When it comes to personal finance and money management, women need to talk more.
To be more specific, Natalie Elisha Gold, author of Money Momma: The Women’s Wealth Bible for the Digital Age, says women are not getting educated about money and that often has a lot to do with the fact that it’s seen as a taboo subject.
“Women are not talking about money and they don’t know where to turn,” begins Gold. “Women don’t feel confident asking questions like, ‘I don’t understand the concept of compound interest,’ or ‘Why do I need to take advantage of the employer match in a 401(k),’ and our parents are not teaching us these things.”
Women, she adds, are not given as much education about money matters as men are, and we’re not being proactive about learning what we need to know. “We’re not Googling, ‘What do I need in my financial toolbox to make sure I’m okay?’” says Gold.
All of which is particularly relevant because 39% of millennial-age women admit to not paying their bills on time, according to a 2018 financial literacy survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). Meanwhile, 35% of women over the age of 18 have no savings outside of retirement accounts and, among millennials, men are more likely (70%) than women (56%) to have at least some savings.
In other words, as Gold sees it, women have fallen behind when it comes to financial security.
“As Ruth Bader Ginsburg says, the gender line serves not to put women on a pedestal but in a cage. Let’s release ourselves from the cage once and for all,” Gold says. “It’s time for us to empower ourselves, and you cannot be in control until you have control of the money.”
A powerhouse in her own right, Gold survived a near-death drag-racing car accident at the age of 15, when she was struck as a pedestrian in her Queens, N.Y., neighborhood. When no one was found culpable for injuring her, Gold resolved to become a lawyer.
She went on to become an attorney at just 23 years old, and graduated from school debt-free, after which Gold founded a seven-figure law firm. All by the age of 26.
Based on all of this experience, Gold says there are several actions a woman can take to help regain ground financially, many of which she explains in her new book. During an interview with The SimpleDollar, Gold discussed some of these key steps in more detail.
Ensure to Insure
“While we’re young, most of us don’t think much about life insurance. After all, we’re young and healthy, so why worry? Sadly, that’s not the right mindset to have,” says Gold in Money Momma.
You must make insuring yourself a priority, Gold added during an interview. Why? Because you will never be this young again, and life insurance will never again be this inexpensive.
An important part of this tip, Gold explains, is ensuring that the right beneficiary is named in your policy, too. She suggest double- and triple-checking that whatever policy you ultimately obtain lists the proper recipient.
“We send so much money to wrong people,” she continues. “Do you know how much there is in in unclaimed funds in just New York? Billions.”
And finally, don’t be intimidated by selecting life insurance if you don’t understand how the various policy options work. Ask questions, speak up, and find out what’s right for you and your needs.
“Here’s the thing — any life insurance person needs to take the time to educate you and answer all of your questions,” adds Gold. “Ladies, we are the customer and the client, get your questions answered. Don’t be shy to ask, this is your financial future.”
Create a Life and Legacy plan
“A Money Momma… is a woman who plans for the future and defines her legacy,” states Gold in her book. “In order to do so, we must at a minimum have a number of very important documents filled out. This is not the end all, be all, of a life well lived. Just as the Ten Commandments are the bare minimum to live a good life, so too are the basic documents a bare minimum to plan an amazing life and legacy.”
What are those basic documents?
The way Gold sees it, everyone needs a last will and testament, power of attorney, and health care proxy (advanced directives), all of which she calls non-negotiable.
“Make sure you have that will in place,” she urges, even if it costs a bit of money to set it up. “How much money do we waste on stuff we don’t need like that one hundredth piece of jewelry or another pair of leggings?”
Increase Your Earnings
Women need to start making more money so they can save more, notes Gold, who coaches negotiation teams.
“I tell my students, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. And for women, we have never been taught that. We don’t have a class called Negotiation 101,” says Gold. “Men ask for more. Women are generally nurturers, we want to love and be loved. But we need to go into salary negotiations with wit and research. Women are scared that if they ask for $5,000 more, they will lose out on the opportunity.”
Gold says you can ask for more by being “hard on the issues, but soft on the people.” And without missing a beat, Gold switches into a full-on example of what exactly that means, as if she’s in the midst of salary negotiations herself — but she does so in a tone of voice that’s practically purring, oozing as much welcoming warmth as you might hear talking to your best friend.
“I’ve looked around and done my research and it’s more like a $110,000 salary I should be expecting. I would love to work to with you, is there some way to bridge this gap together?” she says as an example.
Need more help beefing up your negotiation skills? Gold suggests checking out Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, a book that she says nearly every negotiation course uses as required reading.
Trust the Trust
Many people think trusts are reserved for the super wealthy, Gold notes in her book. But that notion is absolutely false.
“A trust is for anyone who cares about protecting their legacy. What are the benefits of a trust? There are many, but to name a few: probate avoidance, keeping your legacy private and not airing your dirty laundry to the whole world (which is what happens with a will), naming trustees to protect your children’s money, and protecting your wealth from long-term care costs and estate taxes (utilizing a special kind of trust in either scenario).”
Bottom line, according to Gold, if you care at all about your financial legacy, you can’t afford to not have a trust in place.
Enlist Three Key Players: CPA, Lawyer, Financial Advisor
Ideally, says Gold, every woman should have a team that includes a CPA, a lawyer, and a financial advisor.
“We all pay taxes, we all want to leave legacy of some sort, and everyone is working to make a few dollars to invest,” explains Gold.
Teaming up with a CPA in particular, she says, is particularly critical, because the right one can save you a lot of money on your taxes.
“A CPA is a must. It will cost you a couple hundred dollars, but it is well worth it,” Gold says.
An approach to life I use myself as a single mother, Gold urges women to begin negotiating everything, from the amount you pay at your favorite blowout bar to the annual dues for memberships to your cable bill.
“If you go to a blowout bar and pay $45 a pop, plus a tip and you do that twice a month, the next time try saying, ‘I’ve been a client forever. Can I pay $85 every month? And you just saved a tremendous percentage,” Gold explains. “The pink tax is real. My husband gets one haircut and it is $10. At a minimum I pay $110.”
Negotiate with everything. Start thinking like a business owner, and if you have recurring expenses, begin actively looking for ways to cut costs.
Find People You Can Talk to About Money
Beyond the CPA, lawyer, and financial advisor, Gold suggests it’s also a good idea to identify people you can talk to when you have questions, whether that’s a peer or a mentor.
“Pick up a phone and talk to your peers or even someone who is a generation above you,” she stresses. “We have to go bigger. We need a movement. Me too? I say ‘We too.’ We have to come together and start educating each other. We have to do better for our girls and our women. Nine out of 10 of us are surviving our husbands and at 80 years old are learning to survive.”
Ultimately, as Gold notes in her book, women have fallen behind in our savings and ability to establish our own nest eggs.
“Why? Three main reasons: lack of education, not asking for more, and relinquishing our power to our spouses when it comes to the finances. So, want to know how to empower yourself? Learn about the money and watch how everything else falls into place.”
Mia Taylor is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. She has worked for some of the nation’s best-known news organizations, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the San Diego Union-Tribune.