For many executive women, life is a day-to-day tightrope walk while juggling career and life. Many of these women have little time to live life on their terms, let alone have some sort of financial strategy for the future they’d like to enjoy. This failure to have control over their finances leads to anxiety, shame, and hopelessness. It also likely means little chance to live life on your terms. Quality of life becomes a true afterthought, nearly a luxury.
Add to this the fact that women have distinct financial risks that men do not, and women executives even more so, and quality of life seems out of reach completely. However, once these risks are considered, choices can be made and effective solutions can be created. With incremental steps you can break from the feeling of financial insecurity and life your best life today, while at the same time building a path to a secure future.
For women execs their unique challenges come down to four major derailers of financial success. These are the key areas that consistently trip women executives up. You might find that only one or two of them apply to your life right now. No matter, if your particular derailer is addressed, you will have a plan to get you wherever you want to go.
So, what are the four key derailers to financial success for women executives?
1. Lack of Goal Clarity
Quality of life comes down to getting off that treadmill and reclaiming the power of choice over your money. As a woman executive, you have the power to make your life look exactly how you want it to look. To get started, all you have to do is stop for a moment and ask yourself, “Okay, what do I want?”
We realize that like a lot of women executives you may have hard time answering this question. You are way too busy trying to keep up with the demands of today; imagining a perfect life is a luxury you just don’t have. But without really knowing what you want, you cannot have a plan of action.
Take some time here to detail out your Passions and Pursuits. Think about what you’d truly like your life to look like in an ideal world. Dig deep into what is most important to you personally, professionally, and financially. Then, prioritize the goals. Because financial security is all about choices, choose which goals are most important to you for your ideal life now and into the future. This will be the basis of your financial plan, and you’ll create action steps around these that you’ll incrementally implement.
2. Failure to Manage Cash Flow
“Managing Cash Flow” is just industry speak for awareness of where your money goes each month. Once you know where your money is going you can choose to spend it where its most important to you.
For many women executives there is a disconnect between what they think they are spending and what’s actually leaving their checking account each month. We’ve also seen many women justify spending every dime of their paycheck because the temporary gratification they get from purchases gives them a fleeting sense of satisfaction. But afterward the money and the satisfaction are gone, and they are no closer to living life the way they want than they were before.
By taking time to track expenses, you can see trends in your spending and identify how much your lifestyle costs. You can then use this information to choose to fund goals incrementally that you have determined are important to you.
You can use budgeting apps, a spreadsheet, or budgeting software to track your expenses. For two months just watch where the money goes. You can see spending patterns in just a couple months. Filter out expenses by Fixed Expenses (which are expenses you must pay, like mortgage, utilities, childcare) and Discretionary Expenses (these are expenses you choose to have). Identify where your discretionary money is going so you know the biggest offenders. Your ability to fund the goals important to you comes from choosing to spend discretionary money in other places. If dining out is consistently a large ticket category, can you cut money here and apply it to one of your goals?
Knowing where you spend your money allows you to choose to spend it differently. Cash flow management is the piece that will allow women executives to carve out the money they have for the goals they value for the life they want.
3. Failure to Strategically Manage Business and Career
For women executives, your business or career is critical to attaining personal and financial well-being. This is the piece that will generate the money to fund your goals, the source of the finances that enable your financial plan’s execution. But it’s also a critical part of your personal well-being. Living your ideal life starts with identifying what is important to you, and how that career fits in not only from a compensation perspective, but from a lifestyle perspective.
Having a strategy around your business or career will be different for every person. It starts with thinking through what is most important to you in a job in an ideal world-compensation, benefits, flexibility, location. Then, prioritizing those pieces. Maximizing income is important, but not at the expense of quality of life.
Once you’ve identified what is important to you in your career or business, take a look at where you are and the gaps you see. This is where you’ll identify the resources, such as business coaches, you need to help you bridge your gaps and have a successful career, however you define success. Your career success can affect the prioritization and the time horizons of every goal you listed within your passions and pursuits.
4. Lack of a Comprehensive, Goal-Oriented Life Plan
We know women execs are busy. And we know that adding to their to-do list with a bunch of action items doesn’t usually work. That being said, we also know that its truly important to have a written plan of action in order to achieve the quality of life you want.
According to a 2015 study, by writing down goals your chances of achieving them are exponentially greater. Writing down the steps you are willing to take creates commitment, fuels positive engagement, and helps you remember and retain your intentions around them. Otherwise, they are just ideas, wishes.
To simplify the planning process, you can distill your life plan into a one-page summary that you keep near your computer and check in on periodically. You’ll start with a snapshot of where you are financially right now, the goals you’ve prioritized, the gaps you see, the solutions you have identified, and the incremental steps you are willing to take. Having a strong team of external resources like accountants and financial planners can also help with plan success. The objective here is to determine big picture action steps necessary to accomplish the things that are important to you. Keep it simple, and incremental. Set due dates for the action items.
Challenges for women executives when creating a plan are accepting the necessity of setting priorities, making choices, and making certain sacrifices to accomplish their goals. But even if you make just one change, that incremental change will add to the quality of your life.