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Are you feeling bombarded by Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday and all the other hyped up advertising to encourage into acquiring stuff? I am. The few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are the retailers biggest sales period. They also can be very stressful for women since we’re usually the ones to make the magic happen. While I can’t eliminate all your holiday stress, I can offer a few suggestions about gift-giving which have worked for me.
For those of us who struggle with what to give loved ones, it adds a complex layer of stress to our lives. Add to that, the challenge when asked the question “what do you want for Christmas?” from well meaning family and friends. I really don’t need another scarf, a sweater, or a book I may or may not read. And every year I struggle to find a right answer without sounding like Scrooge. I really want world peace, an end to global poverty, to eliminate substance abuse, as well as a peaceful life.
I believe I have found an answer to gift-giving. (Note this doesn’t apply to my two adorable grand-children!)
The greatest gift we can give and receive is to show up in love for our self and with others. That means being authentic, kind, honoring our values and being respectful of others. Interestingly, two close friends just brought up the same dilemma they’re having about gifts this year. We simply want to be with and enjoy the people in our lives.
Here are my 4 tips to create a meaningful, stress-free and more personally peaceful holiday season.
1. Communicate early in person, by phone or email with those you usually exchange gifts. Let them know you want a gift-free year. Tell them you want to take positive action to simplify everyone’s lives and strive to make the world a little better. You might want to share that you’ll be making donating to a few charities this year in lieu of gift-giving.
2. Say “no” to things and “yes” to shared experiences. In lieu of gifts, consider spending special quality time with those you care about. This could be a long conversation with someone far away, mailing a letter with pictures, or laughing together over a glass of wine together somewhere festive. Some families I know volunteer together, often serving meals or playing Santa at nearby churches or agencies during the holiday season. Family traditions, rituals and favorite foods are most often what is remembered, it’s rarely ever the gifts given or received.
3. Make selecting a donation recipient a special event, and let your choices be meaningful to you. My husband and I are planning an evening when we sit down and go through our charities of choice, discuss what’s personally important to us, and decide where we want to give. I know I’ll be giving to Parisi House on the Hill, a residential addiction recovery center for women with small children. (I’m on the Board and know the impact this organization and its caring staff makes in these women’s lives.) Decide on who you want to donate to, log onto their website, and charge your donations. In a couple of hours, you’ve given from the heart, expressed yourself and made the world a little bit better. Your heart will be filled with the joy of giving and no stress!
4. Relax and truly enjoy the holiday season. This is the season of lights, love, joy and peace. Nowhere in all those holiday songs and cards we receive, is it about stuff, stress, shopping, over-crowded malls, and overspent credit cards. You’ll then be able to find quiet, peaceful moments of reflection and joy during this time of year. Not only will we enjoy the holidays much more, we actually create our own special magic!
Please post your suggestions for ways you’ve made the holidays more meaningful and less stressful for you this year. Especially if you’ve figured out alternatives to gift giving and how it worked for you.
….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.
I’m all for doing things the easy way…aren’t we all? I’d love nothing more than to dream grand dreams and just have them easily come true. Wishin’ and hopin’ alone just isn’t that effective. And as a woman, I’m not alone.
Women are remarkedly resilient and resourceful and we can do amazing things. However, we’re also reluctant to ask for help or admit we can’t do everything by ourselves all the time. In no area is this more apparent than with our finances. We keep doing what we’ve always done which often isn’t much and then we hope for different results. For most women, this will not result in a well-funded retirement, secure future or making those dreams come true.
Hourglass Workshops is all about supporting a community of women to rediscover themselves after years of serving others to live more vibrant, colorful life. This month, we are hosting a very important financial seminar specifically tailored to women. The Empowering Women: Money and Our Future seminar begins 9/9 for 3-Tuesday evening series.
In a recent Forbes post “Women don’t feel prepared to make wise decisions and are not sure what to consider when evaluating their options. They don’t seem to be taking action either,” said Lori Dickerson Fouché, chief executive officer of Prudential Group Insurance, at a media briefing about the study.
That inertia will have serious implications for them. Prudential’s findings aren’t groundbreaking, but they’re one more slap in the face that women are just not getting it.
In her recent New York Times article, Women to Wall Street: Are You Listening?, M.P. Dunleavey wrote that “many women are struggling to feel in control of their finances, given certain hurdles of their own. (Knowledge gaps + anxiety = shame.) Seventy-seven percent of women want to be involved in day-to-day investment decisions, a Merrill Lynch study found last fall, yet 72% say they ‘know less than the average investor’ about investing in general.”
Our seminar will help us all make our dreams come true and create a more secure future for ourselves and those we love. Please consider joining us. Sign up today.
Last year we surveyed nearly 200 midlife women about a variety of issues in their lives, ranging from relationships, finances, current priorities, and life satisfaction. Not surprising, we found 48% of the women reported a high level of financial uncertainty, from recent bankruptcies to living from paycheck to paycheck. 62% reported being less confident about their financial investment savvy and 47% need help and believe their personal financial management could be better.
This is a very serious problem for women’s future financial security. While we didn’t survey the specifics as to why these numbers are so high, I believe there are several reasons women are less confident about personal money management than men.
1. Most of us women were raised with a belief that money was the “man’s job”. In most post-WW-II families in which we grew up, dad was the breadwinner and seemed to make the important decisions around money, with the exception perhaps of household budget issues. Men didn’t necessarily “know more”, it was simply part of the provider role. Fortunately for most, the economy and other factors were fairly steady, jobs were plentiful, home ownership the norm with slow steady rising values, and pensions and one-employer careers common. The rise of middle class elevated a great number of people, regardless of financial decisions, certainly not for all but for many. In the late 60’s all that changed.
2. As divorces and single families rose, women joined the workforce in mass–our time stretched between single parenting, working outside the home and trying to do it all! Not only was a woman’s personal needs unmet, future planning was not even on the radar. The high cost of single parent households in a volatile economy over the past 25 years, coupled with the most Americans’ failure to save has left over 70% of us over-50 with very little in savings or financial security. Oh yeah, toss in easy credit and the buy now, pay later mentality!
3. We thought we’d get to it later, and later never came. Women are less inclined to invest in the stock market, take informed financial risks (and hence reap the rewards), hire financial planners and seek good advice, and focus on our future needs. As boomer women (and men) arrive at retirement, too many of us are uninformed, under-invested and financially at-risk.
4. Another thing…many of us were duped into magic thinking. Countless expensive workshops led us to believe if we simply visualized and cut out pictures of beautiful future it would magically show up. What they failed to tell you was–between that vision board and that perfect life–good, tough decisions must to be made and the right actions must be taken. Are you willing to do that?
5. Women are very reluctant to “talk about money”. It’s time to get real, be open and learn, discuss, and share information together. It’s time to shine a light of our money issues and take realistic steps for a secure future. It can be done.
If you believe that your financial future is insecure, bleak, scary or unknown, the time to do something is right now! Do not wait another day. It goes far beyond the nice pleasant visualizing a bright future day on the beach living an abundant life. It takes information, decisions and well informed actions. Become informed with accurate information from reliable sources.
Hourglass Workshops is committed to women re-discovering themselves after years of service and enjoying better relationships….and our relationship with money is essential.
We are hosting a September 3-part series for women who want good information, feel more confident about their financial life, and create steps to secure a more solid financial future. It begins September 9th, so sign up today. To save money, we are offering an early bird discount if you sign up by August 31st. Please join us