Five Steps to Overcome Your Financial Insecurities

A new nationwide survey from MORE and Citi makes it clear that financial insecurity is contributing to the Mommy Wars. Linda Descano, President and CEO of Citi’s Women & Co., offers five tips for increasing financial confidence

by Linda Descano • President and CEO, Women & Co.
linda descano image
Photograph: Linda Descano

As I mentioned in my recent post, Moms, Work and Parenting: Making Peace with the “War,” Women & Co. recently partnered with More magazine to examine what's really behind the so-called "mommy wars" – and to use those insights to shift the conversation to how moms in all situations (and women in general) can work together towards a solution.

In a nutshell, what we learned was that money, men and our own insecurities fuel the tension.  Not surprising given my "day job" at Citi, we at Women & Co. zeroed in on the findings related to finances. For the full scoop on the More/Citi survey results, check out Kate Hanley’s Money, Work, and Parenting: What Moms Really Think article for Women & Co. and you absolutely must read More deputy editor Jennifer Braunschweiger's poignant, thoughtful essay in the April issue.

When it comes to money, we learned that one's sense of financial security was a key factor in their perception of the “working mom” vs. "stay-at-home mom" conflict:  Moms who considered themselves financially insecure reported feeling more tension than those who were financially secure. Interestingly, stay-at-home moms were much more likely to describe themselves as financially secure than working moms: 29% vs. 19%; and how financially secure respondents felt also correlated to how secure they felt in their relationships. 

Against that backdrop, what we at Women & Co. felt that we could contribute were tips to help moms – and quite frankly, anyone – tackle their own underlying financial insecurities, resentments and regrets and move themselves and their families forward with greater financial confidence, control and purpose. The five tips presented below were curated from our ongoing virtual listening tour with women – and a few intrepid men! – across all walks of life.

1. Take ownership and steer, rather than drift.  Don’t put your finances on autopilot: life is unpredictable, so if you’re not steering the ship, you’re more likely to get tossed around.  Regardless of who’s the breadwinner in your house, you shouldn’t abdicate all financial responsibility to a spouse or partner, either. Cultivate a solid grasp and understanding of household finances, assets and liabilities, insurance coverage, employee benefit accounts, retirement portfolios and other savings.  Know what you have and where you have it.

2. Determine your “financial Iowa.”  Set goals for where you want your family to be in 1 year, 5 years, even 20 years and then align your savings and longer term investment strategies with those goals.  And just because you are in a relationship or have a family, your individual aspirations needn’t go away.  Create three types of goals: “yours, mine, and ours,” and decide how to fit them into your plans to avoid regret or resentment down the road.

3. Plan for the unexpected.  Whether you work full-time, part-time, stay at home or work from home, it’s important to take an active role in protecting your downside. Try to keep a healthy cash cushion of at least 6-12 months of living expenses for unanticipated “oh sh**” expenses or circumstances, like a layoff or a major home repair.  Maintain appropriate insurance coverage, and keep your will, beneficiary designations and other estate planning documents up to date.

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