Women's Wealth: why it's important and how to get there

When it comes to wages, there’ no denying that women have been getting the short end of the stick, but the fact that most women earn less than men doesn’t mean they cannot get ahead. How much money you make isn’t the only factor in gaining financial security. More important than how much money you earn is how much money you keep in your pocket. Financial security isn’t about getting rich quick; it’s about a long term, steady commitment to your own financial health.

Here are 6 tips to help you on your way to a healthy financial future.

1. Lower your credit card debt

Why it’s important: Lowering your monthly credit card and personal loan payments reduces stress and gives you more income for good debt, like buying a house, or financing your education. How to do it: If you aren’t too far in the hole, pay off credit card debt sooner rather than later. Contact your creditors and negotiate payment terms you can afford. If you are overwhelmed with credit card or personal loan debt, find an agency that can help you with debt restructuring. “You don’t have to go straight to bankruptcy to get out of debt. There are other options,” says Leah Crawford from Abakhan & Associates in Vernon. One option is a Consumer proposal which must be done by a licensed Trustee or other designated administrator of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy. Leah explains, ”The terms of a consumer proposal are limited only by the imagination of you and your Trustee. The key is to ensure your creditors will receive more than they would if you claimed bankruptcy. As soon as an offer is made to your creditors, interest stops accruing.” That means more money in your pocket and is the first step to strong financial health.

2. Save a little / Invest a little

Why it’s important: When your paycheque doesn’t cut the mustard, it might seem like an outrageous suggestion to save money, but you don’t have to save a lot to reap big rewards down the road. How to do it: The truth is if you commit to put a dollar a day into savings, you won’t even miss it. If you do that consistently from the age of thirty-five to sixty-five, your $365 annual deposit will have grown to about $26,000 in savings * based on 5% interest. Increase your commitment to save $2/day and you will have $50,000 by the time you are 65. Now imagine that every once in a while you added a little more to your savings plan; say you put in half of any extra or unexpected money you receive into your savings – e.g. half of your tax refund, half of the money you received as a Christmas gift. That’s all it takes to have a tidy nest egg for retirement.

3. Purchase your own home Why it’s Important: Owning a home builds equity and credit. How to do it: Home ownership may seem like a pipe dream for many women whose wages often aren’t high enough to debt service (qualify for) a mortgage. You may need to be creative. Tami bought her first home when she was 21. A single mom earning only slightly over minimum wage she could not qualify for a mortgage on her own. “I was able to show my parents that the mortgage payments were about the same as rent payments. They knew I was very responsible with money, so they agreed to attach their names to the house with me. The house was in all our names but for all intents and purposes it was my home and my responsibility. Essentially, I used their credit and their income to buy my first home.” A mortgage broker can give you tips on how to qualify for an affordable mortgage.

4. Be an entrepreneur Why it’s Important: Build a business that you will be able to sell in the future. If you aren’t earning as much as you’d like at your 9-5 job, consider going into business for self. It’s not the kind of decision you can make lightly; self-employment will mean longer hours and more stress than bringing home a regular paycheque, but the rewards can be huge for someone with the stamina and commitment it takes to succeed. It’s possible to build a business that will earn you a decent living – all the while building value that you can one day sell. How to do it: Check out the federal government’s Self-Employment Program. It offers the entrepreneurial training and advice that makes starting a business so much easier and ups your odds of success. The Self-Employment Program usually offers training in basic business skills, like making a business plan, bookkeeping, budgeting and marketing ideas.

5. Get an education Why it’s Important: Education has often been touted as the most promising way out of poverty. Education broadens your horizons, and is very likely to give you a new world view. Whether you choose to learn a trade or attend university, education will change your life. How to do it: If you don’t have the funds for tuition and living expenses while attending post-secondary education, apply for a student loan. That’s an investment in your future.

6. Don’t go it alone!

Why it’s important: Two incomes are better than one. Having the emotional and financial support of another person while you pursue your career or education can make the difference between struggling a lot and struggling a little. Find a life partner and if that’s not your thing, get a roommate. Sharing expenses like rent and utilities puts money in your pocket that you can use to invest.

How to do it: Nope. Not gonna tell you. There are some things you have to figure out for yourself.

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