Women and Money

Don’t Wait for Prince Charming: 5 Steps for Women to Own their Financial Power Now

Don't Wait for Prince Charming: 5 Steps Woman Cane Take to Own Their Financial Lives Now | www.TheHeavyPurse.comAs a mother of two daughters who love all things Disney, we were excited to see the new Cinderella movie. The girls loved it, and I appreciated the opportunity to have the “Prince Charming” discussion with them. Like most fairy tales of good and evil, the lead female or princess is always a damsel in distress who needs to be saved. Only after Prince Charming rescues her, is she able to find true happiness as they live … well, you know how the story ends. It is a very familiar and appealing storyline to women of all ages!

But it can also be a dangerous one, especially for young, impressionable girls, if left unchecked. As I shared in my Mom’s story, many women dedicate their lives to finding Prince Charming and relinquish all their financial power once they find him. Best case scenario is your partner has no intentions of taking advantage of you but is unfairly burdened with all the financial responsibility and decisions. Worst case scenario, you end up in debt and betrayed by the person who you thought was your Prince Charming. Your happily ever after no longer exists.

In my conversation with my girls, we shared our favorite parts of the movie but also discussed how Hollywood’s version of relationships differ from real life. How women should not seek a savior in their significant other but a partnership, like what I have with their father. Real women do not wait hidden away, waiting for their Prince to find and save them, but become the best they can be first. To understand, your significant other’s job isn’t to “save” you, but to be your partner in life and love. I want Lauren and Taylor to understand that being financially able to stand on their own two feet puts them in the best possible position to live their best life, single and in a relationship.

5 Steps for Women to Own their Financial Lives

The steps I am about to share are relevant to both sexes, but I am specifically focusing on women because they have a great tendency to wait until in a relationship to start planning or feel less confident about managing their financial lives on their own.

1. Set Specific Goals, Both Short-and-Long-Term

As Tanya shared in her post on breaking financial gender expectations, she didn’t want to set goals as a single person because she felt it wasn’t worth the effort. This happens more than you realize. Many successful, modern woman I meet struggle with this, often times unconsciously as Tanya did. This happens for a variety of reasons, including gender expectations and I also find people tend to have very rigid view of goals. They are not set in stone and meant to be fluid.

It is absolutely okay to change goals, whether single or as a couple, when you realize your desires have changed. Your goals should motivate you. If they don’t, then it’s definitely time reevaluate and adjust goals.

A Happily Ever After Tip: Give yourself permission to live now. A partner does not make your life more valuable. You are valuable on your own. Take the time to figure out what you want to do with your life, both now and in the future. Learn to use your goals as a barometer for your money decisions by asking yourself, “Will this bring me closer or further away from my goals?”. Being able to confidently make good financial decisions is key to creating the life you want, whether single or in a relationship. Start now and you will be a pro by the time you find your Prince Charming.

2. Budget, Eliminate Debt and Build a Cash Reserve

If you want to own your financial power, you have to understand your current financial reality and see where you stand. Don’t dig yourself into a hole, expecting Prince Charming to save you. He may not come around for years or deem you worthy of being rescued when he sees how little you valued your financial power.

Track Your Spending and Create a Budget You Will Follow

Start by tracking every penny you spend and be sure to spend as normal. You want an accurate picture of where your money goes. This is typically an eye-opening experience as we tend to forget about all those $5 purchases, but they add up quickly. Once you see how you spend your money, you’re ready to create a budget. Don’t view your budget as a restrictive enemy but a tool to help you spend your money on what matters most.

Create a Plan to Eliminate Debt

Money is emotional and woman are particularly good at using emotions to justify splurges, sometimes spending more money than they should. If you have consumer debt, don’t ignore it. Figure out what emotional triggers cause you to spend, so you can better manage those emotions and begin aggressively paying down your debt. Debt not only robs you of choice and freedom, it is also very unattractive baggage.

Be Prepared for Emergencies and Opportunities

Some women are also guilty of relying on their credit cards to cover emergencies and opportunities because they lack an adequate cash reserve. It’s important to build an appropriate emergency fund — 3-12 months of expenses — so you don’t add unnecessary debt.

3. Save, Save, Save

I have noticed a trend where single women are conservative savers. I’m not referring to risk tolerance, but how much money they set aside to save and/or invest. They assume once they find their Prince Charming that they will make plans together and then adjust their savings/investment amounts. The danger of that plan is twofold:

  1. You may not find your significant others for many years, thus putting you behind financially when you do.
  2. You may not have the savings/investments to do the things you want now or in the future, including being able to retire.

The question women need to ask themselves is — do we want to depend on someone else for our financial future? I vote no. Put yourself in the driver’s seat and figure out how much money you need to save/invest to create the life you want. Investing intimidates many women, but you still need to have a baseline understanding of how investing works, even if you work with a professional. This is where you can really put your money to work for you, so educate yourself and make informed decisions.

4. Create a Plan for Your Financial Goals and Review Often

One common mistake women make is not taking time to prepare for their own retirement. A good plan considers your living expenses, inflation, investments and income sources as they exist today. Don’t wait to create a retirement plan until you’re married.

The two top mistakes women make are not creating a retirement income plan and not considering the need for long-term care. The first is simply making sure you have a plan as to what assets you are going to use while considering taxes and risk exposure. The second involves planning for the day when we can no longer care for ourselves, regardless of how difficult it is to think about. Some of us are already experiencing this with our parents and know the costs are high.

Life moves fast as we care for those around us, but we have to slow down to make sure we remain financially strong as we age.

5. Protect Your Dreams

Women are natural protectors, but we often short-change ourselves when it comes to protecting ourselves. Single woman without children often believe they don’t need life insurance, which is not always true. Find out whether life insurance makes sense for you. One insurance that you definitely want to consider is disability. Your financial well-being is fully dependent on your ability to earn an income, so you need to protect yourself against disability, both short-term and permanent.

Many women (and men too) put their financial lives at risk by not having appropriate disability coverage. We may want to avoid thinking about this, but disability, especially short-term, happens more regularly than most realize. 64% of wage earners believe they have a 2% or less chance of being disabled for 3 months or more during their working career while the actual odds for a worker entering the workforce today are about 25% according to the Council for Disability Awareness. Even a short-term disability, can cause significant financial stress.

Long-term care needs must also be evaluated as you may not have a spouse and/or children to care or assist you when you need help, both physically and financially.

Create Your Own Happily Ever After

Women hold more financial power than ever, but many relinquish their financial decision-making power to their husbands, boyfriends or the person yelling the loudest. Women too often underestimate their own ability to manage their financial life and overestimate their partner’s ability to do it right. You are in charge of creating your own happily ever after, which means owning your financial life with pride and confidence.

Shannon

March 30, 2015  •  27 Comments  •  Women and Money

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  1. Monday, March 30th, 2015
    If men can do, women can do as well. I notice that women in this century have more freedom and empowered. They can almost anything that man can do. They are now somehow getting the equal rights or what they deserve. When it comes to budgeting and finances, I think women are better that men. :D
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
      Absolutely, Jayson. Women are fully capable of owning their financial lives. And you're right - many woman can do it better than men, if they put their minds to it.
  2. Monday, March 30th, 2015
    To briefly share a guy's perspective, I have to admit there is part of me that wants to "take care" of my wife. That sometimes is translated to wanting to take financial care of her. I married someone who is pretty independent and she has ZERO plans of ever staying at home to raise kids and is working towards her graduate degree so she can work in the field of psychology. I honestly respect people more when they WANT to be financially responsible/literate...even if they don't need to be.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
      I don't think there is anything wrong with a man wanting to "take care" of his wife and kids. My husband does too. He also knows that "taking care" of us means knowing that we can stand on our own two feet too as I know you do too!
  3. Monday, March 30th, 2015
    Thank you so much for this post, Shannon. I truly believe SO many women need to read this. Too many females don't have the confidence/understanding to create their own financial life/security, and it often ends up hurting them if their marriage falls apart.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
      Thank you, Laurie, for your kind words. It is so sad that in today's world how many women still lack confidence around their own finances. And yes, they pay the price when relationships/marriages fall apart. Additionally, even when marriages last til death do us part - women statistically outlive men, which leaves many ill-prepared to handle their money.
  4. Monday, March 30th, 2015
    Excellent post Shannon! My wife took our daughter to see Cinderella this past weekend as well and had a very similar discussion with her too. I feel somewhat similar to DC, but knowing full well there can be a huge difference between that and the image Hollywood (especially Disney) likes to portray. As you said, it needs to come down to a partnership and one where each person plays an active role in - this behooves encouraging these steps.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
      I'm glad your wife talked to your daughter about differentiating entertainment from reality too. :) It's an interesting conversation to have because movies are entertainment and meant to be fun, but they can also significantly influence how our kids (both boys and girls) "think" relationships are supposed to work too.
  5. Monday, March 30th, 2015
    I love this post and think that it's sad that even in 2015 there are still young women who would really like to wait for Prince Charming to figure out their finances for them. I love my young single clients who realize that they need to step up and plan for their own future with their own resources, another person can be icing on the cake but shouldn't be the cake.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
      I love it when my single clients want to reclaim their financial power and own it too, male or female. You're absolutely right - finding the right partner is the icing on the cake, but the end all, be all.
  6. Monday, March 30th, 2015
    Hi Shannon,

    Gosh, it has been a while since I've been by...shame on me. I love what you've done with the blog, it looks great!

    This was such an empowering post. I love the tips you shared here. I've only recently started saving my own money and it feels great.

    I also noticed the hubs is a little uncomfortable with it. Since I stopped working he has been the provider and he likes that role. Heck, I do too but I love making my own money and especially saving it :).

    Great post Shannon! I'll be passing this along for sure! Have a great week!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
      Thanks, Corina! I'm so glad that you're saving your own money and take responsibility for it too. It can be an adjustment for our spouses, especially since many of them also have their own gender expectations that "taking care" is their role. There is nothing wrong with wanting to "take care" but taking care of a loved one also means knowing that they can take care of themselves if you aren't there.
  7. Monday, March 30th, 2015
    I love this. I've said this so many times about princess movies. I think the stories have gotten a bit better over the years, but the old fashioned ones really get to me. I want the princess to educate herself, become self supportive, then find and equal partner who shares the same life and money goals!
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
      Thanks, Kim! I agree the stories have improved but still lean a little too heavily on the damsel in distress. I would love to see a princess that takes charge and doesn't need to be rescued. :)
  8. Tuesday, March 31st, 2015
    It really is sad to see so many wonderfully independent women who end up relinquishing their financial decision-making power to their husbands. Growing up, I used to look up to my cousin a lot because she was always such a lady boss, but that all changed a year into her marriage. It's like she just threw her hands up in the air and tossed her independence out the window. Loved this empowering post, and will be sharing this to the ladies I think will be needing this.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
      Thanks, Anum! It is always sad when I see woman relinquish their financial power and unfortunately, it happens more often than people realize. I appreciate your commenting and sharing, Anum!
  9. Tuesday, March 31st, 2015
    The way that these movies make girls look weak and always portray them as the "damsel in distress" actually makes me angry sometimes. That's not to say I didn't watch them growing up, I did, but now that I know what it takes to become independent (after a horrible marriage), I get angry that girls are often getting these messages in their heads from Disney movies because a lot of parents don't take the time to talk to their kids about reality vs Disney. I'm so glad you did! :)
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
      It is unfortunate how many fairy tales (and entertainment in general) tend to make girls/women look weak and need a man to save them. I don't think many parents realize how over time these messages really seep into our daughters DNA and influence how they think about relationships and who holds the power.
  10. Tuesday, March 31st, 2015
    One of the most important lessons my mother taught me was that I should never depend on a man to take care of me. I'm glad there are so many successful, independent women out there to serve as role models today. We can make our own happily ever after and bring our own magic.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
      I'm so glad to hear your Mother actively taught you to take care of yourself. We can absolutely make our own happily ever after and have a greater chance of having a coupled happily ever after, if we know how to do it our own first.
  11. Wednesday, April 1st, 2015
    I think that women also forget that WE LIVE LONGER! Also, as we make around 80% of financial decisions in our households we have to recognize the disconnect between our daily decision making and our long-term planning. These two things have to be in alignment.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
      So true, Michelle. We live longer and too many widows not only have to deal with their grief, but also figuring out their finances, which they are ill-prepared to do. There is a disconnect with women an money because they do make many of the day-to-day money decisions, but don't want to deal with long-term planning. And they need to understand both, even they don't manage the long-term planning.
  12. Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
    Great post Shannon! I thought Cinderella was very well done. I'll admit though I didn't see the "damsel in distress." She was in distress but she was by no means a weak character. She was very strong willed in the face of that adversity. She didn't feel sorry for herself and wasn't waiting around to be rescued. If the prince had not come along I have no doubt she would have worked herself out of that situation somehow.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
      It's always interesting to get different perspectives on a movie, perhaps we see things differently due to gender. :) I thought Cinderella was kind and courageous, but she also didn't actively work to change her situation on her own either. Disney has done a good job of making there traditional stories a bit less damsel in distress, but there is still some room for improvement in my opinion.
  13. Heidi
    Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
    One of my college professors was a female chemistry professor. She told us how her Mom always had a saying "even good men get bit by buses"- meaning that you should have your shit together, and never be completely reliant/dependent on someone else since you never know what tomorrow will bring.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
      Love it! And so true. We don't know what tomorrow will bring and being confident in our ability to manage our finances as a couple and single is important.
  14. Wednesday, April 8th, 2015
    Even though I hope to marry someday (and am in the process of moving in with my long term boyfriend), I still think about my financial future as a solitary endeavor. I'd rather be overprepared to go at it alone than underprepared. And should we marry, I want to be able to support us should he lose his job as much as I hope he'll support us if I lose my income.
Shannon Ryan SHANNON RYAN, CFP®
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan
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