You’ve Already Got What It Takes
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
I learned to drive a car before driver’s ed classes and driving schools. I had a handbook from the Department of Motor Vehicles, a patient father, and a burning desire to get my license.
I studied that handbook until both of us were ragged. I knew the rules and laws inside out and upside down. Even so, I was a nervous wreck on the day of my driving examination.What if they ask questions I don’t know? What if I forget everything I do know? What if my mind goes blank and I forget how to read?
My desire to get my license was stronger than my fear of failure, though. That’s what got me through the door and into the line at the DMV to take the written test. If I passed it, I would take a behind-the-wheel examination with a police officer in the passenger seat.
I opened the test booklet and glanced at the first multiple choice question. Without even looking at the choices, I knew the answer. Same for the next question, and the next.
Suddenly, this feeling of confidence came over me. It wasn’t arrogant or egotistical. And I wasn’t overconfident. I just knew that I knew the answers. My confidence was a quiet, knowing sense of certainty. Knowledge gave me the power I needed to trust myself to make the right choices. I had certitude (oh, how I love that word—a cross between certainty and attitude).
I aced the written test and then convincingly demonstrated to the examining officer that I could safely drive and parallel park a motor vehicle. I did it. I got my license on the first try. That day my confidence soared, not in a cocky or arrogant way but in a way that I knew I could be trusted to react appropriately and make the right decisions while driving a car. I knew with certainty.
How does this all relate to women and retirement planning? It has been well documented that retirement confidence among women lags behind that of men. A survey conducted in 2012 revealed that 92 percent of women of all ages do not feel educated enough to reach their retirement savings goals.
I will never believe that when it comes to the subject of retirement we females suddenly turn stupid, that we can’t understand concepts such as “return on money,” “draw-downrates,” or “delayed gratification.”
We are not competent in managing an investment portfolio. We are not capable of consistently saving money in anticipation of our years in retirement. We cannot speak intelligently with a financial planner. We are not capable of determining the best time to begin drawing Social Security benefits. We cannot research or make intelligent decisions regarding which Medicare plan will be the most beneficial.
Of course we can do these things. If we lack confidence, it’s because we lack knowledge and desire, certainly not because we lack intelligence and ability. Look, you are a smart woman. If you need proof, it says so right on the cover of this book.
You will not be a victim of statistics. Statistical data is used to create big-picture views, but the results of surveys and studies are not reliable for individual situations. You don’t really believe that out of ten of your friends only .8 of one of you is financially confident, do you?
It’s like the infamous family with 2.5 children. I’ve never met a .5 child or a .8 woman. Do you see what I’m saying? You don’t have to sit back hoping and praying that you’re not part of the 92 percent. And you are not doomed because some statistic says the poverty rate of women sixty-five and older is nearly two times higher than that of men.
You have free will and a strong mind. Retirement planning takes determination and hard work, but I promise that you have what it takes to become insanely confident. I don’t need fancy studies to convince me that men and women are not wired the same way. But I do enjoy learning why male and female brains process things so differently.
As a woman, embedded within you is a fundamental need that goes to the heart and soul of this matter of retirement planning. According to psychologist and author Willard F.Harley, all humans are born with basic needs. Women need financial security—enough money to live comfortably. It’s a basic need in women, while most men do not have this need.
If you’ve ever wondered why your husband doesn’t share your sense of urgency about retirement planning, this may be the reason. He’s just not wired to put retirement planning as high on his list of priorities as you are. What this means is that you may be the one who is best suited to take on the task of spearheading financial planning for the partnership by learning all you can to create and implement a plan.
If, on the other hand, you are single, this should come as good news if you’ve assumed all along that without a husband you’re doomed for lack of financial support. Sure, you have the inborn need for financial security, but (as you’re about to learn) you also have the ability to meet that need. Just think about this. As a woman:
• You’ve been uniquely designed by your Creator to care for small things, nurturing, loving, and encouraging them to grow up to be healthy and wise. It’s in your nature.
• You are predisposed to organize, plan, and execute complex tasks. If you’ve ever given birth, you may have experienced this about forty-eight hours before the big event when something went off in your mind that insisted you needed to clean out the pantry, reorganize the garage,and give the kitchen a quick coat of paint. It’s instinct, a surge of energy often referred to as “nesting.”
• You are strong, determined, clever, and above all resilient.You have amazing inborn talents and abilities. You’re like a Maserati driven only on a city street. You have horsepower you’ve never tapped.
• Your temperament—the way you think, behave, and react to life—is much different from that of men. Our brains process things in opposing ways. Girl, you have what it takes to become confident. It’s in your DNA, a blessing of your gender. It’s been said that women have the responsibility gene! I am not making this stuff up.
The differences between men and women have been studied and documented, the results of which I continue to find amazing but not altogether surprising.When it comes to the specifics of money management and retirement planning:
• Women are better equipped mentally and emotionally than men to manage and invest money.
• Women have the temperament to set financial goals and also to achieve them.
• Women, instinctively, are more observant and detail oriented.
• Women have a greater capacity for self-control and personal discipline.
• Women are less likely to panic and act irrationally when a situation comes up that requires a non emotionally based decision.
• Women age particularly well, becoming mellower, calmer,and more accepting and satisfied with age.
• Women are more averse to risk. Compared to men, women have a lower tolerance for risk. This makes women well suited for managing investments, because unlike men,who often have an appetite for risk and trading too much, women are willing to wait things out.
• Women are nurturers. It comes naturally for women to feel responsible for husbands, kids, friends, aging parents, and pets. This translates easily into the same kind of caring needed for investments and retirement accounts.
• Women ask for directions. Research shows that women are aware of their lack of financial knowledge and are more willing to ask for advice than men. Men see asking for help as a sign of weakness, but women see it as smarter decisions.
• Women take fewer financial risks than men do but not because they’re wusses. Both sexes secrete the hormone oxytocin in stressful situations, but women secrete more of it, which helps them stay calmer.
• Women write stuff down. They keep diaries, write in their journals, and keep track of important details on their calendars.
• Women display better judgment than their counter part males, particularly when it comes to money. A twenty something young woman is more likely to sign up for a 401(k) retirement plan than her twenty something male co-worker who’s more interested in the latest electronic gadgetry than long-term investing.
• Women are persistent. When women set challenging goals,which they are more likely to do than men, they stick to them and see them through to a successful conclusion. I didn’t learn to drive a car by dreaming about it. Writing “I really want to get my driver’s license” on a sheet of paper didn’t get the job done.
Actually, I did both of those things, but stopping there would have made my goal nothing more than a dream. I became a confident driver because I memorized the handbook and practiced driving and parking a car. My confidence prepared me to make quick decisions and to react appropriately under all kinds of driving conditions. Had I only dreamed about driving a car but done nothing to learn how to do it, you can be sure I never would have attained the confidence necessary to become a good driver.
Confidence is fueled by the power that comes with knowledge. That’s the confidence women need when it comes to personal finances and money management. That’s the confidence we need as we approach the subject of retirement. Dreaming about traveling and spending time with family during your retirement years is not going to give you the confidence you need to achieve it.
You have to do something about it, starting now. It’s time to stop procrastinating. Any reason you might have to put off learning about and saving for retirement is just an excuse. It is not valid. You need to learn everything you can now about personal finance and money management.
That knowledge will help you develop confidence—that quiet knowing that you can trust yourself to make wise decisions and good judgment calls—no matter what your situation might be. This is how smart women think.
To learn more about the author Mary Hunt or to buy her new book, please visit The Smart Woman’s Guide to Planning for Retirement
Mary Hunt is the award-winning and bestselling author of several books, including 7 Money Rules for Life, as well as a sought-after motivational speaker. She is founder and publisher of the interactive website Debt-Proof Living (www.debtproofliving.com), which features financial tools, resources, and information for her online members. Her books have sold more than a million copies, and her daily newspaper column is nationally syndicated through Creators Syndicate and enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of readers. Hunt speaks widely on personal finance and has appeared on shows such as NBC’s Today, FOX News, Oprah, and Focus on the Family. She and her husband live in California.