Make time for money

The number of women interested in learning about financial planning and investing continues to grow – from 55 percent in 2006 to 62 percent in 2012, according to a recent study on “Women, Money and Power” from Allianz.

Women have more financial knowledge than ever before. Unfortunately our behavior – what we actually do with our money – has not kept up with our knowledge.

Of the 62 million wage and salaried women working in this country, only 45 percent are actually participating in a retirement plan, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And according to the Retirement Security Project, women have, on average, significantly less in retirement investments than men do – in fact, only about half as much.

We’re becoming more interested learners of money, but we have not shown much difference in the doing part. And it’s the doing part that creates financial security for us.

But how can I, in good conscience, ask you wonderful, smart readers of the Women’s Press to add more things to do to your already full plate?

I’m reminded of an incident many years ago when I was at a Brownie function for my younger daughter. I was absolutely exhausted. After a very full day, I was listing in my head what I still needed to get done after the function was over when the little voice of my daughter broke into my thoughts as she asked, incredulously, “Do some mommies cook breakfast?”

All the adult conversation around me stopped and I snapped back to attention. Thinking quickly, I said, “Well, sweetheart, some mommies do cook breakfast and some mommies buy really healthy cereals and let you pick.”

“Oh, OK,” she said and she ran off. The conversation around me started again. And I thought, do I have to start cooking breakfast now, too, while I am trying to get four kids off to their schools with some degree of pleasantness and get myself to work on time?

I’m not here to ask you to cook breakfast, but I am here to ask you to add more to your already full plate. This isn’t breakfast – it is financial security. I am asking you to add money to your daily awareness.

I am asking you to decide to actually deal with this money world – today. Don’t put it off until tomorrow, when you think you’ll have more time and energy. Do not let your busy life hold your financial life hostage. First, create a financial plan and follow it. Second, in this plan practice the principles of money, including spending less than you earn and not using debt to subsidize your income. Also, practice the principles of investing, including diversification and dollar-cost-averaging. Third, build your career. With a career – not simply a job – you have more of yourself invested in your work. You will be more willing to take the risk of negotiating a higher salary, so you earn more money and feel more satisfaction. Fourth, get comfortable with asking questions about money. Questions are the path to clarity and learning.

The lack of financial security for our gender doesn’t have anything to do with intelligence or competency or even knowledge, as it turns out. It has to do with making room on our already full plates for new behaviors with our money that will create financial security for ourselves now and in the future.

Ruth Hayden lives in St. Paul and is a financial consultant and educator. She is the author of several books about money management.