Save On Your Own Terms
From my vantage point, when it comes to money, women tend to lack confidence in their ability to do the right thing. If you're not in control of your money, you can't be in control of your life. So, starting right now, your goal is to be a woman who owns the power to control her financial destiny. Here's how:
Don't panic. When the topic turns to money, so many women fall into a horrible default mode of "I can't do this" or "I don't know what to do." I want you to commit to one month of telling yourself, "Yes, I can." That crucial change in attitude is the first step.
Tap into your intuition. You trust yourself on so many levels, so why not when it comes to money? When you're pondering a financial decision, step back for a moment and ask yourself one simple question: Does it feel right? The answer, if you're being honest with yourself, is more valuable than what anyone else has to say. And always remember, you should never have to talk yourself into trusting anyone. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.
Learn the basics. You don't need advanced math skills or a business degree to get up to speed on managing your money. Easy-to-follow tutorials are available for free on the websites of personal finance magazines such as SmartMoney, Money, and Kiplinger's. (Go to www.smartmoney.com/university, money.cnn.com/pf/101 or www.kiplinger.com/basics.)
Cover yourself. Commit to building an emergency savings fund that will eventually cover eight months' living expenses. Pay off any lingering credit card balances by sending in extra payments on the card with the highest interest rate. Invest enough in your company's 401(k) to get the maximum match; if there's a life cycle or target retirement fund available, that's an easy solution. Fund a Roth IRA if you're eligible (individuals with modified adjusted gross income below $101,000 in 2008 can invest the full $5,000; if you're over 50, it's $6,000). Never cosign a loan. Learn to say no out of love rather than yes out of fear. Do all of these, and you're off to a solid start.