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Tips for women to close the confidence gap and reach financial goals

March 10, 2015

By Pam Leibfried

Sunday, March 8, was International Women’s Day!

Last month, a new study about women and personal finances was released by Fidelity. The results of the survey, the Fidelity Investments Money FIT Women Study, were not at all surprising to me. Two of the key findings were that many women don’t feel confident about their finances and they generally don’t feel comfortable discussing money publically because it is “too personal” to share.

Close the confidence gap

Author David Bach, who has written extensively about women and personal finance, has used the old trope about men not wanting to stop and ask for directions to explain why the “confidence gap” between men and women might not really indicate that women are significantly less informed than men. I think his analogy is fitting because studies have shown that women have more of a tendency to underestimate their knowledge when asked to rate their expertise on a given topic. So how can we gain some self-confidence about our finances?

  • Learn more about financial topics. There are myriad sources for personal finance and investment information that are now literally at our fingertips. 
  • Read Alliant’s blog. We cover personal finance topics relevant to our membership, sharing smart money tips and information on how to optimize your financial life. 
  • Follow personal finance or investment publications on social media channels like Twitter and Facebook. 
  • Subscribe to weekly Google Alerts on topics you want to learn about: “personal finance,” “retirement investments,” or a specific financial product like mutual funds or Roth IRAs. Then whenever you have a few minutes to kill, you can read an article about that topic. 
  • Attend personal finance webinars, many of which are offered free of charge. In-person seminars are often available locally, sponsored by financial literacy organizations, credit unions or civic organizations.

The goal is not that you become the ultimate guru on the topic, but that you learn enough to feel comfortable about your knowledge level and to make smart, informed decisions about your financial future. 

Be more open about discussing finances

When I suggest that you might want to talk about money with family and friends, I’m obviously not advocating sharing your bank account and 401(k) balances on Facebook or in a family Christmas letter! Instead, think about being a bit less secretive about money. Judiciously sharing some information with trustworthy friends and relatives, especially those who you know have similar financial issues, can be helpful.

  • Solve problems. Finding out that others are in the same boat as you – or getting advice on how they have already worked their way back onto solid financial ground – can be a huge relief if you are struggling financially. If you know that your college sorority sisters feel like they are drowning in student loan debt just like you, talking about it could be helpful to all of you. 
  • Achieve goals. Even if you’re not struggling with major financial problems, working toward a goal with girlfriends or cousins who have similar financial needs can help make your goals easier to achieve. Maybe you have a group of girlfriends who all had children around the same time as you and are trying to fund college savings accounts. 
  • Get yourself a “money buddy.” Just as you can reduce debt by having a “debt buddy” to go through the process with – sharing tactics and tips, discussing your progress and keeping one another accountable and on track – you could work with a friend on budgeting, savings and other financial goals. For example, my best friend and I have discussed doing a “financial fast” together, during which we would follow a strict spending plan that eliminates non-essential expenses for a set period of time. We discussed how it could help us be more mindful of the money we currently spend (waste?) on discretionary expenses. This increased awareness of our spending could help us reduce it and increase our savings after the fast is over.