“It’s pretty incredible to look at a roomful of 300 women and know we’re all here to talk about money.” – Jennifer Hollett
A couple weeks ago, I MC’d Lean In To Your Financial Future, a panel discussion featuring Jackie Porter (Financial Planner at Carte Wealth Management), Jennifer Reynolds(President & CEO of Toronto Financial Services Alliance), Laura Reinholz (Director at BMO for Women), and Shannon Lee Simmons (Author of Worry Free Money), and moderated by Jennifer Hollett (Head of News at Twitter Canada). It was amazing to see hundreds of women gathered to hear a panel of experts talk about women and finances.
The audience got to listen to five articulate women discuss a topic that isn’t usually directed at the female population. What they had to say was relevant to women in all stages of life: new grads figuring out their finances for the first time, career women on mat leave thinking about the future of their finances, newly single retirees looking for ways to save, and everywoman in between.
Because they touched on so many hugely important topics, I decided to share with you 10 takeaways I felt were helpful to women in the market for a home. Because, how are you going to make your dream of buying a house come true if you don’t have your finances in order? Okay, here is my attempt at paraphrasing some of their brilliant advice:
1. Have an understanding of how much you spend each month and where your money is going.
How do you do that? By tracking your expenses. For one month, keep all your receipts (even for the small stuff – like coffee!) and record them in a spreadsheet. Because imagine, like one of Jackie Porter’s clients, you’re drinking $500 worth of lattes each month. That’s $6,000 a year—a hefty chunk of money you could be putting into a savings account instead.
2. Now that you’re clear on your monthly expenses, it’s time to budget.
If you’re too busy to add yet another task to your do-do list, or if it simply feels too overwhelming, why not let an app do the work for you? (Try Mint, it’s free… and recommended by the panelists.)
3. Once your finances become clearer to you, think about your future goals and dreams.
Pour yourself a glass of wine, grab a notebook, and imagine where you want to be in 1 year, 5 years, and when you retire. If your goal is to save for a big purchase (like a home), figure out how much you need for a downpayment, then decide what you need to save each month to get there.
4. Seek out a financial advisor that’s the right fit for you.
If coming up with a plan on your own is too stressful (the glass of wine didn’t help?), it doesn’t hurt to get a financial advisor. In fact, it will probably help a whole lot. Just make sure they have the appropriate credentials, like CFP, before moving forward. Perhaps even more importantly, make sure they were referred to you by a person you trust. That’s the best way to avoid a meeting with a financial planner who talks down to you, spends the whole time trying to sell you a product, or promises you the world. As Porter advised, “If they over-promise, run.”
“If you leave every session feeling like an idiot, that’s not your person.” – Shannon Lee Simmons
5. Don’t let social media get the better of you.
“Social media is the worst thing to happen to our bank accounts since overdraft spending,” said Simmons. Seriously, how many times have you felt the pressure to BUY just because you happened to see a Facebook friend’s new brand name shoes… or car… or cottage? So with that in mind, here’s some great advice: Stop trying to keep up with the virtual Joneses. Remind yourself that they’re only sharing the fancy photo opps—and not their credit card debt or bank statements.
6. On that note, you have the power to choose what you see in your feed.
Seek out money blogs, follow financial journalists, and like posts by financial advisors—and you’ll have curated your feed in no time. Make those Facebook algorithms work for you, not against you. (See ya, ads for products I don’t need… but reeeeally, really want!)
7. Speaking of impulse shopping, don’t make it so easy for yourself to shop online.
Remove your credit card information from online shopping sites so that you have to physically get up to find your card before making a purchase. Also, as Simmons said, avoid visiting online retailers when you are “vulnerable” – i.e., early in the morning (pre-coffee) or late at night (when you’re exhausted). You know what they say, Clear head. Strong will. Can’t lose (money). Or maybe I made that one up.
8. Make sure you “know what’s a rip-off and what’s not.”
(Another great piece of advice from Simmons.) Simply put, always do a bit of comparison shopping before making a purchase. If you tend to assume that the first price you come across is a good one, the likelihood is that it isn’t. Always check competitors’ sites, and remember that Amazon is often the cheapest option.
9. Have children? Teach them to budget from a young age.
As Jennifer Reynolds mentioned, we certainly don’t graduate from high school with a course like Budgeting 101 under our belts. It’s up to us to teach the next generation to be smart with money. One of the easiest ways to do this is to show a bit of self-constraint in front of the little ones. And learn to say no—no matter how cute they are or how many times they say “pleeease.” The best way to do this is to give children a small allowance, and let them know that they can use their own money to buy that toy or game they want so badly. They’ll either decide it’s not worth spending their hard-earned cash on, or they’ll get a lesson in How to Save.
10. Aim for financial independence.
Whether you’re single by choice or chance (that’s the name of Jackie Porter’s book, by the way!), make sure you have a financial plan in place that means you can take care of yourself if you are single now, or happen to be unexpectedly single in the future. Seeing that my mission is to empower women through real estate, this quote by Jennifer Hollett really resonated with me: “In 2018, we have choices that our mothers and grandmothers never had.” Still, did you know that, once retired, women are more likely to end up in poverty than men? That’s a problem. But now that we know about it, we have the freedom to plan appropriately.
Well, there you have it. There’s my condensed version of Finances for (Anything But) Dummies. By 2026, Canadian women will control 50% of the wealth. So let’s make sure we’re doing it right.