Last Updated: January 3, 2012
Like an old black-and-white TV rerun of Leave It to Beaver, many of us remember a time when women ran the household, but not the household finances. Times sure have changed.
Indeed, in revisiting a decade-old study, Financial Experience & Behaviors Among Women, Prudential found in 2010 that in just 10 years’ time women have become “more aware, engaged, and actively involved in their finances.” According to the study, 95 percent of women are financial decision-makers, while 84 percent of married women are either solely or jointly responsible for household financial decisions.
Yet according to Prudential, the growing financial empowerment among females is tempered by “gaps in their knowledge and confidence” about finances. What is more, said FPA member Amy Hoffman, CFP®, when it comes to household finances, vestiges of Leave It to Beaver-era roles linger. “Women a lot of times are left out of the finance conversation,” she said.
“There are compelling reasons for women to get involved in that conversation if they are not already,” Hoffman asserts. “For one, women tend to live longer than their male partners. They need to prepare themselves because there may come a time where they will need to take charge of their finances.”
It is also empowering. Having a role in managing household finances means “you control your own destiny. You are the captain of your own ship,” said Hoffman.
How, then, can women continue the momentum of the last decade by becoming more conversant, and more involved, in household finances? Where there is a will, there is a way:
- WADE IN without stepping on toes. “Start by asking your spouse questions about finances,” suggests Hoffman, “not in a threatening way, but in a way that lets him know you are interested in getting involved.” Or use discussions you and your husband have with your children about finances to open doors to you becoming more involved. If you are at a loss for how to approach your spouse, get suggestions from a financial planner.
- WISE UP. “Education is a big piece in giving a woman financial confidence,” said Hoffman. Examine investment and bank statements to get a snapshot of your financial picture. Ask questions of a financial planner, family members and friends who are financially savvy. Read and research topics you are interested in, online and with books.
- TAKE STEPS to get comfortable with financial responsibility, such as by tracking household expenses and devising a family spending plan.
- SIT DOWN with your spouse specifically to discuss the dynamics of a household financial partnership. Here is a good time to divide duties, too. One person can take on the insurance portfolio, for example, while the other handles the retirement plan (with one another’s input, of course!).
- CARVE OUT some cash that is entirely yours to manage. “It is important for everyone to have a little of their own money that is all theirs to control,” said Hoffman,