Money Management

Overcoming Your Money Fears – How to Meet Every Challenge with Confidence

By  Opher Ganel

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Learn the money fears that financial experts most often see women experience and their advice to overcome them.

In the first piece of this two-part article, I covered “The 10 Money Challenges and Two Advantages of Women over Men” with the help of seven financial advisors.

In this second piece, I bring those financial pros back to discuss the financial fears they most often see women clients experience and their best advice on overcoming those and the above-mentioned 10 challenges.

First, let’s reintroduce the financial pros.

The Contributing Financial Advisors

  1. Myra Alport, Founder of Myra Alport Money Coach
  2. Michelle Francis, Financial Planner at Life Story Financial
  3. Danielle Miura, CFP®, founder and owner of Spark Financials
  4. Marianne M Nolte, CFP®, Imagine Financial Services
  5. Emily C. Rassam, CFP®, AIFA®, CRPS®, NSSA, Senior Planner at Archer Investment Management
  6. Jay W. Rishel, CFP®, Overman Capital Management
  7. Philip H. Weiss, CPA, CFA, Principal at Apprise Wealth Management

Women’s 3 Greatest Financial Fears

As we’ll see below, women’s financial fears are quite rational, given the special challenges they face in our society.

1. Fear of Running Out of Money and Becoming a Burden

Myra Alport says, “Women’s greatest fears are running out of money and being a burden to their families. On average, women live 3–5 years longer than men, so that needs to be factored into planning discussions. They may have entered the workforce well after their children started school, which may result in lower lifetime earnings and a smaller Social Security benefit.”

Danielle Miura agrees, saying her female clients often “fear they’ll run out of money during retirement.”

Emily Rassam adds, “Women tend to fear expensive healthcare events and multiple years of planning alone financially after a partner passes. My male clients more often seem to think they’re going to have a heart attack and die early, so they want to enjoy their money earlier in retirement.”

2. Fear of the Impacts of Career Interruptions

Miura brings up this related fear, “Women fear that if they take time off to be stay-at-home moms, their careers and finances will suffer and that their retirement plans will suffer by caring for an aging loved one.”

3. Fear of Not Knowing (Enough About) Finances and Shame and Lack of Confidence as a Result

Marianne Nolte points out women fear “not understanding finances. Finances aren’t taught in school. Many families don’t have conversations about money with their children, so women often feel uneducated about their money. Once married, the higher money earner tends to manage the money. As a Certified Financial Planner, many widows approach me and state their husbands took care of the finances. They simply don’t understand what they have, where it’s located, and if they’ll now have enough to get by for the rest of their lives. An experience like this is truly frightening!”

Michelle Francis adds, “In my practice, I notice that women often feel a lot of shame around past money mistakes. Initially, this can make them feel embarrassed about opening up about their finances when they’re seeking help from a financial planner.”

Philip Weiss sees similar things, “In general, many women lack confidence. When given quizzes measuring financial confidence, women are more likely to answer ‘I don’t know’ than men; but when not given this choice, women score on par with men. Women often have greater fear and are less willing to take risks. This can lead to their keeping more money in cash, making it harder to keep up with inflation.”

Financial Pros’ Advice to Women

Nolte encourages women, “Ladies, ask questions! Begin to educate yourself about your finances. Start by talking with your spouse. At which financial institutions are the family’s accounts held? Make a list, request online accounts’ access usernames and passwords, begin to review the accounts regularly, and ask questions if you see significant changes. Next, sit in on all meetings with your financial professional. If you don’t understand the terminology used, ask questions. As an account owner or joint account owner, you have a right to ask and learn about your money.”

Francis agrees, “Even if they aren’t the main breadwinner, women should make sure to stay involved in their household’s finances. It’s easy to deprioritize their finances when balancing work, raising kids, running a household, and helping others. In the long-term, though, this can lead to financial insecurity if something unexpected happens like a divorce or losing a partner.”

She also suggests women financially address their higher longevity, “Women should be very mindful of their future needs and get in the habit of regularly saving money. Even putting away $50 a month or increasing their 401(k) contribution by 1–2 percent annually can really add up over the long run. And if they choose to exit the workforce or work part-time, women should talk to their partner about continuing to regularly save for their future, such as in a spousal IRA.”

Rassam says, “Most clients fall somewhere on a fear spectrum: on one end, fearing they’ll die early and not have time to enjoy their money, and on the other, fearing their longevity will mean they won’t have enough wealth to cover unexpected medical expenses. In these cases, we need to build plans that address both concerns and bring balance.”

Miura makes a more general recommendation, “Women should have a financial plan in place that protects them from ‘what-if’ situations, including setting aside a larger emergency fund than men. Just because we have more money disadvantages than men doesn’t mean we can’t thrive. Remember that we’re most powerful when we work together to empower each other.”

What Women Should Look for in a Financial Advisor

Weiss wants women to stand up for themselves, “It’s important that women work with advisors who respect them, and who are patient and willing to explain. That gives them a chance to be heard. When it comes to decisions about, e.g., when to claim Social Security benefits, women should make sure that any decisions are made jointly.”

Jay Rishel agrees and takes it a step further, “Women should know that if their financial advisor doesn’t include both spouses in meetings and planning sessions, it’s time to find a better advisor.”

Alport points to what an advisor has to do when starting to work with a new woman client, “The greatest planning challenge is to first conceptualize the kind of conversation needed with women to build trust, encourage, and engage. There’s an art to creating dialog that isn’t prescriptive in any way and is free from judgment or leading questions. Starting with open-ended statements such as ‘tell me about…,’ ‘has there been a time when…,’ or ‘how was money discussed in your family?’ can provide insight into what keeps them up at night or how they may view their financial future.”

Francis notes encouragingly how building such a rapport helps, “Once women develop trust with a financial planner, I find they’re very open to learning about their finances and are motivated to take action to move their financial life forward when they can relate it to their life values and goals.”

The Bottom Line

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that in our society as it currently stands, women face far more financial challenges than men.

As a result, women experience more money-related fears than men (though many men would be well-advised to tread more cautiously — as the saying goes that’s often misattributed to Mark Twain, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so!”).

Between the challenges and the resulting fears, many women may feel overwhelmed and simply hand over the care of finances to their partners. As my mother experienced when my dad passed away, this leaves them woefully unprepared to manage their own finances when they survive their husbands (as they often do).

The most important thing for women to build their confidence in overcoming all financial challenges is to not shy away from (co-)managing their finances and become full partners with their spouses. They need to know their financial situation, what money is where, what’s owed to whom, etc.

If they don’t understand something, they need to ask or read up on it.

Finally, if a woman still feels overwhelmed and/or fearful about investing her money, a good financial advisor can be a great asset in learning more, becoming more confident, and taking appropriate risks to generate the higher returns needed for a longer retirement.

Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be considered financial advice. You should consult a financial professional before making any major financial decisions.

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About the Author

Opher Ganel

My career has had many unpredictable twists and turns. A MSc in theoretical physics, PhD in experimental high-energy physics, postdoc in particle detector R&D, research position in experimental cosmic-ray physics (including a couple of visits to Antarctica), a brief stint at a small engineering services company supporting NASA, followed by starting my own small consulting practice supporting NASA projects and programs. Along the way, I started other micro businesses and helped my wife start and grow her own Marriage and Family Therapy practice. Now, I use all these experiences to also offer financial strategy services to help independent professionals achieve their personal and business finance goals.

Connect with me on my own site: OpherGanel.com and/or follow my Medium publication: medium.com/financial-strategy/.

Disclaimer: To make Wealthtender free for our readers, we earn money from advertisers, including financial professionals and firms that pay to be featured. This creates a natural conflict of interest when we favor their promotion over others. Wealthtender is not a client of these financial services providers. Learn how we operate with integrity to earn your trust.