15 Moves Women Can Make to Boost Their Financial Wellness

By Jackie Lam, AFC®
Published on: 02/26/2024

While money stress hits both men and women alike, recent research by Northwestern Mutual reveals that only 43% of women feel financially secure, compared to 59% of their male counterparts.

When it comes to women making financial strides, there's a lot to celebrate. For one, there are more single women homeowners in the U.S., than single men, and according to research from Fidelity Investments women tend to outperform their male counterparts with investing in the stock market.

However, challenges persist: Overall, women are surpassing their male counterparts in completing college which also means they are saddled with higher student debt loads. Plus, the gender wage gap continues to rage on, with women earning 83.7% as much as men do—with the gaps even wider for women of color and those living with disabilities.

To add to these challenges, women tend to live longer, and they take more time off from work to care for aging parents or children, which can also negatively impact their earnings.

In turn, it's essential that women take control of their financial lives. No matter where you're at in the financial journey, you can make moves to improve your money situation. In honor of International Women's Day, here are steps women can take to boost their financial wellness.

1. Rework your beliefs around money

It's easy to subscribe to the ideals of money worshipping, thinking that money will solve all your problems and linking it to your self-worth. Instead, commit to shifting your relationship with money so that it's seen as more of a tool, suggests Anna N'Jie-Konte, a CFP® and president of Re-Envision Wealth, a financial advisory firm that works with first-generation households of color, in an interview with Self.

"Money isn't a value assessment on your value or intelligence," she says. "Plus, women get a lot of messaging around not being good with money or making poor money decisions because we're frivolous and so forth," N'Jie-Konte continues. "Obviously, those aren't true things. It's really important to have a relationship with money where you just view it as a tool."

2. Forgive yourself for past financial mistakes

When you've committed financial mistakes in the past or endured financial struggles, it can be really hard to move past that and start taking steps you need to better your money situation, explains N'Jie-Konte. "One of the things I always focus on with my clients is forgiveness," she says. "Understand what happened, why it happened, and commit to do better—and bury the shame."

3. Build your financial literacy

The good news is that there's no shortage of resources to boost your financial know-how. Look into books, podcasts, and websites that offer financial basics. You can start by checking out the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Self blog for educational resources and information on general topics.

If you are following a personal finance influencer, check their credentials to see if they are a certified financial or tax professional. Just because they have a lot of followers doesn't mean their advice is legit.

4. Create–or tweak–your budget

A spending plan isn't a downward spiral into a life of deprivation. It helps you build awareness and ultimately gain greater control over your finances.

Not sure where to begin? To build a budget, start by tracking your expenses and checking your bank statements. Then, figure out how much you spend on your bills and everyday expenses. You'll want to note both your fixed and variable expenses.

Already have a spending plan in place? Take another look at it to see what changes you want to make. Maybe you want to cut back in a spending category, or you want to ramp up saving for a new car.

5. Set financial goals

Think about what's on your vision board. What do you hope to achieve in the next year? In the next two years? In the next 10? Then, think about what kind of builder you are. Are you a family builder or a business builder? Maybe you're an education builder and hope to put your kids through college or vocational school.

When you link your savings to both short-term and long-term goals, it can give you the momentum and inspiration to stick to your efforts. Jot down your target date, ideal amounts, and how achieving a goal can improve you and your family's lives.

6. Start an emergency fund

Without a bit of a cash cushion, you fall into danger of falling into debt should an emergency pop up. While the recommended amount for an emergency fund is anywhere from three to six months, N'Jie-Konte suggests starting small.

"Three to six months of expenses saved up can be a lot of money, and it can be a daunting task when you're just getting started," N'Jie-Konte says. "Instead, start with one month for now, and work on getting one month of expenses put aside."

7. Re-examine your insurance needs

If you have family, getting life insurance and long-term disability insurance can protect your household should something happen to you. Your employer might offer insurance plans with a discounted group rate.

"If you have kids or if you're married and there's somebody who financially depends on you, having long-term disability insurance and life insurance are the guards to help the financial floor from coming out from under you," says N'Jie-Konte.

8. Build your credit

Having good credit means upping your chances of getting approved for more attractive loan rates and terms. If you're not sure where to start, to build your credit, order a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. From there, see if there are any errors or missing information that could be hurting your credit.

Next, look at what financial habits, behaviors or circumstances might have led to your score taking a dip in the past. If you have a high credit usage, work on paying off your balance. Been late on your payments? Aim to make the minimum payment each month, and reach out to your creditors or lenders to see if they can move your due date to make your payments more manageable. The important thing is to create an action plan and stick to it.

9. Prioritize paying off debt

Look at all your debts, like credit cards, car loans, personal loans, student loans, and figure out how much you have left to pay off. Then, look at the interest rates and repayment terms.

To lower your interest rates or pay off your debt quicker, you can look at options such as a credit card balance transfer or debt consolidation. There are pros and cons to any option, so weigh both carefully before deciding.

Popular tactics to paying off debt include the debt snowball method, which is pay off the smallest debt, then work your way up. Another popular debt payoff method is the debt avalanche, where you pay your debt off from the largest interest rate to the smallest interest rate.

10. Earn extra income through side gigs

While you can only cut back on so much of your spending, your earning potential is technically limitless. See if you can earn extra money through side gigs when you're not working your day job. Side hustlers in the U.S. earn $810 a month on average, according to Bankrate data. Note this likely doesn't include expenses related to your side hustle.

11. Get comfortable with talking about money

It's a shame we aren't more comfortable talking to our friends and loved ones about money. A survey by Empower shows that talking about money remains hush-hush, with 62% of respondents not talking about money. Over 6 out of 10 (63%) don't discuss money matters with their family, 75% don't discuss with their friends, and 46% remain tight-lipped with their partners.

Being transparent with our finances can lift the burden of shame or guilt and realize that we face the same struggles. Consider being the brave one and jump-starting topics about money. It can be a casual chit-chat over coffee or shared in passing while you're together.

12. Work with a financial professional

If you want to work with a professional, see if there are any free resources available through your workplace or where you do your banking. They might offer free coaching or workshops. You can talk to a financial expert for free through the Foundation for Financial Planning, which is a pro bono financial planning organization.

13. Prioritize retirement planning

While it might feel a stretch to start saving money for your retirement, contribute whatever you can. If your employer offers a retirement plan with matching contributions, N'Jie-Konte recommends contributing enough to get the match. Those matching contributions are part of your total compensation, and it would be money you're leaving on the table.

14. Work on moving past money blocks

Something that people don't really talk about is mental blocks they face when they start to improve their financial situation.

For example, your financial situation has changed. For instance, you've made great strides in digging yourself out of a debt hole, or you got a big jump in pay. Or maybe you're the first kid in your family to go to college. Some uncomfortable—and surprising feelings might pop up about those who are "comfortable financially." You might think they're entitled or greedy, or inherently "bad people."

"There can be a lot of judgments and blocks around what people who have money are like, and not wanting to be one of those people," says N'Jie-Konte. "That's because of your perception or that messaging as to what those people are like. And there can be some self-sabotage around that."

For example, let's say you grew up not having a lot of money, and grew up with a lot of scarcity and financial trauma, points out N'Jie-Konte. You'll want to look at your thoughts, feelings, actions, and results with money. You might subconsciously make moves to keep you in this continuous cycle of being broke.

To break out of the cycle, keep this circular graph in mind to raise awareness of your actions. It's a constant process, and over time you'll develop greater mindfulness, which can incite change.

15. Be proactive

Whatever moves you decide to make to build your financial future, N'Jie-Konte recommends thinking about your finances proactively.

"It gives you the confidence to know, 'Okay, I can't spend this,' or 'I can make this move, or I can make this career change," she says. "Think about things in advance and be intentional."

Women are supporting themselves and having to make financial decisions, she continues. "It behooves us to work on our competence, skill set and our knowledge when it comes to finances, because we're going to have to make these decisions either way. So is it better to make those decisions from an empowered standpoint, or a disempowered one?"

About the author

A personal finance writer for over 8 years, Jackie Lam covers money management, lending, insurance, investing, and banking, and personal stories. An AFC® accredited financial coach, she is passionate about helping freelance creatives design money systems on irregular income, gain greater awareness of their money narratives, and overcome mental and emotional blocks.

Her work has appeared in publications such as Bankrate, Time's NextAdvisor, CNET, Forbes, Salon.com, and BuzzFeed. She is the 2022 recipient of Money Management International's Financial Literacy and Education in Communities (FLEC) Award, and a two-time Plutus Awards nominee for Best Freelancer in Personal Finance Media. She lives in Los Angeles where she spends her free time swimming, drumming, and daydreaming about stickers.

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Written on February 26, 2024
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