Opinion: Today’s Women Should Take Control of Their Finances

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By Christina Gustin

Women across San Diego have taken great strides and become leaders in local industries and organizations. In 2017, women scientists at UC San Diego overtook men as leaders of the campus’ biggest research grants. A 2016 study found women-owned businesses in San Diego generated more revenue on average than bigger cities like New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Atlanta, ranking eighth among the 25 largest US cities. In short, women are showing their prowess across the spectrum, yet research shows some women do not yet feel empowered when it comes to their finances.

It’s time to reverse that trend. A recent UBS report found that 59 percent of widows and divorcees wish they had been more involved in long-term financial decisions, and 98 percent would encourage other women to take a more active role. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a woman’s life expectancy is five years longer than a man’s, and divorce after age 50 is becoming more and more common, meaning that  women need to get involved early on to prepare themselves for the future.

So why don’t women get more involved? A lot of this comes down to confidence — only 55 percent of women report that they feel confident about making long-term financial decisions, compared to 79 percent of men. It can be daunting, but here are a few ways to get started.

Own Your Worth

In order to feel more confident getting involved in financial decisions, you need to know where you stand and what you want for the future. Take the time to add up your assets and liabilities — including loans, credit and other debt — and, if you’re in a relationship, ask for full transparency from your partner.

Then, try to envision your future. What do you want to accomplish? What legacy do you want to leave? What are your concerns? This can help shape your view of your wealth and what it should be doing for you. I often tell women to think of their wealth in three buckets: liquidity (cash flow to pay for your day to day needs), longevity (funds for longer term needs, such as retirement, healthcare and long-term care) and legacy (the wealth reserved for needs beyond your own, whether that is family, philanthropy, or something else).

Find Your Voice

Communication is one of the simplest ways to take charge of your finances, yet talking about money is often considered taboo. Many women don’t feel comfortable talking about finances with their spouse. I have often had a married client stay silent during a meeting with her spouse, only to call me right afterward to ask a bunch of smart questions that she was too embarrassed to ask earlier.

All women, married or single should seek financial advice from a trusted source.  No matter the circumstances, it is important to speak up and ask questions until you have a clear understanding of your finances. It’s important to build your knowledge of money matters, and if you’re married, have an honest talk with your partner about the future.

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Get Educated

In today’s world, we have a wealth of information at our fingertips that can help explain topics on investing and wealth, including online resources like Investopedia or TED Talks. Surprisingly, UBS’ study found that married Millennial women were the age group most likely to leave major financial decisions to their partner, despite the fact they are often thought of as digital natives accustomed to seeking out information online.

Another great way to learn more is by networking with your peers and breaking the taboo about discussing money. While I don’t suggest diving into all of the nitty gritty numbers of your finances, talking to other women about how they manage their investments and how they make financial decisions can help you ensure you have a big-picture view of your options and where there may be room for improvement. And, of course, if you have access to a financial advisor, ask them to explain any financial products or concepts — it’s their job! Your CPA or attorney can also be a helpful resource.

Finally, Set an Example

According to the survey, women are repeating the gender roles they saw growing up. As you begin taking a more active role in your finances you will be setting a great example for the next generation.

Not everyone is a financial expert, but it’s important to have foundational knowledge.  You’ve taken control of your career, your home and your community; now it’s time to take control of your financial future.


Christina Gustin is account vice president and financial advisor with UBS Wealth Management in San Diego.

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