"Only 47 percent of women are confident talking about money and investments with a professional," - Fidelity Investments research, "How to take charge."
BY JULIA ANDERSONHere is what I wish I had known at age 20 about my financial future and how best to manage it.
No. 1 Start early with saving and investing. Sign up for your employer’s 401(k) retirement savings program at the first opportunity. Put enough money into that account every year to at least get the employer’s matching money. Don’t be cautious. Invest this money in aggressive stock growth funds. Reinvest the dividends and let those investments ride. Never borrow from your 401(k).
No. 2. Start you own Individual Retirement Account. You can do this with as little as $2,000 and even less in some online accounts. Again, either invest in low-cost index stock funds or buy a few individual blue-chip stocks that have a good track record and a good dividend (around 3 percent).
Reinvestment the dividends. Don’t panic when stock prices or markets go into a downturn. The downturn is a buying opportunity at a cheaper price. Keep adding to these accounts. Explore the difference between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA. Both have advantages.
No. 3 Understand management fees.
Some experts say fees are more important than even what you are invested in because fees cut into earnings. Over 30 years of retirement saving and investment, fees can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars less in results. Ask particularly about management fees related to your 401(k) funds since this is where you likely will save the most for retirement.
“Everyone talks about the benefits of compounding interest, but few mention the danger of compounding fees,” says Kyle Ramsay, NerdWallet’s head of investing and retirement.
No. 4 Avoid debt. Don’t become house-poor. Taking on a big mortgage payment or letting credit card debt eat into your income means limited financial flexibility. Don’t spend money you don’t have on stuff you don’t need. Debt is borrowing against your future income.
No. 5. Understand that bad things can happen to good people. Divorce, for instance. While you don’t want or expect a divorce or the death of a spouse, it can happen. Women usually come out the losers in either a divorce or the death of a spouse since they may have a lesser-paying job, they may work fewer hours to manage the kids. That’s why having an emergency fund is essential in long-range planning. Buy term life insurance on each other. Term insurance is cheap and worth it to protect your retirement savings.
If you divorce, be tough in negotiating your best possible financial future. Every decision a woman makes after divorce, from where to live to how to increase her income, is an important part of this process. – at LiveStrong.com.
No. 6. Write a will, even though you are young and in good health. A will spells out how you want your stuff dispersed and who you want to take care of your young children, if something happens.
No. 7. Don’t be shy about asking for pay increases. If you are doing a good job and are a valued employee, your employer should be rewarding you with more money. More money, means more goes into your 401(k) and you have more money to support your family. Women in particular must make sure they are receiving the same pay for the same job as their male counterparts.
No. 8. Make investing enjoyable and rewarding. Read business and economic news. Follow markets. There are no mysteries here. The American free-enterprise system has created unbelievable wealth for average investors. Good publicly held companies report every quarter to their shareholders about how they are performing, they pay dividends every quarter. You don’t need to be a genius when it comes to investing.
No. 9. Do not discount money. By that I mean do not sneer at the importance of making money, of saving, of being careful with your spending. It’s fashionable to say that money doesn’t matter, that following your dreams is what is important. Make sure your dreams are financially reasonable. If you start your own business, make sure you have the financial resources to stick it out. Will your parents bank-roll you? Is it a loan or a gift?
No. 10 Understand Social Security. Don’t take benefits too soon because it will cost you thousands of dollars in retirement income going forward. That means planning carefully in your 50s and early 60s so that you can continue to work as long as you want and determine how and when to take Social Security benefits.
No. 11. Understand the difference between saving and investing.Saving is for hand-wringing people who are afraid of losing a penny. Investing is for people who understand the value of owning stock in good companies that offer share price growth AND pay a dividend. A CD paying 2 percent is only breaking even against inflation. Start investing early. Learn from your mistakes. Glory in your successes.
FYI: By investing $2,000 a year starting at age 19, you can end up with a whopping $2 million or more at age 65, thanks to reinvesting dividends at an average of 12 percent annual return on the investments. Get serious about investing now, at age 20. Don’t wait until you’re 30 or 40. Time is money!!!
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I meet women all the time who face job and money transitions and who want to do them right. It’s about building confidence and taking charge of the future. This is your money. No one cares more than you do!
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