As women, it’s incredibly important that we make our finances an absolute top priority.
Compared to men, we live longer, earn less and are far more financially impacted by divorce and widowhood. As I write in my book, “Psych Yourself Rich,” one of the keys to effectively managing our money is developing simple habits that will empower us to make the best financial choices—habits like checking your bank balance daily and having a “money buddy” with whom you can share your financial goals. One other positive habit—chiming in with this month’s theme of health and wellness—is to give yourself a financial check-up at least once or twice a year to ensure you’re still on the right track.
Here are three areas you want to review:
Goals. When you visit the doctor for an annual check-up, she’ll usually start by taking your pulse and listening to your heartbeat, right? Well, in a way, our goals serve as the heartbeat of our finances. They drive and influence so many decisions that it’s important to begin your financial check-up here. Take time this month to review your aspirations. Are they same as when the year began? Do you still share the same goals as your partner? If you’ve lost your sense of direction, it’s never too late to recommit and get back on track.
Credit. What’s your credit score? It’s critical to find out, especially if you plan to be in the market for a loan or credit card any time soon. Lenders and creditors review our credit score—a number generally between 300 and 850—to determine our eligibility for loans and to determine how high (or low) of an interest rate to attach to those loans. The higher your score, the better terms and interest rates you’ll likely get. You can find out your true credit score at myFico.com. It costs about $20, but it is well worth the price. If you’re simply curious, you can get ballpark estimates of your score for free through sites like Credit.com and Quizzle.com. Your credit report, meantime, can be obtained for free once a year at annualcreditreport.com.
Savings. How much is in your bank account? Do you have enough saved where if you lost your job tomorrow you could manage just fine in case of an emergency? Keep in mind that the average length of unemployment has increased to about 40 weeks, according to the Labor Department. That’s approximately 10 months without a paycheck. In that kind of situation your rainy day account will literally be your saving grace.
Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance journalist, author and TV personality. The New York Times calls her advice “perfectly practical.” She is the author of the new book, “Psych Yourself Rich: Get The Mindset & Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life.” She’ll lead a workshop at the 2011 Pennsylvania Conference for Women titled “Psych Yourself Rich: Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life.”