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401-Who? 403-What now? Joining the money talk…

“I was part of a phenomenon that some money experts have dubbed “the female financial paradox.” Translation: Like millions of other women, I was perfectly happy to pinch pennies and hunt down sales, yet I couldn’t muster the slightest interest in big-picture financial planning.”– Geraldine Sealey


Yes, gurl!  I feel the same way.  Thank you Real Simple. Good ol’ Martha…

I just found an article by Geraldine Sealey.  Read it.  It is awesome because it identifies all the reasons I have been “calling-in-sick” to the money conversation for so long.  (Seriously, talking about financial planning literally gives me gastrointestinal distress.)  Why?  I’m hip. I’m happening.  I’m able to read.  Why is long-range money management  giving me gas?  Sealey explains, “Experts have identified four key factors underlying the paradox: Women tend to be insecure about the subject of money; we focus on scrimping instead of investing; we rely too heavily on others for financial know-how; and we’re not always adept at translating abstract figures into concrete goals.”

Oh!  Yes. I remember now.  I feel like people can see the drool coming out of my mouth when they talk to me about retirement so I generally avoid it.  The longer I avoid learning about it, the more I drool.  It’s a vicious circle.  Math, in general, makes me cringe.  In the article, Amy, a 42-year-old senior manager based in New York City says, “Money information just bounces off my brain. It’s like I have a force field that won’t let it in.”  Yes, again!  Numbers enter the conversation and it is exactly like someone changed the channel to Univision.

The bottom line for us, then, is to learn Spanish.  You know what I’m saying?!  We HAVE to educate ourselves.  If it is the lingo that is keeping us down, we need to learn the vocabulary.  (Get out those flashcards.)  If it is the math that is intimidating us—or me—get a “dummies” book and get to work.  It is not OK to be left out of the conversation because of a lack of knowledge.  You can get the knowledge.  It may not be as fun as, say, plucking out chin hairs one by one, but it is just as important!!

And we  HAVE been left out of the conversation, ladies.  Ask yourself, “Did my parents teach me about investing?”  If you are like most of us, the answer is NO.  In general, parents do not teach their children about money.  This has to change.  We teach our children about so much, why do we leave this conversation off of the list?  It is just as important to their well-being and success as a talk about education.

Educate yourself.  Feel more confident as a result.  Share the knowledge with your kids.

The article reveals another two flaws in my thinking—smallness and buck-passing.  I forced myself to learn how to budget, get out of debt, and manage our household money.  There were lots of fights, buckets of tears, but I tried to change my negative thinking about it to a feeling of empowerment (à la Suze Orman).  That said, I still only take care of the now.  I manage the daily and monthly (and I am not sure I am doing that the best). I handle the shopping.  I pay the bills. I have coupons. Investments, and that “soon to be confetti” statement that comes in the mail, are not on my radar. Sealy states, “While there’s certainly nothing wrong with getting your money’s worth, experts say that women need to move beyond worrying about nickels and dimes and start thinking big.”

Being honest, and you have to really be honest with yourself during this whole process, I really did think my husband would take care of it—like my Dad did.  Even though my Dad did a HORRIBLE job of managing my family’s money, even though I am fiercely independent, I still wanted to put the responsibility in someone else’s hands.  I was so mad when I figured out no one was going to do it for me.

When you get married, your partner doesn’t automatically take over your financial life!  Who knew?  “Even today some married women ignore such issues until they are forced to pay attention. For many, that reckoning may come when they are least emotionally prepared to deal with it,” says Sealy.  That’s the truth.  Your spouse’s death is the WORST time to start trying to do math, invest in the future, or clean up a money mess!! Just ask my Mom…  Do it now.  Do it yourself.  Think beyond the bulk toilet paper sale and plan for a time you can no longer work the way you are working today.

To help with this very task, the article says it helps to put retirement planning into concrete goals.  Really envision exactly what you want your retirement to look like, feel like, and plan for that in detail.  Estimate costs, but have a detailed plan.  Taking investing out of the abstract world of “tomorrow” and giving it a sense of realness will help you follow through with your goals.  You can change your mind any time, as long as you change your plan with it.

Speaking with your partner about how you want to live in the future, with details you both can imagine in your mind, will make the conversation go more smoothly, connect to it emotionally, and help you both stick to the plan.  It’s a lot harder if one person is thinking RV and the other is thinking Royal Caribbean.  Get it out in the open.

Have any tips?   Please share.  I’m learning this along with you, folks.

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