Come up with your own answers—then follow them yourself. “We tell our kids to save 25% for rainy days, but then we spend 125% of our own paychecks before we get them,” says St. Louis, who advises women to follow the advice given to her by her grandmother: always use cash and avoid racking up credit card bills. “I learned at an early age that if something costs more than my cash will cover then I probably don’t need it anyway,” says St. Louis. “If it’s worth having I’ll save up for it.”
Advocate for yourself just as you would for others. Awaken your alpha female by discussing financial decisions with spouses and/or partners; educating yourself before purchasing cars, homes, and other big-ticket items; and learning as much as you can about investing and retirement. “Get to the point where you are meaningfully engaged in the conversation and engrossed in the situation, not just standing on the fringe,” Young says.
If bringing up financial topics with your spouse is uncomfortable, stick to the facts and keep emotions out of the conversations, says Young, who works with a high percentage of male clients who not only exclude their wives from important financial issues, but who also retain numerous assets in their own names.
Avoid this trap by advocating on your own behalf. Demand to be included in meetings with financial planners or investment professionals; ask questions and give input on big-ticket purchases; and develop your own vision for wealth and retirement. Use resources such as Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, Women’s Institute for Financial Education, or Citigroup Inc.’s Women & Co. to educate yourself. Then sit down and discuss your vision, questions, and concerns with your spouse.
If, for example, you see that 70% of your portfolio comprises equities, and if you’re unsure of exactly what that means, take the time to study up on equities and on proper portfolio balancing. “Educate yourself to the point where you can have a meaningful conversation with your husband,” says Young, who has served as a mediator for many couples in such situations. “Get engaged in the situation and be ready to contribute.”