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What women want: How women are increasingly taking charge of their financial path

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In a society where women are increasingly involved in business activities, it is no surprise that women are now more involved in daily financial matters. With the disparity in pay between men and women lessening within "corporate America," women now have the ability to be financially independent and take control of their financial future. In addition, women are becoming the "heads of their households" and making more money than their husbands and/or handling the responsibility of paying the family's bills.

According to www.womensfinances.com, at some point in women's lives, nine out of 10 women will be solely responsible for the family's finances; this is due to the fact that women usually outlive men. With a variety of statistics reiterating a bleak history with women when it comes to dealing with their money matters, there is no better time than the present for women to become empowered, informed and in charge of their finances. With key investing strategies, women are able to make responsible decisions to directly manage their money. Investing not only brings financial security, but a sense of independence for women who are making responsible changes for their own futures.

So, what's the problem?

Women are now more than ever more in control of their lives, but there is one sector in which statistics state they are not in control of -- their financial matters, specifically when it comes to investing their hard earned money. So, what is keeping them from investing? The following scenarios are some of the things affecting how much effort they put into investing for the future.

¥ The excitement factor. For some women, the basic thought of investing conjures up a boring image, therefore many women tune out and stop paying attention to anything related to investing. According to www.MSNBC.com, 60 percent of all women say they would only like to spend a minimal amount of time managing their investments -- most likely as a result of their disinterest in investing matters.

¥ Confusion. A mix of messy numbers and unfamiliar terms can make approaching investing seem intimidating altogether.

¥ Men. Throughout history, women have tended to place the responsibility of the finances on a male, whether it is a husband, father or brother. Having someone else deal with their finances exacerbates the problem of women not being financially independent.

In addition to the scenarios above, women are also less comfortable talking about money. This is especially demonstrated in the work place. According to The Today Show's contributor, Shellye Archambeau, women don't ask for more money during pay negotiations. Women not only don't ask for pay raises, but have more difficulty than men in the negotiation process, and in fact, men are better communicators when it comes to their financial needs and expectations. Archambeau states that this is one of the reasons women make less in the business world, as well as why some women fail to invest as well as fail to "keep their family afloat" and end up in poverty.

Also, Pink Magazine, a women's business magazine, found that nearly half of 2,400 women surveyed did not ask for a raise, additional benefits or promotion in the past 12 months. They also found that the individuals that did ask for a raise, 72 percent of those who asked got what they wanted. So it never hurts to ask!

Fixing it: The first steps

First, women need to get comfortable talking about money. Archambeau, author of "The Girls' Guide To Power and Success," said women are not comfortable talking about money because women associate asking for money with greed. Additionally, women are taught that an ambitious and aggressive desire to accumulate wealth is not feminine, she said.

Next, women need to take the initiative. According to insurance company New York Life, once women take the initiative to begin investing, they tend to receive higher returns than men when it comes to their investment accounts. Therefore, getting there is half the challenge.

San Diego Metropolitan Credit Union offers the following investing tips on how women can overcome their fear of or lack of knowledge when it comes to investing, and ultimately advance their financial opportunities.

1. Mental preparation. Change your mindset and make the decision to take control of your finances. This is key when it comes to accomplishing your investing goals.

2. Manage your money. Get familiar with where you stand financially and set up your own budget.

3. Set goals. Where do you want financial responsibility to take you? Establish feasible goals that you will be able to achieve, whether it's a comfortable retirement fund or an exciting vacation.

Overcoming the problem

Now that you have set your mind to taking charge of your financial future, follow the steps below to start investing endeavors that will put you on a path to a financially responsible and fruitful future.

1. Find your comfort zone. By finding the boundaries of your "risk tolerance" you can identify where you feel most comfortable with your investments. Start off slowly, investing in something very conservative like a savings account. As your confidence and knowledge increases, you can begin expanding into more risky investment decisions.

2. Start early. Invest as soon as you can to maximize your financial profits. By investing early and regularly, you will create a consistency that will make you the best profit possible regardless of market swings.

3. Expand your investments. Change things up and spread your investment among different mediums. Different types of securities or mutual funds help lower your overall risk when it comes to investing. Performing differently from one another in a given market is another way to help maximize your profits.

4. Pay attention. Always be aware of your investments and review them regularly. Make sure market performance doesn't make any big changes you are unaware of. Being conscious of what your money is doing keeps you in control -- something you should never lose.

Investing and the numerous options available can seem a daunting endeavor, but with a little education and some help from financial sources, women can take control of their financial future.

Schroeder is CEO of San Diego Metropolitan Credit Union.

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