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It’s no doubt that there is no greater time to be a woman in the history of our civilization — I agree that there’s still a lot of work to be done, but I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude to be alive right now as who I am today. It’s true that there continue to be barriers for women, particularly women of color, but generally speaking, we have more choices today than ever before. In fact, we have so many choices that it can often lead to a tremendous amount of second-guessing and anxiety.
Saying Yes Is Also Saying No
In today’s society where we get to see how everyone else’s choices play out on carefully curated Instagram feeds, it’s waaaay too easy to get caught up in second-guessing our choices. The fact of the matter is, whenever we say yes to something in our lives, we are also saying no to possibly several other possibilities or paths.
Keeping Your Options Open
Regardless of your certainty (or lack thereof) of your life choices so far and the future you’re embarking upon, there are some financial moves that you can make in the meantime that will keep your options open as you navigate this time of tremendous opportunity for young women.
4 Steps Women Can Take to Keep Their Life Options Open & Own Their Financial Power
1. Eliminate Debt ASAP
When I was first starting my career, nothing stressed me out as much as the self-flagellation I endured every time I thought about what else I could be doing with the $300 per month I was paying on my credit card that I’d run up on stupid things like clothes and food. In the three years it took me to get to balance: $0, I limited pretty much anything optional in life. But it was worth it — being debt-free allowed me to leave a marriage I hated and also later allowed me to leave a job I hated.
2. Get Confident About Investing
Studies have shown that women are better investors than men, but we’d never know it — it’s by default because we are more cautious and shy away from going big in areas where we don’t feel 100% confident that we know what the heck is going on. The majority of the women I work with on investment choices and education are actually doing everything just fine, they just don’t know it. The sooner you can find the certainty that you’re doing fine with investing (because you’re putting money away for the future, right???), the easier your mind will rest. And the more your early savings will help keep your future options open.
One thing to know is that there are as many investing philosophies and strategies out there as there are make-up tutorials on YouTube — the key to confidence and success is choosing the one that resonates most with you and sticking with it. Much like I stated above about the dichotomy of choice, saying yes to one means saying no to many others, you just have to go with it. And just like you can change your mind on many of life’s choices (including your eye shadow pallet), you can change your mind on investing strategies, but monkeying around with it too much can obliterate any progress.
3. Stockpile Savings in a Health Savings Account (HSA)
This is one of my top financial regrets — when HSA’s were first introduced, all I saw was the high-deductible that was required in order to start an HSA and I shied away. What I didn’t recognize was that I NEVER went to the doctor, so deductible wasn’t an issue. I played it TOO safe by sticking with an HMO plan for too many years and missed out on literally thousands of dollars from employers who would’ve funded my HSA over the years. Not to mention I missed out on the tax savings of putting my own money in the account.
If you are planning to have kids one day, this becomes doubly as powerful, even for guys — maternity care is expensive, kids go to the doctor a lot, and you never know when an emergency appendectomy will have you headed to the ER. Why not start saving today to help offset those things when life will most likely be even more expensive than it is today?
4. Take Care of Yourself But Don’t Be Too Type A About It
If I had a dollar for every stressed-out looking but perfectly sculpted adorable young woman I saw at the yoga studio I frequent, I’d be able to afford the unlimited membership — one thing we’ve done well as a society is instilled the importance of good health in young women. I often worry though that they are putting so much pressure on themselves to do all that stuff perfectly that they’re missing out on the fun of life. It’s not about getting it all “right,” it’s about enjoying the journey. The easier my life gets, the more I realize it’s the challenges that make it worth living.
Enjoy some cheese fries, for Pete’s sake, just don’t charge it to your card unless you’re paying it off each month.
I believe that the true meaning of financial security is the ability to make decisions without having to worry about money. There are both factual and psychological aspects of this belief and my mission is to help people find that intersection in their own lives according to their personal values and goals.
I hold the CPA/PFS license and am a CFP® professional, but I don’t sell any products or manage any money. When I’m not writing, I’m working one-on-one with people through my coaching business, Financial Bliss with Kelley Long. I’m also a member of the AICPA Consumer Advocate Council and am frequently quoted in the press on financial literacy issues facing Americans.
I love to apply my own money lessons to my writing as well as break down some of the more complicated financial planning techniques into plain English. My goal in life is for all people to feel able to make their own financial decisions with confidence, being fully aware of the pros and cons of the actions they take.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to encourage any lifestyle changes without careful consideration and consultation with a qualified professional. This article is for reference purposes only, is generic in nature, is not intended as individual advice and is not financial or legal advice.