How to Build Financial Security During Tough Times


Family, Investing, Podcast, Retirement, Saving


December 08, 2022

In the fifteen years since my bestselling book Women & Money was first published, it has been so gratifying to watch so many women make terrific progress in building a secure financial future. For themselves, and their loved ones.

But there are still far too many women who continue to struggle. New research from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies reports that nearly 60% of women say they don’t make enough to save for retirement. More than half of women say the cost of paying down existing debts is what makes it so hard to save for retirement. According to the survey, the median of $2,000 that women have saved up in an emergency account is far less than the $7,000 median for men.

The pandemic has no doubt contributed to this. Women were disproportionately put in the position of giving up work, or making serious concessions, in order to care for children or elderly parents. And for the past year, the sharp increase in the cost of just about everything has made it hard to focus on long-term savings goals when you’re scrambling to afford day-to-day necessities.

I get it.

I want any woman who is struggling to build financial security to know that I understand how hard it has been, especially over the past few years. There is to be no shame or blame if you are struggling to find the dollars to put toward retirement and emergency savings.

But as I explained in Women & Money, standing in our truth is the only way to move forward.

This isn’t about beating yourself up about how you’re behind on financial goals. Just the opposite. Standing in your truth is an exercise in taking a clear-eyed inventory of what is and isn’t working for you. And standing in the truth that it is up to you to fix what isn’t working.

I know you have everything it takes to do this. I hope you will have as much confidence in you.

Standing in your truth requires being honest with yourself, and your loved ones.

Have you really trimmed your wants?

I challenge you to carefully review your monthly spending and assign every expense to either the Need column or the Want column. If you aren’t saving for retirement or building an emergency savings fund, it’s past time to reduce your Want spendings. Not forever. But just for now, so you can make progress on building your long-term security.

Are your needs as inexpensive as possible?

The biggest need that I see people get wrong is their car(s). The average monthly loan amount for a new car is now more than $650 a month. According to Experian, about 1 in 5 new cars are leased, which is the worst possible move in my opinion, and the monthly average lease cost is $540.

That just smells of people treating themselves to a nicer car than they need.

And I think that sort of mistake can creep into a lot of spending decisions. You’re at the grocery store and pick up the more expensive brand and tell yourself it’s just $1 or $2 more and you deserve it. I agree, you do deserve it. But if you stand in your truth, do you need it? That $1 or $2 per item can add up to $20 or more per shopping trip. Over the course of a month, or a year, that can add up to significant savings that could go toward paying down debt and saving.

Are you being honest with the kids?

As I have long explained, “saying no out of love, rather than yes out of fear” is a key step in building financial security. When you have credit card debt and can’t find the money for retirement or emergency savings, “no” needs to be part of your vocabulary.

Not in a mean, or judgmental way. You make this a positive teachable moment: You need to work on important financial goals, and that means making hard but smart decisions.

That includes saying no out of love to your kid’s relatively small requests for weekend spending, or gaming, or clothing. If they’re a teen, those wants can be paid for by their earnings from a part-time job.

And the biggest “no” for you and your children that will play a huge role in your financial future is the no for a too-expensive school. You don’t owe your kid that. The right college is an affordable college. Yes, there are affordable colleges. Be it a state school, or a private school that is so eager to land your kid that they offer a robust aid package that will not require you to borrow for their education.

I so wish no household had to make hard financial tradeoffs. But it is only when we stand in our truth that we empower ourselves to build a better future. If you are struggling with debt or can’t find a way to save for your future, I hope you will take the huge step of standing tall. And I encourage you to check out the Women & Money app (Google Play or Apple App) and my Women & Money podcast. There’s plenty of advice in both, but just as important, plenty of support and community to help you—and all of us—move forward.

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