This Birdie is the last one to say she's a financial expert. I didn't even get to Calculus in high school -- I struggled through Geometry and said, Peace-OUT, Math! But I do appreciate the value of numbers and given the latest financial roller-coaster of our fabulously dire economy, it comes as a reminder of a most Jaunty thing that I J'adore, being held accountable for one's fiscal future.
Ooh... big scary words, Magpie. All those percentages, obscure terms and near-apocryphal data that just looks snoooooooringly boring. Yes, it's a lot of information to try and understand, and I wouldn't claim to totally comprehend a pinky-finger's worth of it. But it doesn't stop me from doing my best to learn and discover different ways to make my money work harder than if I just shoved it under a mattress. I have a personal retirement plan that slowly ticks away through financial ups and downs like the little tugboat that could. I have a small stock portfolio that I manage through a lot of trial and error, but still maintain a healthy average. Will I retire a wealthy woman who can join the Yacht Club and the Fur Coat of the Month Club? Hell, no. Will it be enough to get me through my Golden Years? I sure hope so, but I can't know the future, so that's why I have an active role in paving the way for this unknown journey ahead. So in between flipping through the latest fashion magazines, I'll still make time for reading the latest news about the stock market and researching companies I'd consider investing in.
Why the financial-talk, Magpie? I thought this was a blog about living a Jaunty, stylish life! I think a stylish life is a smart one, and at the core of that life is how we fund it. Those strappy, cute heels aren't going to buy themselves! I'm not saying throw all your money in stocks or listen to the informercials and buy/sell gold; much like one's style, a fiscal personality is private and a personal one. People hire stylists to help determine a look that fits our lifestyle, and there's nothing wrong with hiring a financial planner to help determine one's fiscal profile.
My own advisor said the best thing that really stuck in my head: women are the worst at investing and planning for their future. She's a woman and she said that, because she's seen more of her female clients be the ones left wondering what to do when they're ready to say goodbye to the working world. It's not that we're any less intelligent than the fellas -- on the contrary, we're multitasking queens! It's just that more times that not, we ladies get sidetracked by the craziness of life and either do the minimum towards retirement planning or worse, do nothing at all, thinking it's far into the future and it's not mission-critical today. The Girl Power movement was nifty and all, but beyond the platitudes of empowerment, it neglected to include the numbers game and the value of nurturing a dollar to help it grow. Women are taught to fight hard for our place in the workforce and in daily life, but what about fighting just as hard for financial security? There's no reason we can't be as fiscally savvy as we are with accessorizing the perfect outfit. With the market in a downturn and the spotlight on the future of money, instead of a new dress, how about truly spending it on oneself and investing it?
Do your homework and figure out a plan -- put those iPads and other e-readers to good use and learn the basics. Personally, I'm more of a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race investor; some risk, but with long term goals. My regular go-to sources include The Motley Fool, Suze Orman's site, and when I'm feeling bold, I'll keep the TV on CNBC for a few hours, just to see what the pundits are saying. For the most part, I'll read versus turn on the television. I want to earn the knowledge, not have it fed to me through the screen. And I take questions to my financial advisor. It's a bit like one's health -- you want to have an active role in it, you want to be prepared with educated questions for your doctor, but you don't want to overdiagnose yourself by spending hours on WebMD. Intelligence with temperance, always.
The truth is, as uncertain the future may seem, we are living longer, Social Security isn't enough of a net to cushion our financial needs and we'll all be working longer than previous generations due to a combination of those factors. But this isn't bad news. It's just another reminder that we should be doing something that fulfills us, which ultimately adds to our enjoyment of living in the now. By investing in the future, you guarantee the appreciation of today's rewards by not having that cloud of uncertainty hanging over your head. The new Girl Power mantra should be about taking care of the whole package -- mind, body and finances.
Jaunty Fine Print: graphic by Denise Sakaki, inspired by a gazillion knockoffs of original "Keep Calm and Carry On" British war poster