How to fit investing into a busy life

Make time, set goals, invest, stay organized, and check in. Get tips from some experts.

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Some women might not be spending enough time managing their investments and financial accounts. And that may be worrisome because 90% of women will have to manage their finances at some point in their life.1 That's why they need to make sure that they know what’s going on with their money.

Fitting investing into a busy life doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here are some quick tips and a webcast (see below) with Jean Chatzky, an award-winning financial editor and host of “Her Money” podcast; and Camille Preston, psychologist, author, and executive coach.

1. Make time.

Camille Preston: Rather than jumping right into your day, step back and say, “OK, what is on my plate?” If you make a list of what you need to do, you can put similar things together, which can save not only time but your own mental energy. Then say, “OK, what are the three things to focus on that are the most important?” By taking the time to prioritize, you can really start to focus on what matters most. Although being more engaged with your money does not always feel like your top priority, it’s incredibly important. The bottom line is that clearing the decks and creating bandwidth on a daily basis will help you be more organized and make more time for what’s important.

2. Have goals.

Jean Chatzky: I find it’s helpful to think about what you want your money to do for you—this year, next year, the year after that, five years down the road, and 20 years down the road. Once you have your goals established, you can go about setting up your money in a way that it can help you achieve them. Write them down or have a picture. The more tangible you can make your goals, the more likely you are to succeed.

Preston: It’s really powerful if you can get emotionally associated with what it is you’re doing. Why is it important to you? There’s a lot of energy that we can harness to shift the mindset from a “have to do” to something that we “get to do,” which can have a fairly drastic effect on your psychology over time. As much as possible, put in those emotional hooks, those things that are going to get you fired up and excited to be moving in a certain direction.

Images are incredibly powerful. So some people are really highly motivated by their family, which is great. Having pictures of your kids, your family, and other loved ones in your workplace can really reignite why you’re working so hard and why you’re committed to having your money work hard for you. Others are thinking about that dream vacation or that dream retirement home. Have a picture of that.

3. Invest for your goals.

Chatzky: Save and invest for each goal by matching accounts with each goal. Different accounts have different purposes.

On the very short-term end are savings or checking accounts. This is money that you might need in the next few months to few years. You don’t want that to be subject to the whims of the stock market. You want it in a place where you can access it when you need it.

For retirement, there are workplace retirement saving accounts like a 401(k), 403(b), or 457. Hopefully you get some matching dollars from your employer when you contribute. That’s free money from your employer. If you don’t have access to a workplace retirement account, you can save for retirement with an IRA.

Once you’ve got your accounts set up, you decide how to invest your money in each. How you invest depends on your goals and your time horizon. You’re taking your money, your hard-earned cash, and you’re giving it the potential to grow.

Consider your investment style. Are you an aggressive, moderate, or conservative investor? In other words, how much risk are you willing to take on? More aggressive investors usually put more emphasis on the historical long-term success of stocks. More conservative investors, on the other hand, may prefer a less rocky ride and less risk, which usually means less stocks. There is no right or wrong here. It’s about your time horizon—in other words, when you’ll need the money—and your comfort level with the risk of losses. In fact, you may be a conservative investor for some shorter-term goals and a more aggressive investor for the longer-term goals.

4. Stay organized.

Chatzky: Where my money is concerned, I have everything automated that I can have automated: saving, investing, bill payment, even reminders in my calendar for when I have to make the next tax payment. The fact that it happens without me having to pull the trigger every single time is a huge time saver.

  • Tips: Contribute as much as possible each month to a 401(k) or other tax-deferred workplace savings plan. If you don’t have one, consider setting up automatic investments to an IRA. Make payments and manage your bills with your Fidelity account using Fidelity BillPay®.
5. Check in.

Preston: When your life shifts, you want to go back and check in on your investment plan, to make sure that it is aligned with your goals. I have a friend who was going to have just one child. She was going to be one and done. I saw her last fall and she said, “Yeah, I kind of got a curveball. I’m pregnant.” Needed to reallocate my investments. She went in for her 20-week ultrasound and will need to reallocate again. Twins!

Chatzky: Everybody needs a calendar that works for them—paper or electronic. It’s got to be a calendar where you are comfortable looking at it on a daily basis, so that you don’t let three years go by and realize, oh, I forgot to check in on my investments. You should be doing it annually, and you should make one date each year—on your calendar year—either around tax time for most people or around the first of the year. You also need a day-to-day routine. I have a five-minute routine. I look at my bills, I pay my bills, and I file them in the same place all the time.

It’s worth it

The important thing is to make investing and saving priorities and to take action. Talk about your money with the people you care about, educate yourself online, and take advantage of free guidance at work. Do something now to help ensure your money is working just as hard as you do, so you can achieve the goals and live the life you deserve.

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Investing involves risk, including risk of loss.
Guidance provided by Fidelity through the Planning & Guidance Center is educational in nature, is not individualized, and is not intended to serve as the primary basis for your investment or tax-planning decisions.
1. Women in the Labor Force: A Databook. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012).
The views expressed are as of the date indicated and may change based on market or other conditions. Unless otherwise noted, the opinions provided are those of the speaker or author, as applicable, and not necessarily those of Fidelity Investments.
Jean Chatzky and Camille Preston are not employed by Fidelity but may receive compensation from Fidelity for their services.
As with all your investments through Fidelity, you must make your own determination as to whether an investment in any particular security or securities is consistent with your investment objectives, risk tolerance, financial situation, and your evaluation of the security. Fidelity is not recommending or endorsing any investment by making it available to its customers.
Fidelity does not provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is general and educational in nature and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific situation.
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