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7 Financial Lessons Financial Mom Experts Want Girls To Know

Joanna Nesbit  |  May 2, 2022

Moms want their daughters to start their financial lives off right. Here are the lessons we most want them to learn.

Every mom wants to see her daughter equipped to handle the financial challenges of adulting. Women face unique financial obstacles. In 2022, women still earned just 83 cents for every male dollar—and for women of color, that gap is worse at just 58 cents for Latina women and 63 cents for Black women. Women also live an average of five years longer than men, and they play a larger caregiving role in their families, both in terms of childcare and elder care

So, what should young women know about the road ahead? HerMoney, our CEO Jean Chatzky and our Editor-in-Chief Kathryn Tuggle are tackling this very question with their new book How to Money: Your Ultimate Visual Guide to the Basics of Finance, which aims to demystify money for the younger generation, and help them get their financial lives started off right. 

Of course we also love elevating other mom’s voices who are paving the way for their daughters to become money savvy and budget smart. Here’s a few of their favorite tips. 

Look out for your future self and learn to love saving

When you’re spending now, think about how it affects your future, says Nicole Burdick, financial advisor with Washington-based Consilium Financial and mother to a 5-year-old girl. “Ask yourself how it impacts ‘future you’ so your short-term needs and wants don’t compromise your long-term needs and wants,” she says. 

In fact, save as much as you can in your twenties, says Debbie Schwartz, mother of two 20-something daughters and founder of Road2College, a college planning website that helps families understand how to finance college. That’s not easy if you’re paying rent and student loan payments at the same time. Even so, saving what you can in an investment vehicle like a Roth IRA gives you a huge head start. 

“The power of compound interest can’t be beat,” Schwartz says. “Be as frugal as possible to save as much as you can before you have other obligations like a house and kids. I didn’t start saving seriously till I was 30 and I so wish I had started earlier.” 

Get chummy with your money

“One of the most important things to me is to empower my daughter not to be removed from her money,” says Erica Sandberg, national personal finance expert and author of Expecting Money: the Essential Financial Plan for New and Growing Families

That means developing regular routines like checking your bank balance daily so you know how much you have, what you have left, and where it’s going. “Make it as much a part of you as getting dressed in the morning or brushing your teeth,” Sandberg says. Checking your bank balance alone can save you from 80% of the trouble you could get into. 

It also means staying involved once you’re partnered. More women are taking part in financial planning, but 56% still believe their partner is more investment savvy, according to a 2021 Fidelity study. And 1 in 4 Millennials report money as their greatest relationship challenge, an increase from other generations’ experiences. 

Don’t try to keep up with your girlfriends

Life is a series of trade-offs, always. Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend money on fun, but it does mean being intentional about it—because trying to keep up with your girlfriends’ spending habits can blow your budget, says Tess Zigo, CFP, CPA at Illinois-based Emerge Wealth Strategies. 

“Do you!” she advises. “I always split the tab in my 20s and avoided buying expensive items on the menu.” Instead of pricey meals, she maxed out her Roth IRA.  “In retrospect, I’m glad I focused on growing my net worth instead of spending on things I wouldn’t remember a month later,” she says. 

It doesn’t help that advertisers bombard women with consumer messages. But even with all those “buy, buy, buy messages,” we have to remember that we get to decide. “When you’re spending your money, that’s your energy and your time,” Sandberg says. Take a beat before you buy and then be cautious and astute when you do, she says. 

Buy better quality so it lasts

When you buy something, “buy quality,” says Grace Alexander, a finance writer. “Even if you have to save up for and buy one item at a time.” Say you’re decking out your first apartment. Forking over a little more for better quality means you won’t have to replace that vacuum, toaster, or dishware the very next year. 

Bonus, you’re keeping junk out of the landfill. In fact, I’m a huge fan of the Buy Nothing Project. Before hitting the home stores, find out if your neighborhood has a Buy Nothing Facebook page.  

Handle credit with kid gloves

Credit cards are awesome tools to develop a credit history and a solid credit score, along with being just plain convenient for purchases. But they can really bite if you don’t understand how they work. 

“Credit cards are great because they give you a 30-day interest-free opportunity to borrow money, but you have to pay it back,” Sandberg says. The status you receive from that purchase is temporary. She recommends not using credit cards if you can’t pay off the monthly balance in full.  

Read the fine print 

Schwartz believes reading the fine print is critical, and she’s constantly reminding her girls to go through it. “The information that companies don’t want you to know is the details in the fine print,” she says. “The smaller the print, the more important the information is likely to be.” While she worked for a national student loan lender, Schwartz saw the consumer confusion up close. That’s one reason she set out to help families directly with college planning. 

Signing up for a credit card? Read the fine print on the monthly interest rate and fee structure. Applying for a private student loan? Learn what the terms are and what the payments will be. (We go over all of this in our book, “How to Money.” 

Learn from your mistakes

We all make money mistakes. That’s just part of growing up—and particularly when you’re out on your own. Don’t beat yourself up, but do remember the lessons, Sandberg says. Her own teenager learned a recent lesson on what she values, and it turns out not to be very expensive hairstyling. After spending $400 at a celebrity hair salon, she still wishes she had that money back. 

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Disclosure: This material has been prepared for informational purposes only and should not be used as investment, tax, legal, or accounting advice. All investing involves risk. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Diversification does not ensure a profit or guarantee against a loss. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors.
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