….and with good reason! After age 34, women will never earn more than 78% of what men earn in the same jobs, according to Catalyst, a non-profit organization. This means women will earn less, save less and receive less in Social Security benefits. Plus the past decade of economic upheaval and a long, deep recession have left women feeling less secure economically than ever before. We are worried about aging and outliving our savings, losing everything even if we do things right, and we’re more pessimistic about the future of the economy and the world in general. In many conversations with women, it seems every one of us has our own “bag lady” nightmare!

Ok, that’s the bad news. The good news is most all women are resourceful, resilient, very capable, and we’re willing to do what it takes.  (There’s an excellent article in More Magazine’s September 2014 issue about women and our emotions around money I highly recommend.)

There are four steps I’ve taken over the years which helped me to reduce my fears and create greater financial security….although I struggle with a couple but keep trying.

1. Create a financial plan with a professional. I do not believe financial planning is a “do-it-yourself” project any more than cutting my own hair! Get professional help and begin now. There are many people out there, so be sure to do your homework and find someone highly recommended from a reliable source. If you don’t know where that is, it’s even more important to know what your financial snapshot of all your assets, debts and income really are. For many years, I’ve worked with a few financial planners.  In my career income years, I never touched my “retirement savings assets” for “discretionary expenses” (such as vacations or a new car).

2. Understanding yourself is essential, as well as the level of risk you are willing and able to tolerate. I am far less risk tolerant than I was 15 years ago…for several reasons. The recession and economic collapse wrecked havoc with my net worth and so-called safe investments weren’t so safe. And being older, I’m less inclined to “risk it” since I can’t earn it again.  (But, I still have some discretionary money I use in the stock market on my own.)  Plus, it’s also important I continually educate myself about financial basics, talk with planners, reading financial articles and books, and understanding economic basics.

3. Build your confidence with other women. I’ve been a member of an investment group with several other women for almost 20 years. When we started, none of us had ever bought stock on our own and knew very little about the stock market and other investments. Over the years, we have learned together, with discussions ranging from long-term care, “hot stock tips”, REITS, financial reports analysis, Roth-IRAs, puts and calls, as well as personal issues such as divorces, deaths, good movies and good wine. We are all far more confident today about finances and feel secure in our futures as we consider retirement. It’s also important that women talk honestly about finances, our questions, our concerns and share with other women.

4.  Create a budget and know where your money is being spent. This one I struggle with the most. I have a general household/ personal budget and keep track of my spending by recording my bills paid, my credit cards spending, and larger cash purchases. (Note: I still have a hard time staying current!) It lets me to see where my money is going and where I can dial back spending when I need to (eating out gets expensive quickly!) At the very least, I know where my money is coming from and where’s it’s going.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this, so please share below suggestions and comments you may have to help others.