From taking a look at your spending habits to understanding how women need to set themselves up for self-sufficiency at the end of their lives, Girl Scout alum Sallie Krawcheck shares her best advice for performing your own financial checkup during these challenging times. Sallie—who has fond memories of her time as a Brownie in Charleston, South Carolina—is the Founder and CEO of Ellevest, a financial services company she designed to support women’s unique financial needs.
“Even if it is just a little bit out of every paycheck, investing really is the way to drive wealth,” she explains.
Read on for her tips and tricks on how to take a step back and reset with regards to your money.
- Give your retired self a name.
Spare some time to think about the needs of future you, Sallie advises. And, since women are famously better at taking care of others than taking care of themselves, Sallie suggests giving your retired self a name so that you can best look out for your interests after retirement.
“My future me is Esther. And I think about Esther—she’s in her 80s, and she’s the fun grandma, and she doesn’t need anything from her kids. She’s passing out presents to her grandkids and going to Paris. I have to take care of Esther because her husband may not be there at the end, so it helps to picture her. And by doing this, by taking care of your future self, it is a gift to your kids. They won’t have to take care of you.”
- Take a close look at your monthly spending.
This is important whether you’ve lost your job or you’re just preparing for the future. “What are you spending on that’s not meaningful to you? How much are we spending on new clothes and dining out or ordering in? It’s a good time to reset with regards to your spending.”
Sallie advises that, from every paycheck, 50 percent should go to your needs (rent, gas, food, clothing, etc.); 30 percent should go to fun; and 20 percent should go to future you (paying down debt, investing in a diversified investment portfolio). You can drop the 30 percent for fun down to 15 percent in lean times.
- Eliminate the credit card debt.
“Move all debt to a 0 percent introductory offer, so that you’re not paying interest as you pay down your debt. In the future, start to set yourself up so that if you can’t pay off the credit card debt at the end of the month, you don’t make the purchase.”
- Ask for lower rates.
If you find yourself in a place where paying all of your bills is a challenge, ask everyone from your student loan department to your landlord to lower your rates, suggests Sallie. “Do what you can to get your expenses down.”
- Build up your savings.
Regardless of your job situation, you want to take the time to grow an emergency fund that is three to six months of your take-home pay. For most people in a relationship, they’ll need to work together to build and maintain this nest egg.
The good news? Research shows that the more couples talk about money, the happier they are.
“Money is such a taboo topic that discussing it often reflects a real partnership,” Sallie explains.
- Focus on investing for your future.
“Recognize that as women we will—at the end of our lives—likely need to be taking care of ourselves,” Sallie observes. “Women live six to eight years longer than our male partners, and half of all marriages end in divorce. As a result, 80 percent of us die single. If we outsource our money management to our partners, when it comes back to us, 74 percent of us have a negative surprise.”
Knowing this, Sallie believes it’s important to control your own finances throughout your adult life. “They call it an individual retirement account for a reason,” she says.
- Remember that real estate as a pure investment is a weaker choice than equity.
“On average real estate has not been as attractive an investment as the stock market. Historically, the stock market has increased 9.7 percent annually on average from the mid-1920s to today,” she notes.
“Some years have been a lot better and some years have been a lot worse. Real estate has gone up on average 3 percent since the 1920s. The other issue is that to buy a home you have to take out a mortgage. Therefore, you’ve added debt. It’s also not what we call ‘liquid.’”
- Know that all past economic downturns have eventually turned around.
“It’s human nature to remember pain,” Sallie explains, adding that she believes in the resilience of the stock market. “Investing in a stock market has been an enormous driver of wealth creation.
“The secret is called compounding,” she says. “It’s almost a snowball effect. Wealth begets wealth. If you leave it, it grows on itself.”
For lifetime members, we’ve rolled out a suite of discounts on brands founded by women, many of whom are alums who applied the skills they learned in Girl Scouts to entrepreneurial opportunities as adults. Sallie Krawcheck’s company, Ellevest, is one of those brands. Learn more about this—and the other benefits of lifetime membership —now.