Listen up, Women: Take Control of Your Own Finances

Where do women learn about money? Some are fortunate to understand the value of a dollar from their parents. Others gleam words of wisdom from the media and personal finance experts. But all too often, we’re sheltered from finances and stumble along the way as we try to learn how to manage our money.

The majority of husbands – nearly 55 percent – say they are the ones making financial decisions, according to a survey of 969 married investors conducted by Millionaire Corner in January. While none identify their wives as being in charge of the family finances, 45 percent say financial decisions are made jointly.

And while 55 percent of men view themselves as the ones in charge of making financial decisions, only 4 percent of women say they are in charge of financial decisions.

What have we done to deserve this disparity? Do we contribute by burying our head in the sand when it comes to finances? Would we rather have someone else handle it? Do we read stories of women finding themselves in bankruptcy after a 30-year marriage ends in divorce and do we shakes our heads and say “how sad” while we continue to ignore the state of our own finances?

It’s important for women to take control of their own finances. Letting your husband keep the retirements accounts in his name only is foolish and not protecting your own future. Who cares if you never plan on getting a divorce? If that is the case, he surely won’t mind putting the retirement accounts in your name only, right?

All too often, we’re too trusting. And if we don’t seem to know all the facts or understand all financial concepts, we let someone else handle it rather than become a burden by making someone explain in more detail the nuances of financial decisions.

Educate Yourself

At 22, I graduated college and found myself under a mountain of student loans and with a job that paid $11 an hour. I ignored the student loans and went out and bought myself a brand new car that took up a fourth of my paycheck every month. That wasn’t including the car insurance or gas.

When my student loans became due six months after college graduation, I ended up having to consolidate just so I could have money to eat. This will cost me thousands in interest if I continue to pay just the minimum.

After a few months of struggling, I dragged my butt to the library and checked out several books on finances. I wanted to learn to get myself out of this hole I had created. I browsed the finance section and selected books that spoke to me or that I felt I could relate. While some material was extremely dense (you’ll never catch me reading an Investing magazine),  I was able to find books that broke it down for me in terms I could understand.

I wasn’t embarrassed by my lack of knowledge. Everyone has to start somewhere.

By slowly educating myself, I was able to create a budget, start contributing to my 401K at 22 years old, and actually create an emergency fund from my meager salary.

I could have listened to my boyfriend at the time, who told me it was stupid of me to save when I was so poor to begin with, but I didn’t. I stuck to my guns and took control of my own finances.

To this day, I have been the key voice in my marriage about financial decisions. It’s a move every woman should make, no matter how scary it may seem.