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Opinion: How to take charge of your finances

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Women hold significant power when it comes to wealth; however, the majority of married women worldwide still defer long-term financial decisions to their spouses.

According to a study by Boston College's Center on Wealth and Philanthropy, women are set to inherit 70% of the $41 trillion in intergenerational wealth transfers expected over the next 40 years. Still, women across generations, tend to let men control the household finances, according to the Pew Research Center. Women can take a more active role in their household's financial decisions and investment choices.

Women have different interests, concerns and responsibilities, and we want to help women figure out how to balance all of these considerations so they can be as successful as possible. Here are six key financial takeaways and observations that will help guide women to take charge of their finances.

Relationships are key
Get to know your banker or adviser just as you would a friend or co-worker. Your banker should work to gain your trust and get to know what’s important to you, what you value, your goals and your family’s dynamics. Bankers want their clients to trust that they have their individual and family’s best interest at heart with everything they do. Check to see if your banker or adviser is a fiduciary. If they are, that means that they’re legally obligated to act in your best interest and look out for what matters to you.

Don’t fear “what ifs”
Many women say they they’re nervous to start the planning process because they’re afraid of the “what ifs.” What if I haven’t planned well enough for retirement? What if I haven’t diversified my portfolio enough? Ninety percent of women, according to a Gender Gap in Financial Literacy study. are going to be solely responsible for their own, or their family’s, finances at some point. Divorce and death are common reasons. If this happens, you want to surround yourself with a good team. To gain financial independence, it’s imperative to open up about planning. It’s OK to ask for help and it’s OK to be uncomfortable and ask the hard questions. You adviser or banker will help you through these concerns, clarify your financial goals and put an action plan in place. The important word here is action: Nothing matters until you act.

Create open dialogue
Making yourself available helps open a dialogue about financial planning. You also should open the line of communication with your spouse or partner. Ask your partner to discuss the current budget, the inflows and outflows of money, and the titling of the accounts. You should understand who you need to reach out to should there be a life event and the steps you need to take.

Women invest differently
Women tend to invest differently than men. According to research conducted by The Philanthropic Initiative in 2016, 79% of women are interested in making socially responsible investments, and they often turn to ESG strategies to do that. ESG stands for environmental, social and governance; you can think about investing in companies. This type of investing gives individuals a chance to align their investment portfolio with causes they’re passionate about.

Think about the family
When it comes to estate planning, women often focus on the caregiving aspect of either their kids or their parents and how that fits into their financial plan. This can become a primary planning issue and very important in the way women manage and approach money. Sometimes, it’s difficult to get the older generation to open up about their financial situation, but an adviser can help you have those tough conversations about care so that the whole family knows the whole story and money wishes ahead of time. Start the conversation earlier rather than later.

Children also typically mirror their parents’ financial habits. Children benefit from parents integrating positive financial experiences sooner rather than later. It’s important to talk to your kids about savings, investing basics and having financial goals.

Having a conversation and opening up about your financial goals with a banker or adviser and your partner builds a solid foundation to take control of your finances. Know your accounts, your beneficiaries and savings goals – and revisit every year to make adjustments. Understand and voice what’s important to you in both investing and estate planning. By having a good team and plan in place, you can be ready to take control of your finances.

Shelly Addington is a senior vice president in private wealth management for UMB Bank in Springfield. She can be reached at shelly.addington@umb.com.

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