Dollars and sense: busting age-old taboos

Money can be a sensitive subject. The following article discusses ways to help women with financial planning and money management.

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Money is a sensitive subject—especially for women.

I think about this a lot and believe it often has to do with lingering perceptions and hard-to-shake habits. My maternal grandmother, for instance, has never felt comfortable talking about money. To her the subject is taboo, even within our family. She never discussed money with my mom, who then never talked about finances with me. As a result, there's a shortage of money confidence in our family that sometimes feels like a genetic predisposition.

This meant I had a lot of catching up to do as a young adult. In my early 20s, I found myself in a position where I had to be financially responsible for my college education and a child. This meant learning how to budget so we could afford groceries, not spending on frivolous things (like another pair of shoes I didn't need), and starting to build up an emergency fund.

Just 20% of women say their parents prepared them to manage their own finances as an adult. And when money conversations don't happen early in life, learning financial basics can be overwhelming at first. Some folks never get up to speed: Only 47% of adult women say they would be confident talking about money and investing with a financial professional on their own, according to Fidelity research.

But times are changing at long last—a wonderful thing. I'm thrilled whenever I meet a woman who knows every single detail about her savings and investments and/or manages the family budget. These women inspire me because they are in complete control of their financial lives, and I want to encourage my daughters, my friends and, of course, my clients to do the same.

But how can more women get there?

Don't tell Grandma, but I'm happy to share three ways we can start boosting our money moxie:

Identify financial goals. Specific goals are important—without them, it can be challenging to find the motivation to begin to take charge of your financial destiny. Think about what you'd like to be able to do in your life—the more detail, the better!—and how money can help you get there. Perhaps you want to take a ski vacation every year or help your kids attend a top college. Maybe retiring early sounds like great fun. Or say you're simply looking for the peace of mind that comes from growing your savings and having an emergency fund to fall back on. Envisioning exactly what you want is a crucial first step in making a plan that you can work toward and realize. (My spouse and I bought a house last year, and now we're focusing on setting aside money for our daughter, Alice.)

Spend less than you earn. Yes, this can be more difficult in practice than in theory. Once you've identified that goal that you want to achieve, it's going to require additional money. As basic math will show you, that means to save for it, you have to spend less than you make. Time to create a budget. It sounds like a drag, I know. And frankly, it can be. But it's so necessary. Need a good source of information on balancing a budget? Fidelity has some very specific guidelines around how to spend and how to save.

Make time to check in. Let's face it: Life gets very hectic very quickly. That's why it's so important to set aside time to reassess your financial picture. My wife and I do that every few months. Our life and our goals are still evolving, and we need to be mindful of where our money is going to make sure we stay on track. And these kinds of conversations are good for our relationship, too. It gives us the opportunity to talk about our future and those goals and visions we've identified.

Knowledge is power—especially when it comes to your financial well-being. And there are few things as empowering as charting your own course and your own future. But as I tell my clients, it's never too late to start learning—even for Grandma, if she has a change of heart.

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The views and opinions expressed by Jessica Maloy are her own and do not represent the views of Fidelity Investments. Fidelity makes no guarantees that the information supplied is accurate or complete.
Views expressed are as of October 17, 2018 and are subject to change. Unless otherwise noted, the opinions provided are those of Jessica Maloy and not necessarily those of Fidelity Investments.

Investing involves risk, including risk of loss.

Votes are submitted voluntarily by individuals and reflect their own opinion of the article's helpfulness. A percentage value for helpfulness will display once a sufficient number of votes have been submitted.

Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC, 900 Salem Street, Smithfield, RI 02917

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