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It doesn’t matter where you are on your financial journey — at the starting line or closer to the finish line — the fact remains that there are principles to live by, which will ultimately determine whether your experience is rewarding or regrettable.

To help you go in the right direction, here are five financial rules that every woman — regardless of age or circumstance — should know:

Realize that if you don’t take control of your finances, then it will take control of you.

There is no middle ground when it comes to finances: either you get in the driver’s seat and grab the wheel, or you take a seat in the back and pray. Don’t be a passenger! You won’t like where you end up.

Refuse to be intimidated.

The financial landscape is utterly male-dominated. Even the concept of a credit score is skewed towards men, because plenty of women who are far, far more intelligent than men when it comes to managing money don’t have a significant credit history — which means they can’t get bank loans or qualify for other funding. Ideally, a day will come when the landscape is level. But until then, do yourself and all other women who come after you a big financial favor: refuse to be intimidated. Ask questions, demand answers, learn about investing in real estate and the stock market, and stand up for your financial rights and future.

Face your money issues fearlessly.

Yes, you have money issues and challenges — just like pretty much everyone else. If you go into denial or procrastination mode, then you’ll be setting yourself up for a great deal of pain down the road. The only way forward here is to rip off the Band-Aid and face your money issues fearlessly. If you do, then you’ll quickly discover that the big, scary money monster quickly goes from being your tormentor, and becomes your best friend. You’ll be amazed and inspired by how empowered you are, and that will help you do what’s necessary to boost your financial health.

Don’t rely on your partner or spouse for your retirement.

If you and your soul mate end up making it into your golden years together, then more power to you. But it’s a mistake to assume this, because there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll need to head out on your own (sorry, I’m not trying being gloomy and anti-romantic here, just pragmatic and realistic). Work with a financial professional to build your own retirement plan, and keep updating it as you go through different stages of life so that the financial rug won’t be pulled out from you when you’re ready to spend less time working, and more time living.

See financial incompatibility for what it is.

You may believe that you’ve found the perfect partner in every respect except one: they are financially incompatible with you. When they want to save, you want to spend. When you want to spend, they want to save. And any meaningful discussion about money quickly turns into a fight.

The lesson here is as clear and unmistakable as a 50-foot LED message sign on the side of the highway or in a baseball stadium: STOP! Financial incompatibility does not resolve itself over time. It only gets worse.

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