For the last 6 months, I’ve been talking about the investment company that I’ve been partnering with Ellevest. I’ve learned a lot about financing, but I know I still have such a long way to go. I’ve read so much about the disproportionate way that men & women are treated when it comes to our financing. It’s a real thing and it doesn’t seem to be going away at least until we bust that ceiling once and for all.
How do we do that? Educating ourselves.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
If we educate ourselves we’ll know our own worth and will start to demand to be treated as an equal. Women pay more for everything yet we make less 9 times out of 10. We earn less so we invest less which only hurts us in the long run. Think about this: isn’t even a little bit better than none at all?
I want to feel secure in my financial future and no matter what tax bracket you’re in tragedy can and does strike, people still get divorced, become widowed, or maybe single and like it. Either way, you can bet your financial future doesn’t look as bright as your male counterpart. Things happen unexpectedly and if you’re already starting out below the norm something like a job loss or an accident could potentially be between you and homelessness. Yes, I’m being a bit dramatic, but it happens every single day.
I have this same reoccurring dream of being homeless pushing a shopping cart through the freezing rain. Is it likely to happen? Probably not, but life is like Roulette when your number pops up that’s it. I want financial freedom and security for all of you no matter what that looks like in your world.
I’ve never set out to be rich. It actually seems like it would be a nightmare for me. I hate money. I hate having it, but I also hate not having it. When I get it I want to get rid of it immediately and even I can recognize that it’s not a healthy way to live. I’m not sure where this comes from, but if I had it I would want to give it away. Don’t get me wrong though, I want to be comfortable. It just takes less for me to be comfortable than most.
Anyway, back to Ellevest. Six months ago I set up an account with $50. That’s it, nothing exceptionally noteworthy, but I did it and it made me unbelievably proud. Then I set up an automatic deposit of $50 a month. That’s it painless. I never have to worry about it or even think about it if I don’t want to, but I find myself checking it often.
My husband has a 401k, we both have life insurance and that’s it. Like most Americans sometimes it’s paycheck to paycheck, but most of the time we’re flush. He works a full-time job and I work from home building lovely SEO optimized, mobile responsive websites (just had to say it lol). This account is just for me, but it has affected me more than I ever thought possible.
$50 a month for the last 6 months comes to $300 and to date the account has $317.48. Investing is not about big losses or small it’s about moving forward and adjusting. Will I get rich from this small attempt at building some financial wealth? Absolutely not, but it could help one of my grandkids pay for college or maybe purchase that trip to Ireland I’ve always dreamed about. The point is I’m taking action. I’m taking it upon myself to control how I grow my money and not leaving it up to just fate. Just getting started is the biggest step.
The images above are straight from my account. Want to try it for yourself?
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We’ve been talking about how society patronizes women when it comes to money quite a bit lately. But what, exactly, does that look like? Sallie has a few thoughts on this one.
By making us feel guilty.
By making us think that not buying a coffee from a coffee shop can help us become millionaires. By telling us that we have to save, and budget, and not talking to us about investing. Telling us that we’re risk-averse. All the messages we get, as women, about money, that are guilt-inducing and shame-inducing.
It starts in childhood when parents talk to their little girls about budgeting, and saving, and being careful, and little boys about making money, and being the CEO, and going to the top of the jungle gym. It continues as we become young adults and we are told to “take the money quiz” to find out our “money type,” while the guys are told about diversified investment portfolios.
The result of all of this is that the primary emotions so many women feel around money are shame, and loneliness, and isolation.
We need to break this down, get rid of the guilt. Don’t listen to the patronizing voices, and talk about money.
Are you ready to get started building your future?
*I’m excited to work with Ellevest to start conversations about women and money. If you become a client, I will be compensated.
Both investing and saving involve setting aside money today to prepare for the future. So it’s understandable that some people mix them up, or think of them as alternatives to one another. But they aren’t the same, and how you combine them can have a big effect on your money.
The real difference between saving and investing is where you’re putting your money — which, in turn, influences how much risk you’re taking, and how much your money could grow while it’s saved / invested.
How saving and investing work
Piggy banks and mattress hoards technically count, but when we talk about saving, we really mean putting your money in a savings account at a bank — one that’s insured by the FDIC. FDIC insurance guarantees that if something happens to the bank you’re using, you won’t lose any of your money (up to $250,000). That means when you save (up to that much), you’re taking zero risks.
When you put your money in a savings account, you earn a small amount of interest. The national average is 0.09%, and even “high yield” savings accounts only pay around 2%. That’s because technically, the bank is paying to borrow that money from you — they use cash flow from customer deposits to loan money to other people (and charge their own interest).
Still, you can withdraw your money any time you want. There’s a fee, though, if you make more than six withdrawals a month, which is meant to entice you to keep your savings in the bank. (There’s no penalty for taking money out of a checking account, like when you pay bills — but checking accounts don’t generally pay interest.)
Bottom line: Savings accounts are really safe, pay a small amount of interest, and allow you to get your money out quickly.
When you invest your money, you’re using your cash to buy investments. That might mean you own individual stocks, bonds, or alternative investments; or it might mean you own shares of a fund (aka a basket of individual investments), like you’ll have if you’re an online client of Ellevest.
As the values of your individual investments go up (or down), the value of your investment account will go up (or down). You might also earn payments called dividends from stocks, and interest from bonds. All that’s what makes it possible to earn (or lose) money by investing. The exact amount of risk involved depends on what kinds of investments you own.
So think of investing not as “spending” your money, but simply changing how it works. True, it’s not exactly the same as having cash (for one thing, you can’t pay rent with it). And as we mentioned, your investments might become worth substantially more or less than the cash you originally paid for them. But you can sell your investments to turn them back into cash any time you want — just give it a couple days to process. (You might also owe taxes if you sell investments that have gone up in value since you bought them.)
Bottom line: Like saving, investing is a way to put aside money for the future, while still giving you pretty quick access to that money if you need it. But unlike with a savings account, investing involves risk.
So if investing involves risk, why not just save all your money instead?
We’ll tell you why: Historically, over the long term, investing has been a lot more powerful than saving. This is true because investing involves risk — people demand to be compensated for taking on the extra risk of investing their money.
Does taking a risk feel uncomfortable? We get it. But when you’re talking about your biggest money goals, like retiring, you can’t really afford not to invest. That’s because — even though some individual years were up and some years were down — over the past 91 years, the stock market has returned an annual average of 9.5%. (Timely reminder: Savings accounts = 0.09% interest. For context, inflation has historically hovered around 2%.)
To put that into context, here’s what we project could happen if someone were to save / invest $25 a month for 40 years.*
Here’s why this matters: Research shows that women keep 71% of their assets in cash, compared with 60% for men — so they could be missing out on potential investing returns. Add in things like the gender pay gap, and it’s no wonder that generally, women retire with two-thirds as much money (and worse for women of color), even though they live an average of six to eight years longer. In fact, this gender investing gap could cost women hundreds of thousands — for some women, millions — of dollars over the course of their lives.
When you should save and when you should invest
So yes, we believe you should invest. But that doesn’t mean saving isn’t sometimes the right choice. There’s a time and place for both.
Whether you save or invest has to do with two things: time and risk. If you’re planning to need your money in the next year or two, then it might make sense to save. That’s because if the investing markets took a tumble, you wouldn’t have much time to give it a chance to recover. You should also use a savings account for the money in your emergency fund — if (when) you need that money for financial emergencies, it has to be there, 100% safe and sound.
On the other hand, if you have three-plus years until you’re going to need your money, then investing can make sense instead. And the longer your timeline, the more important it is to consider investing over saving. You also might choose to invest any money that you don’t need — aka money that you just want to grow as quickly as possible (and aren’t afraid to take risk with).
Moral of the story: Put both saving and investing on your money checklist. They aren’t the same, but they’re both useful. And they’re both part of a smart, future-focused financial plan. Get started today.
If summer’s self-care mood is “treat yourself,” then fall’s self-care mood is “let’s do the damn thing.” Enter: financial self-care. Because a) summer was expensive (lookin’ at you, Charleston vacation), b) September is Self-Care Month anyway and it’s better late than never (it’s a thing, I promise) and c) getting your money stuff in order feels A-Maz-ing.
So here’s your fall financial self-care checklist. Grab your calculator & not the one on your phone because it’s probably right next to the FB button. Nope, grab a real-life 1980’s style calculator! What? You don’t have one of those? #geeksneedlovetoo Grab a calendar, a notebook, and sharp pencil or whatever it is you use to “do the damn thing” and let’s get down to it!
1. Track down your most recent pay stubs
Start by getting an understanding of how much money you have coming in each month. Grab your paycheck stubs from the past month and give them a look.
First, calculate how much you’re making after taxes — aka your take-home pay. This may or may not be equal to the final amount of your check: If you have money withheld for 401(k) contributions, insurance premiums, or other employee benefits like that, then those will come into play later. For now, just look at your gross pay minus taxes. How much take-home pay do you earn in one month?
If you get paid irregularly, like if you rely on freelance income, then this might be a bit trickier. We recommend calculating your take-home pay from the last few months and then taking an average.
2. Get to know your current spending habits
Next, pull up your debit and credit card statements and look through your past few months of purchases. Categorize them into three buckets: needs (groceries, rent, etc), fun (eating out, buying things you wanted, etc), and “Future You” (saving, investing, and debt payments beyond the minimums).
This is where those paycheck withholdings we mentioned above come in. Any 401(k) contributions you’re making go in the “Future You” bucket, and insurance premiums go in the needs bucket. You can categorize any other withholdings however makes sense — for example, a public transit benefit might go in needs, and a gym membership might go in fun.
Finally, add them all up. How much are you spending on each bucket per month? There are no wrong answers — this exercise isn’t meant to make you feel guilty, it’s just to see where you’re starting from today.
3. Set a goal for your future spending habits
Now it’s time to make a plan. We like the 50/30/20 rule, which is a high-level framework for organizing your spending. It uses the same buckets we mentioned above. Traditionally, following the 50/30/20 rule means 50% of your take-home pay will go to needs, 30% will go to fun, and 20% will to Future You.
But those percentages might not be realistic for you — which is why step two on this list was so important. Based on your spending habits today, set yourself a realistic goal for tomorrow. Maybe it’s 70/20/10, or 60/20/20, or 80/15/5. It’s flexible.
Even if you can only put 1% to Future You, start there. Over time, you can work on trimming expenses or boosting your income so that you can increase that percentage over time.
4. Take the next step with your 401(k)
Two things, specifically. First, if your employer offers a 401(k) employer match but you aren’t taking full advantage of it, then sign up and start contributing enough to get the full match. That’s free money, y’all.
Second, if you have an old 401(k) or two (or however many) from a previous employer just chillin’ out there, think about rolling it over. You could roll it over into your new employer’s plan if they let you, or an IRA. Either way, it can be super helpful to get everything in one place. (PS: This isn’t as much of a process as it might seem. When you start a rollover with Ellevest, we’ll guide you through the steps.)
5. Prioritize your debt payments
Being in debt — credit cards, student loans, personal loans, etc — doesn’t feel good. But paying your debt off does. The fastest way to do it is to pay more than the minimum required payments if you can. That will also save you money because the longer you take to pay debt off, the more interest you’ll owe.
So if you have debt and can make extra payments, the next step is to figure out which debt you want to focus on first. There are two popular strategies: To start with the balance that has the highest interest rate, or to start with the balance that has the smallest outstanding balance. Here’s some more info on those two methods and how to put them into practice.
6. Set an emergency fund target
Financial emergencies are a fact of life. Cars need repairs. People (and pets) get sick. Phones and computers break. This is why building an emergency fund is a big part of getting your financial life in a stable place.
We typically recommend saving between three and six months’ worth of your take-home pay. (Here’s how to decide exactly how much is right for you.) That might sound like a lot, but it’s totally OK to start small and work your way up over time. But today, your goal is just to figure out how much you want to aim for. Maybe, if you don’t have high-interest debt, you even open an account and make your first deposit.
7. Start investing toward your goals
If you’ve finished the first six steps of this checklist — first of all, you’re crushing it. Keep the momentum going by starting to prioritize and invest toward your long-term money goals. Goals like ramping up your retirement contributions, or like buying a home or starting a business.
Financial self-care checklist complete. Now light an apple-scented candle, put some chili on the stove, and enjoy the fall vibes.
Are you ready to start investing in yourself? Start here!
“I’m excited to work with Ellevest to start conversations about women and money. If you become a client, I will be compensated.”
Investing consistently is the very best thing you can do for your future you. I get it the struggle is real! There are so many things vying for our attention that it’s easy to put things off or forget about them completely. Your future will be here before you know it. Believe me, I woke up & found myself at 49! How the hell did I get here so quickly?
Your future you will thank you for taking the time today to plan for tomorrow. What do you want to be or do when you grow up?
Do you want to:
Travel the world
Open a restaurant
Pay for your kids to go to college
Live your future life comfortably
If you answer yes to any of these things then you need to come up with a plan now rather than later.
MAKE IT A HABIT
Investing consistently, a bit out of every paycheck, is powerful. There’s the plain and simple fact that you’re building up your wealth, deposit by deposit. And if you put it on autopilot, there’s the whole “out of sight, out of mind” thing.
There’s another reason why the practice of consistent investing has historically been good for investors. And it’s so compelling that it even has a name:
Boring term. But a BFD for your bottom line.
Dollar-cost averaging is investing a consistent dollar amount at regular intervals of time, no matter what’s going on in the market. Example: a $100 recurring deposit into your investment account every month.
Why Does It Matter?
Ellevest says investors want returns. And some investors, in an attempt to earn as much in returns as possible, make a grave mistake: attempting to “time the market.” They think they can guess what will happen next, and try to “buy low” and “sell high.”
That means you’re inevitably going to feel it on days when the market goes down. Bummer, yes, but it’s not all dark and gloomy. Here’s why: When the market’s down, that $100 deposit will get you more shares of stock. (That’s why you might hear people say that the markets are “on sale.”)
Say the market was humming along, then plummeted, and then started to come back up.
Here’s what would happen if you were to keep investing consistently the whole time:
And here’s what would happen if you were to keep your money in a bank account while the market was down and then invest what you’d saved once it started to come back up:
In the first example, while your investments did lose value temporarily, it worked out pretty well for you after the market rebounded. In the second example, you missed out.
Back to real life. By using dollar-cost averaging, you take your own emotions (aka an investor’s worst enemy) out of the equation. You get rid of the risky guesswork, make investing a solid habit, and give yourself the opportunity to grow your net worth steadily over time. Pretty compelling reasons to invest regularly, right?
Here’s a compelling reason why “regularly” should start … right now.