7 Mistakes Women Make With Money
Posted by Girls Guide To on May 2, 2012 at 3:44 PM
In a dream world, we’d all handle our money flawlessly, perfectly, even brilliantly all of the time.
But we don't. And I don’t know anyone who’s “perfect” with her money. Most of us make mistakes here and there (or let’s face it, all the time). And everyone makes some mistakes more than others, because of our personalities, our upbringing... or sometimes even our gender.
It's ridiculous, but true.
Let's be clear: These are generalizations. Not all women make these mistakes. Not all men avoid them. But it’s been shown that there are a few female financial problem areas that can lead to major debt and lots of stress.
Ever bailed out an ex? Indulged in a little more retail therapy than you meant to? Or woken up one day and realized you didn't know as much as you thought you did about managing your money? Yeah, us too.
Of course, if you don't, good for you. You can read ahead and pat yourself on the back! We're just saying, bad money mishaps happen to good people. But read on: We'll show you seven common mistakes women make -- and what to do instead.
"If I don’t think about it, I won’t have to deal with it." This is the number one mistaken belief I have encountered. Women, myself included, tend to avoid the hard facts and live “as if,” the way they imagine or would like it to be. For example, they charge a pair of expensive shoes and figure they’ll worry about the money later. Or they don’t have a budget or any idea how they’ll support themselves later. This keeps them in a type of fantasyland where they don’t have to think about or solve financial problems.
Don’t keep yourself in the dark. Just like with any problem, you have to face it head on. So open those bills you’ve been piling up and have at it girl.
A 2011 study from Eversave.com found that 67% of women have felt guilt about a purchase. I would have thought the number to be higher – can you tell I feel purchase-regret a lot? But that's not the only opportunity for guilt: There's also staying in a job you feel guilty about abandoning (been there), giving someone money because you feel guilty about their situation (done that) and, oh, doing the opposite: not giving someone money (got the t-shirt).
Trust me, I know this is hard, but we have to take emotion out of money. Leaving a job doesn’t make you a bad person, just like giving away all your money (to your own detriment) doesn’t make you a saint. This guilt effect might not be limited to finances, either. Some studies suggest that women are more inclined than men to feel any kind of guilt. And we'd argue, more likely to bail out their exes, too…
You let your friend crash at your place rent free when she lost her job for what you thought was a few weeks – it’s now been a few months. You let your boyfriend use your credit card to help grow his business – and now things are getting really uncomfortable.
It's long been said that women are more empathetic than men -- they're instinctively attuned to what others are thinking and feeling. But one study published in Psychology Today suggests that this empathy isn't an innate quality... it's just that we try harder. Another similar study found that men empathize only if the other person is worthy. So when women are actively trying to be understanding and naturally not judging, you get saviors.
The savior lends money to her mother/sister/friend/boyfriend/girlfriend/neighbor to alleviate their burdens...by taking on that burden herself. The next time someone else's finances look tight, direct them toward a financial planner or a Suze Orman book instead. Lending money is a lovely thought, but it's even nicer (to the both of you) to help them long-term.
Everyone knows that a girl can't resist shoes. (Kidding! Maybe.) But retail therapy, or shopping to influence your mood, is both common and probably not your smartest behavior. A survey out of the University of Hertfordshire found that the primary motivation for 79% of respondents to shop was to "cheer themselves up." To avoid emotional spending, try hitting the gym to sweat it out. Or call a girlfriend to talk it out. If you just can’t skip the mall, start your trip with a budget (get cash and promise yourself you will only spend that) or pick one item you want to search for, like a great new necklace or pair of earrings.
Selling Yourself Short
Women can have trouble saying no. I know I do. Whether in the office or at home, some women have a hard time standing up for themselves, especially when it means turning down a request. And it's understandable. Studies show that although women who advocate for themselves in the workplace are rewarded, such behavior is often perceived as "aggressive" and "unlikeable" when it's from someone wearing heels. (Don’t you love double standards?)
But you can do more than just ask nicely to get your money back or get that promotion at work. It's important that you sign a contract or agreement when borrowing or lending a considerable amount of money. A bank does, and so should you. In fact, documents like prenups were created for just this sort of situation. Being a people-pleaser is great, but being a financial doormat won’t work for anyone.
Letting Someone Else Handle the Finances
You just can’t take a hands-off approach to your finances. Start good, vigilant habits now when you’re young. It's absolutely crucial to not only build your own credit history (so you can take out loans for major purchases down the road, like a house or car), but also to save for retirement (especially as a woman) and know the financial basics in case you ever need them. It only takes a few minutes a day to make a budget and review your situation.
Not Talking About Money
It's terrifying how many couples don't discuss their finances until something goes terribly wrong. To be fair, the blame for this mistake probably lies equally with both partners. Both partners in a relationship have to have an awareness and mastery of the finances because money problems are one of the top reasons couples fight. Try to stay rational and really talk through any issues you have.
My advice is to make sure you have several discussions about how you will or won’t combine finances and what your individual situations are like before you do something like move in together or get married. You don’t want to say “I do” and then find out your new husband has $30k in student loans. It will make you stronger, even if it’s super uncomfortable.