We all know intuitively that it’s super important to create good money habits. But how many of us are actually good at it? or great at it?
Did you also know that a Rutgers study showed that “Perceived control over personal finances was a significant predictor of higher psychological well-being”. Being in control of your finances is not only good for your bank account, it’s also good for your well-being. It makes sense. For women, it’s particularly important as having good finances can help you get through any sort of bad situations such as ending up in an awful job or an abusive marriage.
So it sounds like a good idea to learn from the best habits of women who are particularly good at managing their personal finances.
In my work, I help people get financing and have learned a lot about women who successfully get ahead financially. So I’m sharing here the top habits that I have personally learned or that I have observed from women who were taking charge of their finances and succeeding financially.
Habit 1: They Spend Less Than They Earn
Most people know what they earn or it’s easy to look it up. But do you know how much money you spend on average every month? The women who take control of their finances typically know not only exactly how much they earn, but also how much they spend and how much is going towards groceries, mortgage, insurance, etc.
Since they spend less than they earn and have a plan to save, they are able to pay debt, save a bit more money, invest, and … even pay for that extra special thing that they really want. Because they have a plan and a purpose for their money. Spending less than you earn sounds basic, but it’s my top rule for succeeding with money. That’s where you start.
Habit 2: They Save First. And Spend What is Left AFTER Saving.
If you’re like me, it’s easy to let transferring money slip your mind. I recommend putting it on autopilot that way you never have to think about it again. With online banking, it’s pretty easy to setup automatic transfers from your checking to a separate savings account. You can even start with one dollar per month! What matters is that you save first, and spend what is left later.
I came across this quote from highly successful investor Warren Buffet that captures this habit very well: “Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving”. I think that’s really simple, but helpful advice.
Habit 3: They Work to Improve Their Credit Scores
Your credit score is one of the most important measures of your financial health. A lot of things in life will come cheaper if you have a higher credit score (including your mortgage payment or maybe even rent!). So it’s super important to start improving your credit score to reap the benefits later.
The women who make their financial success a priority typically know (and monitor!) their credit scores. They jump to pay their bills in time. They set reminders, pay a little bit in advance, or have some way to make sure they don’t miss out on a payment that could negatively affect their credit scores. Here is a great page on Investopedia on how to improve your credit score.
Habit 4: They Have a Budget or a Plan for Their Money
Women who are successful financially know their finances and pro-actively manage their money. They know how much money they make every month, how much they are spending, and exactly how they are spending it. They have a plan.
It doesn’t have to be a perfect plan or a big plan. Don’t have a budget yet? You can start with a quick budget sheet to see how much is going in and how much is going out of your account. If you know your finances inside and out, and know how much is going out of your account and where it’s going, you will be in control of your money and be able to make smarter decisions.
With my first budget, I understood why I was not able to save money to start with. The first thing that I did was write down all my expenses and the amounts. I looked at all my credit card staments and receipts. Looking at all my expenses and adding them up on a sheet of paper really helped me understand where I was spending my money, and how I could save more money. Once I understood my expenses better, I was able to make smarter decisions.
With my new plan in place, I was able to really prioritize saving more money and paying off my debt. You can read my simple tips to create your personal budget if you want to get started with your own budget.
Habit 5: They Invest
I used to think that investing was only for wealthy people. And sure, I didn’t have much money to invest to start with. Worse, it was all sitting in a short-term savings account, making a few bucks here and there – not exactly the best way to be successful financially, as I’ve learned over the years. Putting money every month on a savings account is a good start, but it is not a great start. I started to notice that women who were successful with their money not only knew how to budget and save money, but they also knew how to invest.
According to Investopedia, the US stock market has delivered an average return of ~10% annually in the past decades. That’s a pretty good track record! And sure it goes up and down, and it’s scary to think that you could lose a big chunk of your savings in any given year when there is a recession. B ut don’t let this paralyze you.
I followed Warren Buffet’s advice for personal investors and for me, it worked out quite well : Warren Buffett thinks simple & popular index funds are the best way for everyday investors to grow their money over the long-term. Buffett is considered one of the most successful investors in the word and you can’t really go wrong by following his advice. If you want to get started with investing, there are plenty of resources out there. I recommend starting with my post on How I Saved $90,000, and Now Earn $300 a Month in Passive Income.
Habit 6: They Are Smart About Increasing their Incomes
A few of the women I’ve known that have been able to increase their incomes were very proactive in several ways: they were gently (but firmly) asking for a raise, very pro-active in discussing career opportunities with their friends and managers, and did not hesitate to get an extra degree or certificate when it was helpful.
There are several ways you can increase your income:
Asking for a raise is a bit scary, but it’s one of the best ways to increase your income, if you work for a company that doesn’t have a process set in stone for giving out raises. When was the last time you asked for a raise? But don’t just ask for it. Be prepared. First, ask your manager for feedback on how you are doing your job. If everything sounds great, get ready for the next meeting! Write down your accomplishments. Use a few numbers to show how well you are doing.
If you are not in a position to get a raise, have a discussion with your manager, and ask questions such as: 1) how can you get better at your job?, 2) are there ways you can learn to get better?, 3) what are good career growth opportunities, 4) how can you grow your responsibilities (even slowly)?
Don’t necessarily talk about money, but responsibilities, and how to be successful. Brainstorm with your manager (or peers) and discuss your options. Your manager will appreciate that you are trying to get better and find opportunities.
I found this link to be helpful on Clever Girl Finance, if you want to learn about new ways to increase your income.
Habit 7: They Make it a Priority to Pay Down Debt.
Easier said than done. But read this: MoneyWeek Editor in chief Merryn Somerset Webb wrote: “Debt erases freedom more surely than anyting else”. The average interest rate that you get charged on your debt is 14.58% for credit cards (Source: WalletHub) or 4.7% to 6.2% for student loans (Source: Credible.co).
Women who are successful with money understand that interest payments work against them. They prioritize paying down debt, one step a time, and make sacrifices in the process. Read from our guest writer Martina: How I Moved Back with my Parents and Saved $10,000 in Nine Months.