Shaping Up Your Net Worth
Photo: Lise Gagne/istock
For years, Marcia Brixey had a job with a decent salary, excellent benefits and a great office, but nothing much about the job itself made her happy. The only part of being a public relations specialist for the Social Security Administration that Brixey enjoyed was helping women—attending financial conferences and speaking to women’s groups about the importance of supplemental savings. After almost a decade of being dissatisfied, she quit her job and founded Money Wi$e Women, a financial education organization for women. Brixey’s latest book, The Money Therapist: A Woman’s Guide to Creating a Healthy Financial Life (sealpress.com), offers a ton of good advice for women who want to get wise about their money. Here are 10 ways you can start:
1. Determine your goals. Do you want to get out of debt? Buy a new car or a house? Travel? Start an education fund for you or your kids? Write down your financial goals using affirmative language, such as “I will do X, Y and Z.” Brixey emphasizes the importance of “SMART” goals—goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based. Set reasonable deadlines for achieving your financial goals, and meet them.
2. Write an action plan. This could be the single most important document in your financial portfolio. Action plans can be broken down into short-term and long-term categories. Start by listing a corresponding action or two alongside each of your goals to help nail down practical ways to reach them.
3. Clean out your closet. Toss out all unnecessary paperwork, including tax documents that are more than seven years old. Organize the paperwork you need to hold on to, and keep these files neat.
4. Create a financial inventory. In a single document, list the names, addresses, phone and account numbers of all your financial accounts. Consider renting a safe deposit box or buying a home safe to store your financial inventory and other irreplaceable documents, such as your will, power of attorney, property deeds and insurance policies.
5. Track your purchases. Track all your spending for one week, then analyze it for potential reductions. Try not to spend less than you usually would. The idea isn’t to alter your spending yet, but to get a true picture of your spending habits.
6. Break down your budget. Brixey likes to call it a “spending plan,” because that focuses on what you do get to spend instead of what you don’t. Whatever you want to call it, a budget is an essential component of any financial plan. Don’t be overly restrictive at first or willpower may crumble the way it does on a crash diet.
7. Clear up your credit. Order your credit report and analyze it for any inaccuracies. Settle delinquent accounts and clear up any errors. Call all your credit card companies and ask for better interest rates. You’ll be surprised at how many will comply.
8. Set up savings. If you don’t already have them, set up a savings, an IRA and an emergency fund account. Using an auto-transfer from your primary bank account every month helps you stash money away without even trying.
9. Be prepared for the inevitable. If you don’t already have one, write a will. Make sure all your insurance policies are current and the beneficiary information is correct on all your insurance and financial accounts.
10. Continue your financial education. Set up a time with a financial expert in your area to go over a list of any financial questions you have. If you can, find an advisor who understands the specific financial needs that lesbians (and lesbian couples) have. Make a plan to continue your financial education, such as attending a conference or budgeting money for books on finance.