In an unpredictable economy marked by ongoing layoffs and inflation, women across all generations may feel as though reaching their financial goals is a journey riddled with roadblocks.
No matter the kinds of goals women have, generations they belong to or personal situations they are in, women can reach these goals and achieve financial freedom. Some steps to get there are tried and true strategies that can help keep budgets and bills in shape. Others depend on sticking to plans and staying accountable. Follow these steps to save money in 2023 and reach your financial goals.
Write Down Your Goals
Write out your goals for the year. If you’re not sure what you should strive toward, Dr. Megan Ford, Ph.D. and financial therapist at Stackin, recommends setting a values-based, detailed goal.
“Instead of saying, ‘I want to save more money,'” she said, “use a template like this as an example: ‘I want to begin saving $100 a month for a down payment on my future home in a high-yield savings account because this goal will help me meet my values of freedom, responsibility and security.'”
Jacqueline Wiggins, ChFC at MassMutual, said you should be clear about where you want to be by the end of the year. Then ask yourself whether you can realistically meet these financial goals.
“Compare your resources against your obligations and goals,” Wiggins said. “Are they sufficient? If not, adjust your goals or identify changes to increase your resources. Start here and then take consistent, actionable steps towards progress.”
Hold Yourself Accountable
You wrote down the financial goals you want to achieve in 2023. Now, you need to hold yourself accountable to achieve each one. This is the next stage in reaching your goals, said Amanda Orson, U.S. CEO of Curve.
The greatest pitfall any woman can face, regardless of financial goal, is not knowing where her money is going.
“Every dollar you earn should have a job, whether you are employing them to pay off a credit card or save for a down payment,” Orson said. “Our personal financial goals usually go off the rails when we’re unintentional with how we use our money.”
Once your goals are in place, Orson recommends having an intention for every dollar that comes into your life. Then, employ it accordingly.
Pay Yourself First
This is the first rule of saving, according to Jenna Biancavilla, wealth advisor and owner of Pearl Capital Management.
Paying yourself first sweeps a dollar amount, or percentage, into an out-of-reach savings account (a high-yield account is recommended) each time you get paid. Biancavilla said transferring money to a savings account first is the forcing mechanism necessary to ensure saving money.
If you’re worried you may forget to save this money on your own, Ford recommends setting up an automatic transfer to your savings account. This funnels money directly to your financial goals and avoids some of the barriers that can get in the way.
Those who achieve the goal of saving for an emergency often default to retirement as the next thing to save for. Biancavilla said this is where planning is important.
“Saving just to have money is rarely effective,” Biancavilla said. “However, saving to achieve your goal of homeownership, starting a business or financial freedom is empowering. Once you know your goal and priorities, you will have a guiding compass to help shape your spending habits.”
Take Advantage of Resources at Work
What kinds of resources does your employer offer to help you reach financial goals?
Kathryn Wakefield, JD and CLU with MassMutual, recommends that women take advantage of benefits offered at work. Some may include a company match for retirement savings. If offered, open a health savings account. Save pretax for medical expenses and invest the savings — this can add up over time.
Save 15% of Your Gross Income for Retirement
How much should women put toward retirement? Nicole K. Scanlon, managing director of family wealth management at Olson Wealth Group, said you should aim to save 15% of your gross income.
If this is not possible, Scanlon recommends striving to reach the employer match.
“If an employer offers a 6% match, for example,” Scanlon said, “make it a goal to save at least this amount so you are not leaving free employer match savings on the table.”
From there, Scanlon recommends revisiting your 401(k) contributions at the beginning of each year and increasing them by 1% or 2% until you reach 15% of gross income.
Stick to Your Budget
Pay yourself first and spend second is the recommendation of Erin Voisin, CFP, wealth management services at EP Wealth Advisors.
Expenses are within your control, said Voisin, who recommends looking for opportunities to save or negotiate bills, mapping out what meals you want to cook through meal planning and getting smart about when to run your major appliances.
“Call your respective utility companies — power, gas and water — and find out the times of day when the rate is lowest,” Voisin said. “Be strategic about running your dishwasher, washing machine, dryer and sprinklers.”
What Should Women Experiencing Layoffs Do?
Many women may be experiencing layoffs or feeling vulnerable to the possibility. Biancavilla shares a financial planning guide that can help women feel more protected and prepared and still on track to reach financial goals in 2023:
- Take inventory of your emergency funds.
- Make an essential expenses list. Biancavilla said you can calculate how long your emergency funds can cover these expenses and reduce where feasible.
- What about insurance? If possible, Biancavilla recommends getting medical work done and utilizing FHA funds ahead of losing benefits. “Consider life insurance and disability insurance outside of employer benefits,” Biancavilla said, “and know your health insurance options.”
- Make a plan for stock options, if applicable.
- Utilize the lower income year for tax-planning advantages, such as Roth conversions.
- Consult with a debt counselor prior to utilizing 401(k), IRA or other retirement accounts to pay for debts and essential expenses.
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