vo­cat­ing the 80/20 rule: au­to­mat­i­cally set aside and in­vest 20% of your monthly in­come, and live with the re­main­ing 80%. “This one habit will change all your money habits.”

When it comes to in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, de la Paz’s co-au­thor and fel­low fi­nan­cial men­tor, Sharon W. Que, en­cour­ages women to read up on their op­tions. This sort of ed­u­ca­tion is an in­vest­ment in it­self. “In­vest­ing is only risky if you don’t have enough knowl­edge about it. At­tend classes and read more books about it, then just do it,” says Que. “No­body started as an ex­pert. And if you ever fail, fail for­ward, get the les­son, and con­tinue with the quest.”

2 Get out of your money com­fort zone.

“It re­ally de­pends on where you are on your fi­nan­cial jour­ney, but get­ting out of your money com­fort zone means do­ing some­thing you’ve never done be­fore,” says de la Paz. When she was fresh out of col­lege, this trans­lated to man­ag­ing her own credit card and check­book. “It was such a big deal for me,” she says. As her goals grew big­ger, de la Paz found other ways to chal­lenge her­self to stretch her com­fort zone, like rais­ing funds to pur­chase her own home. “When I wanted to move out of our house, it was so scary for me to get a hous­ing loan from the bank. But now I’m very com­fort­able with these things and they seem so triv­ial now,” she shares. “The list of chal­lenges is end­less, but ev­ery time you con­quer one, you’ll be more con­fi­dent than your older self.”

Pic­ture your wildest money dreams and go for them. For many Filipinos, this dream is to start their own busi­ness, to gen­er­ate pas­sive in­come. Get­ting there won’t be a walk in the park, but the road to it will surely be rife with lessons that will help you carve out your fi­nan­cial strat­egy and pri­or­i­ties.

Happy Skin’s Manan­quil-trillo, who has al­ways been busi­ness-minded, cred­its

en­trepreneur­ship as a key in­flu­ence in her fi­nan­cial suc­cess. “When I was in grade two, I would make wo­ven friend­ship bracelets and sell them to our neigh­bors for two pe­sos. As a teenager, I would set up a stall ev­ery sum­mer to sell food to the nearby of­fices and town­houses. I also loved to read and write so I wrote my own short sto­ries, poems, comics, and even cre­ated my own news­pa­per to sell to fam­ily and friends. Grow­ing up, I also had a chance to do mod­el­ling projects on the side. What did I do af­ter I had my very first photo shoot? I saved ev­ery peso in the bank.” She en­cour­ages women to seize any op­por­tu­nity to go into busi­ness. “Have un­stop­pable en­tre­pre­neur­ial drive. Em­power your­self to build your net worth. It’s not just about get­ting bet­ter at bud­get­ing or sav­ing money. It’s about be­ing fi­nan­cially in­de­pen­dent and gain­ing con­trol over your fu­ture.”

She con­tin­ues, “Block out time for your own projects. If you have a run­ning list of dreams and money-mak­ing projects, the only way to turn those ideas into cash is to ac­tu­ally make time for them.”

You could also start small. For in­stance, try to con­quer your fear of credit cards and sign up for one. This piece of plas­tic is not as evil as it seems. “A lot of peo­ple avoid credit cards think­ing that it’s the smart move to avoid shop­ping-re­lated debts,” writes de la Paz in I Wish They Taught Money in High School. While de la Paz rec­og­nizes this risk, she as­serts that, if used and man­aged prop­erly, credit cards can be a source of valu­able learn­ing and earn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. “I have a smarter move to in­tro­duce: Make credit cards your best friends. Know all their ben­e­fits and stretch them.”

Be­sides the con­ve­nience it of­fers (hello, in­stant, on­line, and cash­less pay­ments!), credit cards can help you build a good credit stand­ing, which can help you ful­fill more fi­nan­cial goals later on, such as get­ting a loan ap­proved. To get there, though, you have to dis­ci­pline your­self to pay your bills in full and on time ev­ery month. More­over, credit card com­pa­nies of­fer free­bies, ben­e­fits, and priv­i­leges. These are doled out as gifts or cash re­bates which, if you’re re­source­ful enough, can aug­ment your fi­nances. Take Manan­quil­trillo: “I love max­i­miz­ing credit card ben­e­fits and priv­i­leges,” she says. “You’ll be sur­prised how many perks or added-value items you can get. The miles we’ve earned from credit card use have given us so many mem­o­rable fam­ily trips.”

3 Go back to the ba­sics.

If you think that, with so much al­ready on your plate, you can’t pos­si­bly find any more time to at­tend to other con­cerns—like set­ting up a busi­ness or open­ing a new bank ac­count—don’t panic or flee. Re­turn to the essentials.

“As women, we have a lot of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. We get so swamped with ful­fill­ing our tasks that we for­get the ba­sics, such as sim­ply mon­i­tor­ing our in­come and ex­penses, and even set­ting goals,” says Gin­ger Ar­boleda, a blog­ger (mom­my­gin­ger. com), busi­ness and mar­ket­ing coach, mom of one, and se­rial en­tre­pre­neur. “Our dreams stop at ‘gusto ko ku­mita ng pera para ma­tus­tu­san ang pang-araw-araw na gas­tusin’ but we don’t strive to achieve a spe­cific num­ber or list down strate­gies on how to ob­tain it. It’s time we write down this num­ber and list down steps that we will do for the year.”

True enough, goal set­ting is one key to suc­cess in any en­deavor. Ex­perts say the more spe­cific your goals are, the bet­ter your chances of achiev­ing them, be­cause hav­ing a clear vi­sion of what you want to at­tain af­fords you fo­cus, di­rec­tion, and bet­ter con­trol over the steps you take to get there. It also helps to write these goals down to make them real and tan­gi­ble, so you’re mo­ti­vated to re­al­ize them. In per­sonal fi­nance, this means iden­ti­fy­ing, for ex­am­ple, who your in­vest­ments are for and how much you need to save up for each goal. This is a ba­sic yet valu­able strat­egy that women tend to over­look, but can help us ac­tu­ally make things hap­pen.

Be more mind­ful of your cash flow, too. Keep track of your in­come and ex­penses, as Ar­boleda says. Build a good fi­nan­cial foun­da­tion with these steps and watch where it can take you.

4 Don’t be afraid to take the plunge.

You’re bet­ter at mak­ing fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions than you think. “We have gen­eral char­ac­ter­is­tics that make us even bet­ter with money than our male coun­ter­parts,” says Rose Fres Fausto, be­hav­ioral econ­o­mist, fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy ad­vo­cate, and colum­nist at philstar.com. “This is not meant to pit women against men, but just a re­minder that if we em­brace some of our in­her­ent qual­i­ties, we can ac­tu­ally be­come great money man­agers and in­vestors.”

Bi­o­log­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal re­search proves that women are hard­wired for fi­nan­cial suc­cess. How? Un­like men, we don’t have high lev­els of testos­terone, which has been as­so­ci­ated with in­creased risk-tak­ing be­hav­ior. “And we know that in­vest­ing has a lot to do with man­ag­ing risks,” says Fausto. “The gen­er­ally calmer tem­per­a­ment of women is an ad­van­tage in in­vest­ing.”

Be­cause of the lower lev­els of testos­terone in women, we tend to be less ag­gres­sive whereas men are prone to be over­con­fi­dent. “Men think they know more than they ac­tu­ally do while it’s the op­po­site for women. We are more re­al­is­tic and not overly op­ti­mistic,” says Fausto. “In other words, men are more ca­pa­ble of ir­ra­tional ex­u­ber­ance in in­vest­ing.”

Citing a re­cent study by pro­fes­sors from the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia – Davis in the U.S. on the in­vest­ing be­hav­ior of men ver­sus women, con­ducted over a six-year pe­riod, Fausto says mar­ried men traded their stocks 45% more than women, while sin­gle men traded 67% higher. “Maybe we can as­sume that the wives helped in ton­ing down the ir­ra­tional ex­u­ber­ance of their hus­bands in their trad­ing ac­tiv­i­ties,” she says.

“Here’s the in­ter­est­ing part,” she adds, “Be­cause of the lower trans­ac­tion costs in­curred by fe­males, their net re­turns are higher than their male coun­ter­parts.” Apart from that, Fausto says women’s nat­u­rally calmer tem­per­a­ment con­di­tions us to “put in more time and ef­fort re­search­ing pos­si­ble in­vest­ments, con­sid­er­ing more an­gles and de­tails,” be­fore we make any de­ci­sions.

5 Be a role model.

Al­ways re­mem­ber that there are peo­ple who look up to you—your chil­dren, most im­por­tantly. As you set them up for suc­cess in life, it is cru­cial to break the cy­cle of fi­nan­cial il­lit­er­acy and ig­no­rance by set­ting an ex­am­ple. Don’t skip nor gloss over the sub­ject of fi­nances when you teach them about the ways of the world. Learn, and then pass on what you know.

As a prac­tice, you can start by giv­ing them full con­trol over how to spend their al­lowance. Speak­ing from ex­pe­ri­ence, Manan­quil-trillo says, “The first time I ever re­ceived baon from my par­ents was in grade two. They gave me twenty pe­sos a week, and I had a choice of ei­ther us­ing it to treat my­self to a hot­dog bun for re­cess or sav­ing it for some­thing I re­ally wanted, like books and stick­ers, which I loved to col­lect.” The mom of three cites this ex­er­cise as one of the things that “laid the foun­da­tion” for her own fi­nan­cial in­de­pen­dence.

“I prac­tice the same with my chil­dren. It teaches them the value of money at an early age and how to be thrifty right from the start. We also be­come a team in sav­ing money,” she says.

Ladies, be­lieve it or not: Our in­her­ently calmer tem­per­a­ment gives us an ad­van­tage when it comes to money man­age­ment.

Hav­ing good money habits means more than just bud­get­ing.

Sav­ing is a good first step, but it’s in­vest­ing that’s go­ing to take you to fi­nan­cial nir­vana.

So much to do, so lit­tle time? Don’t panic if you’re feel­ing over­whelmed by it all. Go back to the ba­sics.

Don’t hes­i­tate to teach your young ones about money. They’ll thank you for it.

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