Don’t be afraid to invest your money and let it grow, while keeping an emergency fund just in case. Women, in particular, are lax about their financial literacy and it’s critical that women know how to make money, how to invest money and how to have money in case of an emergency.
- Learn how to invest your money and what your financial options are.
- Set up an emergency fund, so you always have money.
- Be a balanced investor is the best way to make money, don’t be too conservative or your money won’t grow!
OUR GUEST – STACY FRANCIS
Welcome to another episode of the exEXPERTS Podcast where we give you all kinds of information and tips on everything divorce. Why? We’ve lived it, so we get it! We’re Jessica and T.H.
TH: Welcome everybody to today’s podcast. We are happy to have Stacy Francis here. She is the founder of Savvy Ladies and the president of Francis Financial.
Welcome to the podcast today, Stacey.
Stacy: Thank you so much. I’m excited to be here and talk about a topic that’s dear to my heart.
Jessica: And so important for everyone in this community also. Thank you so much for sharing.
TH: Today we are going to talk about financial literacy. Stacy and I were put together through another wonderful, amazing, inspiring woman. I just have to say that the power of women supporting women, lifting women up, is one of the primary missions that we have with exExperts. That is also what started Stacy’s financial career it sounds like. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about you and how this started?
Stacy: Yeah, thank you so much. I never expected to be a financial advisor as a little girl, let alone to specialize in working with women going through divorce or women that whose husband unfortunately has passed away. But early in my life, I witnessed how devastating life could be for women who are not empowered through financial education, who didn’t have financial literacy, because I watched my grandmother feel trapped and stay in an extremely abusive marriage with my grandfather, and she never left him. She never left him. I couldn’t understand, but when I was a sophomore in college, I finally had the courage to ask her. She shared that she stayed because of the finances. She felt financially trapped in her marriage, because she didn’t have the education or the skills or the experience to deal with money. As soon as I returned to college that next semester, I immediately added a major to my current major, so I could double major and I went into finance. That was the experience that changed my entire life and drove me into the field of finance and actually what drove me to create a charity in her honor in her name, because unfortunately, the abuse ended up – she ended up passing away. This is an awful story, but what my hope and my prayer is, is that no other woman finds herself in that situation, and that’s what Savvy Ladies is all about. It’s a nonprofit to educate women about finances, and we have wonderful resources for everyone who’s listening, and all of your wonderful girlfriends, sisters, and moms that need this information too.
Jessica: What kinds of information are they finding through Savvy Ladies, and where? Are you nationwide?
Stacy: We are nationwide. What we have found, nine out of ten women are going to be the sole decision maker about their finances at one point in their life. Even if you’re happily married or get remarried, at some point, you have a 90% chance that it’s going to be just you. This is not a ‘would be nice to’ learn more about my finances, this is a ‘have to have’, a really important topic wherever you are in your life to start to get more educated about your money.
TH: Why don’t women know as much about their money as men do? Why is it just assumed that the man will take care of it, and the woman will just follow suit? That’s not the case in every relationship, but it just seems to be something that really needs to be disrupted. [Yeah] Why wouldn’t it just be a privilege to take charge of your finances and be privy to it? Why do we think we can’t handle it? What do you think?
Stacy: Well, it’s interesting because four out of five women, they admit that they have refrained from talking about money with the people who are the closest to them. The challenge that a lot of women have is that there’s a money taboo. I partially blame Emily Post for this because she was quoted in one of her books saying that one of the most distasteful things a woman could do is talk about money. Unfortunately, that very backwards thinking is still out there and we’ll talk about sex, we’ll talk about how awful our husbands – our ex husbands, we’ll talk about everything, but we won’t talk about money and because of that we often don’t have nearly as much information or experience. If you think about the first time you got behind the steering wheel of a car to learn how to drive, obviously you were frightened, and you didn’t have a whole lot of experience. Essentially, that’s what we’re asking women to do. We’re asking them to get behind the steering wheel of their finances, but they’ve had no Driver’s Ed, they’ve had no education, and they’re out there waiting for an accident. Unfortunately, it’s a financial accident, which is extremely difficult to come back from, especially if you’re going through a divorce, or you’re 100% responsible with your finances on your own.
Jessica: Where so many women, it’s exactly what we’re talking about, are afraid of it, don’t know how to get started, not comfortable talking about it, all of the things. When it comes to financial literacy, it’s amazing if we can have our daughters and the younger generations learn it growing up. But for those of us of a certain age, if it hasn’t been in your purview over the last 20 years, 30 years, where would you say would be the best place to start for financial literacy, so someone can actually start getting educated about their own situation?
Stacy: There are so many different resources, podcasts, articles, blogs, you name it, out there.
Jessica: But what’s typical of your own information? Where would you start?
Stacy: Savvy Ladies has an amazing resource, hundreds of TED Talk-like videos of anything you can imagine on your finances that you can listen to while you’re jogging, while you’re driving, and we also have a great blog. What’s really powerful is that we have the only financial helpline in the country. And again, I want to tell you, the only financial helpline in the country, it’s all pro bono, we’re a 501(c) (3) and we will match you up with a certified financial planner, a divorce financial analyst, a money coach, whoever is the right person that you need to work with, to work free of charge for an hour with you. It’s an amazing resource and there’s no downside, because they are not able to work with you in a professional capacity, meaning that if they are a financial advisor in their day job like I am, I can’t work with you. It’s truly about giving back. It’s a wonderful resource where you can get information about the topics that are most important to you, but then you can get one on one support for that. But what does that really mean for me? Because that’s one of the biggest challenges that we as women have. We’re not cookie cutter, right? Every person has a different situation and you can listen to a podcast, you can listen to this podcast, which is great, but then it’s the: but what about my personal situation, right?
Jessica: Right, totally. And so is it that someone needs to first learn about how to budget? Is it that they have to learn how to manage their household expenses? Is it that they have to crunch the numbers of what’s coming in? I just feel like I happen to be, I’m proud to say I’m pretty financially literate, so I’m able to manage my own expenses. I’ve definitely been for years in that position of having to be the one to make those decisions. But I feel like for a lot of women that the whole idea is so overwhelming, that even where they’re knowing they can listen to a podcast or even knowing they can get on the phone with someone, they’re like, I don’t even know where to start.
TH: They’ve already discounted themselves before they even start like I cannot even do this. I’m going to pass it off to somebody else. But they really need to be an active participant in this. It’s important to understand your numbers and your finance. Right, where do you even begin?
Stacy: Well, you actually kicked it off beautifully, Jessica. If we think about building a house, the foundation of that house is the most important. It may look beautiful outside, but if your foundation is not solid, you’re going to end up with a problem long term. That foundation is budgeting and it’s understanding the relation to the amount of money that’s coming in, from whatever sources, income, alimony, child support, investment income, or Social Security, minus your taxes, and then minus all your spending, and what is that number leftover? Or is it a negative number? All right, that is the number one thing that is the biggest driver of whether someone can put themselves in a financially secure position. There are a couple of really important things you need to do. It’s you need to make sure that whatever that number is that’s leftover at the end of the day, after all the expenses, taxes, everything, is that ideally it’s 15% of your income, so that you can start to build your savings. Now, I know that that’s a big number, and many of the women, including myself, about a decade ago, there was no way in the world I could ever put that much money away. But what I did is every year I got an increase in my salary, I gave myself an increase in my savings, and so now I’m actually at 20% of my earnings going into savings. The positive is I’ll probably end up being able to retire a little earlier, and have a little bit more flexibility with my career. You don’t necessarily have to get up to that 20%, but build wherever you are, wherever you are towards that. Make sure that you’re not getting credit card debt. Make sure that you are again staying on top of that spending.
Jessica: You’re saying that once you’re kind of crunching those numbers, and you realize what you have coming in, what’s going out, taxes, bills, groceries, all of those things, then separately from that, the ideal is to then also be able to put aside 15%?
Jessica: You’re not saying that someone right now who’s in the red should be not paying off where they are, but once they can get back to –
Stacy: Exactly. Once you’ve paid off your credit card debt and your credit card debt is done. Once you’ve been able to sock away money into an emergency fund, which is three to six months of your living expenses. Once you are on that solid financial ground, if you’re able to put then ongoing 15% of your earnings away, you are setting yourself up for a unbelievably secure financial future.
Jessica: What’s your recommendation? So for that 15%, where are you putting it? Are you investing it in the market? Are you –
Stacy: You are, and this is something that’s really important that I cannot stress enough for women. That money for long term investing for our retirement, it needs to be in the market. It needs to be in the market, because if you are in your 40s, this portfolio needs to live and breathe and be there to support you out till age 95. If you’re putting it in cash or bonds, it’s not going to keep up. It’s not going to earn what it needs to earn. For women, wherever you are, even if in you’re in your 60s or 70s, it needs to be in the market. Now as you get closer to age 95, you may move from having 80% in stocks to, in your 80s, only maybe 30% or 20%. But our biggest challenge as women is often we’re going into retirement with many fewer assets than our male counterparts. We are often on our own 100% reliant on ourselves, we then live longer, and our health costs are higher in retirement. We have this tsunami of a perfect storm coming up against us. The things we can control, we can control what we save, right? And we can also control how we invest. The way you invest, the percent that you put in stocks vs. bonds, is the number one predictor of what your investment return is going to be.
Jessica: Is there like a magic formula for that? That you would recommend that okay, so if you don’t know what to do, here’s where to start with that ratio.
Stacy: There’s a great resource that I can give you that is on the Vanguard website that you put in your age, you put in what amount you’re willing to lose in the market, you put in the amount of money that you’re investing with.
Jessica: Zero. I’m willing to lose zero.
Stacy: All right, well, that’s not going to work for you, Jessica.
TH: You never lose! Never!
Stacy: But it then will map on to that, that perfect allocation is a 50% stock 50% bond, or is it a 70% stock 30% bond.
Jessica: If you have short term goals vs. long term goals in terms of whether they should be longer term investment stocks or whether they should be – ?
Stacy: Exactly. When do you need this money? Do you need money in five years, or do you need this in 25 years? These are all the things that ultimately come down to finding that perfect allocation for you. But the biggest thing again I want to stress to a lot of women, we think we’re being safe by being conservative, but if we’re too conservative, we’re actually being dangerous.
Jessica: Right, that’s a good message to send. If you think you’re being safe by being conservative, but if you’re too conservative, you’re actually being dangerous.
TH: You’re hurting yourself.
Jessica: That’s right.
TH: In the end you want to have to have the money that you need to pay your bill, and then also not to be deterred. If your percent is really a small dollar amount, it’s okay.
Stacy: Yeah, and you just build it over time. I mean, it took me a decade. It took me a decade to get up to where I am today. It didn’t happen overnight, but every time I was able to get give myself a raise, I immediately gave my savings a raise. What was great is that it didn’t hurt me. I had the same standard of living, but I saw my savings go up. Make sure that when you’re putting that money away, that long term money for retirement, that if you are at an employer you’re using their 401(k) plan, because often you’ll get a profit sharing or you’ll get a match. If you don’t have an employer and you have earned income, open up an IRA. You can put money in an IRA, and what’s great is you can have a 401(k) plus your IRA, so there are a lot of great options for you. If you have neither, let’s say you don’t have earned income and you receive a gift from a family member, which wouldn’t be considered earned income, or maybe you’re able to save some of your alimony, and it’s again not earned income, you can put something in what’s called a brokerage account, a taxable brokerage account. There are a lot of options, a lot of options for you.
Jessica: All right, so the main takeaways here are you have to understand what you have coming in and going out for your budgeting purposes, you have to invest it in the market?
Stacy: Yes, anything, once you have built your emergency fund, three to six months of your living expenses, and you’ve paid down any high interest debt, credit card debt, that’s when you really do want to make sure that money, that extra money you have, that you’re supercharging your savings. Exactly, into the market.
TH: I would also say that don’t let fear deter you from doing this, because just like you said, not taking the risk is hurting. Well, not taking the step, you’re going to be in potential dire Straits, and you definitely don’t want that. It’s like stepping on the scale every day, you don’t really want to see the number, but you’ve got to see the number, right?
Stacy: I know.
TH: It gives you a reality check. Take responsibility, pick up your pants, and let’s go take charge of your life. That whole mental mindset you really have to get through in order to even start to budget. You have to look at your credit card. You have to look at what’s on your credit card. You have to, and I think having someone to help hold your hand might work for some people. For me, I don’t want anybody looking when I get on a scale, I want to be the only one to see it, but you’ve got to just do it. Pour a glass of wine or whatever you have to do but really, the first step is always the hardest with anything that’s new for anybody. [Exactly] Considering that you’re defeated before they’ve even started, especially with their finances, is really a problem. Savvy Ladies sounds like a tremendous resource that there’s no reason not to take advantage of it. If you need your handheld to at least get started then do it, and take advantage of this type of amazing resource that you started. We’re so thankful that you did that.
Jessica: There’s so much great information, and I know that there’s more even to be said, but in the meantime, for people who want to reach out to you directly and want to take advantage of these resources, what are the best ways for them to find you?
Stacy: Great, so I’ll give you my email. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit the Francis Financial website, and then you can also visit Savvy Ladies and that’s www.savvyladies.org. Again, my grandmother’s memory is here with us and she’s doing great things even though she’s not with us. And again, it’s a wonderful resource for education and support. The work through Francis Financial that we do, we are divorce financial analysts and our work through that we are a for profit, and we’re typically working with attorneys, modeling out divorce settlements, testifying in court, and really proving what our clients need from the divorce. A little different, but they’re both helping women.
Jessica: Amazing though and perfect for everyone who is part of the exExperts community. We really appreciate you taking the time and being with us today.
Stacy: Thank you so much.
Goodbye: For everyone out there listening, if you know anyone at all who would benefit from what we talked about today please share this episode and everything exExperts. Be sure and click to subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes or wherever you listen to your podcasts and please follow us on social media @exEXPERTS on Instagram and Facebook and YouTube. Thanks for listening!