Getting Started: Take Small Steps To Get Financial Life On Track

By Carolyn Bigda
Chicago Tribune.

What financial planning would you do if you could spare 60 minutes in your day? That was the question Fidelity Investments posed to women (as well as men) in a survey in October.

Among the 500 women who responded, 42 percent said they would work on a budget to reduce debt or find new ways to save. Nearly a quarter said they’d learn how to become a better investor.

Finding those 60 minutes, however, can be a challenge. Fidelity found that nearly 1 in 4 women were not involved with financial decision-making in their households.

Financial advisers stress the importance of getting women to take an active role in managing money. Women, for one, tend to live longer than men and so may need to fund a longer retirement. According to the latest data from the Census Bureau, a 25-year-old woman in 2008 had an average life expectancy of 81 years, four years more than her male counterpart.

But many women still lack confidence about how to plan for the future.

The latest findings from a biennial study done by insurance company Prudential Financial show women today are less worried about their financial security than they were immediately after the financial crisis in 2008. However, women do not feel equipped to make smart financial-planning decisions. (The survey was conducted in April, and results are based on responses from a little more than 1,400 women.)

Take retirement: Three-quarters of women in the Prudential survey say saving enough money to maintain their lifestyle in retirement is very important to them, but only 14 percent are very confident they will achieve that goal.

A lack of disposable income was cited as one of the biggest impediments to meeting long-term goals, but so was a lack of time available to spend on financial planning.

Which circles back to the Fidelity survey and the kind of financial planning you’d do in 60 minutes. Tackling money chores a little bit at a time can lead to big results, Fidelity says. And there are plenty of suggestions about what to do first. To help you get started, check out the following: Fidelity has put together a quiz that can help prioritize which parts of your financial life need attention first. If you’re spending less than you make, for example, you may be able to skip budgeting. Not contributing to your 401(k) plan at work? Then use your 60 minutes to do some retirement planning.

To find the quiz, go to The Women’s Institute for Financial Education has long advocated breaking up financial planning into manageable increments. Its Small Steps program offers daily suggestions about what you can do in five minutes (say, set up automatic contributions to your savings account), 10 minutes (figure out how to get more sleep, so you can make better money decisions), and 15 minutes (write down a long-term goal and ideas for how to achieve it).

To find the daily small steps, go to

-Use an app. There are plenty of apps that will help you work toward money goals, from budgeting to tracking your retirement portfolio.

Consider Level Money, a free app that can be downloaded on iPhone and Android devices. Level connects to bank and credit card accounts to track your spending. The app calculates your disposable income by day, week and month, increments that are easy for you to digest.

It’s only a small part of your financial planning, but it’s a start and takes less than 60 minutes.

Break down big financial goals into bite-size pieces.
Carolyn Bigda writes Getting Started for the Chicago Tribune

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