By Gwenn Voelckers
Well, tis’ the season . . . the tax season that is.
This time of year always reminds me how important it is for those living alone to take responsibility for their financial health.
The fear of ending up “alone and penniless” is a seemingly universal fear shared by many women (and some men) who are divorced or widowed in mid-life, either by choice or by chance.
It certainly was the case for me.
While shared responsibility for financial matters is becoming more common these days, it is still true that in many marriages the men pull the purse strings and manage the financial decision-making.
It’s the “way it was” for many traditional couples, when the man was the primary bread winner, but it’s also the “way it is” for more progressive couples who simply want to divide and conquer when it comes to managing household responsibilities.
Problem is, once a spouse is out of the financial loop, he or she often remains uninvolved for the long haul, which can put them at a real disadvantage. Their knowledge of and self-confidence around money matters becomes very diminished.
Simply put, when one spouse controls the finances, the other can be left in a vulnerable position if and when the marriage ends.
I consulted with my financial adviser and together we identified a few essential steps to help those flying solo to gain control of their money and make progress toward financial autonomy:
Come out from under the covers.
Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to financial management. Women, and men alike, need to find the courage to get “up close and personal” with their financial circumstances. I avoided looking into my financial mirror for years until the fear of not doing anything was greater than the fear of facing reality.
Fear, in my case, turned out to be a blessing in disguise — a real motivator. It prompted me to get my act together and seek help. There’s no time like the present to take charge of your money and your destiny.
Find your stuff.
David Bach, renowned financial expert and best-selling financial author, says it best: “Getting organized is one of the keys to financial security. It begins with finding your stuff.” Before you can plan your financial future, you need to figure out where you stand financially in the present. It starts with gathering together all your financial documents in one place.
I cleared out a file drawer in my desk, purchased new hanging file folders, and started labeling the files according to the instructions in David Bach’s book titled, “Smart Women Finish Rich.” It didn’t take as long as I thought it would and I felt a great sense of accomplishment once I had everything collected together.
And guess what? This simple step helped me feel in more control. Almost immediately, my fears began to lessen.
Get help, if you need it.
Once I had my “stuff” organized, I was in a much better position to make sense of my financial situation. I continued to work through Bach’s book, but I found I needed more — I needed a real, live person to help me take the next step and make more progress.
That’s when I engaged the help of a financial representative who helped me align my spending, saving and investing with my needs and priorities. He’s been an invaluable coach and motivator.
If you are like me, you may benefit from engaging a professional. If you are more self-directed and inclined to educate yourself on money matters, there are excellent resources out there in books, magazines and on the web.
Peace of mind and a sense of empowerment are the rewards for women and men who get their financial house in order. Solid information, personal discipline and good help from a trusted adviser can turn financial uncertainty into financial security.
With increased self-confidence and awareness, you can better protect your future and more fully embrace the pleasures of living alone . . . with a little left over to splurge on something special just for you!
Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of “Live Alone and Thrive”, empowerment workshops for women held throughout the year in Mendon, New York. For information contact Gwenn. To speak, call (585) 624-7887 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.