Mastering Money Management By Jennifer Warfel Juszkiewicz
“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” said Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own, a version of which she delivered to the women’s colleges of Cambridge University in 1928. To Woolf, her writing simply wasn’t possible if she didn’t have security.
Security means more than having a home and food: it can mean being able to take family vacations, to get a new car and to have a comfortable retirement. But such security takes planning, especially when our average retirement age is 62, but our average life expectancy is 81. That’s threequarters of a century to live, nearly twenty years of which we will be post-employment adults. Based on the recent financial crisis, our society may need a bit more training in money management. As a recent study by Allianz Life Insurance Company shows, that training becomes even more important for women, two-thirds of whom stated that they were “the primary breadwinner for their households.” While this doesn’t seem problematic – women have a history as the money managers for household expenses – the problem is one of confidence and knowledge: nearly half of the women Allianz polled said that they feared a financial crisis that would leave them destitute. Why are women so nervous about finance? We turned to two experts for insight: Susan Vance, JD, CPA, a retired professor of entrepreneurship and personal finance at Saint Mary’s College, and Scott Puckett, AAMS, of Edward Jones Investments in Elkhart.
What’s Holding Us Back?
For one thing, many women have concerns and fears associated with money, as reported in a 2010 Forbes article. This can be due to bad experiences or financial crises in their past, or it could simply be due to math anxiety. Vance has seen such concerns among the students in the personal finance course she initiated more than ten years ago. 36 July 2013 | SASSY
The incredibly popular elective course, which was recently featured in the Saint Mary’s Courier, teaches students from all majors how to be responsible money managers. Vance learned that many students have insecurities and misapprehensions, so she tries “to address those issues right off the bat. Personal finance isn’t rocket science. It can be taught. Regardless of your background, as smart, savvy women you can do it! And with the availability of online calculators, you don't have to be a math whiz either." But even if they face their fears, women often feel conflicted, says Vance. “Some see learning about finance as being greedy or overly materialistic, so I try to put that in context. Just because you’re trying to educate yourself about finance doesn’t mean you’ll become overly materialistic. Money is a tool – you can use it for good or bad – you can use it for whatever you think best (taking your family somewhere, charity, etc.), but the better manager of it you are, the more able you’ll be to better your own life and the lives of others.” To learn more about this, Vance particularly recommends Kate Levinson’s book “Emotional Currency: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Healthy Relationship with Money.” Once you’ve reached the stage of seeking knowledge, there are numerous resources to help you. We’ve listed a few of the ones recommended by our interviewees in the sidebar, but you can also attend seminars – Puckett just hosted some on budgeting and investing in June. Vance advocates learning along various avenues as well: “I’m a strong proponent that, if nothing else, it’s very important that women educate themselves about investing: read books, websites, etc."
To get a handle on how best to financially prepare for tomorrow while still enjoying today, take a look at your income and expenditures. People often tell Vance that they just don’t have any money to invest, so she advises they log their expenses for a couple of weeks “to get a sense of how much you are spending