Financial security and freedom are universal desires. However, women still face obstacles to achieving them due to factors such as the gender wage gap and leaving the workforce earlier than men. Limited financial literacy is also a contributing factor, which can make it difficult for women to build credit and save for retirement.
Despite these challenges, it's never too late for women to take control of their finances and secure their financial future. To get started, consider the following tips for staying on top of personal finances and taking an active role in your financial journey.
Financial Insecurity on the Rise
It's no secret that the more financially prepared you are, the better it is for your financial well-being and long-term goals. Unfortunately, many women are falling behind.
An estimated 74% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck as their personal savings take a dive. This has led to a decrease in productivity at work and additional stress at home. Women in particular are experiencing a major hit when it comes to their finances. While 43% of men saw a decline in their savings, 64% of women are dealing with the same thing.
The same study found that 69% of women are unlikely to contribute to their retirement savings fund this year, while 35% don’t have retirement savings at all. In contrast, about 52% of men don’t plan to add to their retirement savings, while 18% don’t have money set aside for retirement.
There’s also still a significant wage gap between men and women. The U.S. Government Accountability Office found that women make around 82 cents per dollar that men earn. The wage gap combined with inflation and other factors has led to an increase in financial insecurity.
Getting Your Personal Finances on Track
Regardless of how much money you make or where you’re at in terms of financial literacy, you can always take control of your finances and achieve financial security and independence. Wherever you’re at in your financial journey, here are some tips on how to do this:
- Take charge of your budget. In order to understand your financial situation, you need a budget. Start by adding up your total monthly income and expenses. This can give you a good idea of how much you’re really earning vs. how much you’re spending. Write down all of your monthly financial responsibilities – including debt payments, groceries, housing costs, etc. – and see if there are areas where you can cut back.
- Plan for retirement. Whether you’re in your early 20s or late 50s, it’s never too early – or late – to start planning for retirement. Having money set aside for retirement is vital, so the sooner you get started, the better. See if your employer offers a 401(k) retirement plan, ideally with employer-matching contributions. If they don’t, start contributing to a Roth or Traditional IRA.
- Start saving and investing. Saving money is important, as is having an emergency fund. But beyond that, it’s important to invest. Depending on your risk tolerance, you might want to invest in things like stocks, bonds, or real estate. Create a diversified portfolio that can withstand the ups and downs of the market.
- Start paying down debt. Debt can really hold you back when it comes to achieving financial independence and peace of mind. The total US household debt is $16.90 trillion – this averages out to just over $100,000 per person. Having a lot of debt can cause problems if you’re trying to build credit, save money, or prepare for retirement. It can also make you less financially secure. If you have debts, start paying them down as quickly as possible. Here are Lendstart's top 5 Steps for Overcoming Debt.
- Make some long-term financial goals. Whether you want to buy a home one day, become debt-free, save up for your dream vacation, or something else, having goals can help. Set some goals and make a financial plan that will get you to where you want to be. And, if you need help, speak with a financial advisor to create a plan that works for you.
- Start a side hustle. If your income isn’t enough on its own, consider taking on a side hustle or start building passive income. Doing this could increase your earnings by several hundred or even thousands of dollars a month.
- Build or establish credit. Around 26 million Americans – one in ten adults – are “credit invisible,” meaning they have no credit history. Not having credit can limit your options when it comes to things like getting a loan or renting an apartment. If you don’t have credit, consider becoming an authorized user or taking on a credit-builder loan. And if you’re working on improving your score, consistently make on-time payments and try to pay down debt.
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No matter who you are or where you come from, the path to financial security starts with you. If you’re not already playing an active role in your personal finances, now’s a great time to start.
Make some short-term and long-term financial plans, such as paying off debt, creating an emergency fund, buying a house, or investing in your future. Doing this will put you in the driver’s seat of your finances and help you get to where you want to be.