On November 10th, I was a member of the personal finance panel at the Texas Conference for Women in Houston. The panel, Rebound and Recover: Strategies for Emerging from the Recession and Taking Control of Your Finances, definitely delivered on the promise of giving the audience members practical skills and tools and I was delighted to be a part of it.
My fellow panelists were fellow New Yorker, Galia Gichon of Down to Earth Finance, Tina Pennington, co-author with her sister Many Williams of “What I Learned About Life When My Husband Got Fired”.and our moderator was Charlotte Stallings, a dynamic personal finance speaker in Houston, who is coming out with a book in December.
Galia has graciously allowed me to use her blog post of takeaways from the conference. Meeting Galia was the best part of the experience for me; she’s a smart, committed empathic personal finance coach, whose company, Down to Earth is an independent resource dedicated to educating clients– especially women–about investing and financial control. In addition to coaching, she offers teleseminars and teleclasses. Have a look at her website www.downtoearthfinance.com
The consensus seemed to be that many women are overwhelmed with choices in their 401ks. I offered the following advice. Start by consolidating old retirement plans to their current retirement plan. This includes old pensions you are able to rollover. The second part is to truly limit the number of mutual funds you have in your 401k. Pick one of each of the following categories: large cap, small cap, international and bond. The percentage you put in each depends on your age and risk level. A general rule of thumb is your age in bonds. If you are 35, you should have 35% of your total portfolio in bonds.
Another key piece of advice was using a financial calculator to determine how much you should be saving annually for retirement. My favorite ones are on kiplinger.com/tools. Even though most of us aren’t saving what we should be, you will most likely feel relieved to know your number.
April Benson kept astounding the room with statistics and profound observations about our shopping habits and money philosophies! 25% of people shop for revenge, either against their spouse or parent. She also described shopping as a way of holding onto LIFE and putting off death as long as we can. She then went into her 6 questions you should ask yourself when you are shopping, such as “What if I wait?” and “Where will I put it?”. They will clearly make you spend more consciously, spend less and feel more in control of your money. I’m reading her book now and enjoying it tremendously, pick up a copy now.
Don’t Use Financial Terms
Tina Pennington kept saying she wasn’t an expert but she clearly knew much more than most individuals in the room. One point she brought up which struck a cord with me was when she was attempting to roll up her sleeves and learn about her financial situation, her sister, Mandy, asked if she knew what her assets and liabilities were. Tina stood there with a blank stare. Mandy then went on to explain they were simply what she owns and what she owes, which Tina easily could figure out. We get stuck very often on financial terms and they can be a huge obstacle to us moving forward. Take a step back and simplify it so you can actually move forward.
Needs Versus Wants
Charlotte Stallings, our eloquent moderator discussed her Needs Versus Wants cards. Attach them to a credit card so you can quickly make a decision before purchasing an item you may not need. Next time you buy something, think long and hard, do you need it or just want it?
I’ll be on the same panel at the Massachusetts Conference for Women on December 9th and it’ll be interesting, with all different co-panelists and a different moderator, to compare notes!
Carrie Rattle is a Principal at BehavioralCents.com, a website for women focused on mind and money behaviors. She has worked in the financial services industry for 20+ years and hopes to inspire women to better prepare themselves for financial independence.