What women are doing right when it comes to finances

When I read an article about women and how they handle their finances, it so often highlights only the fears, mistakes and mishaps.

There are plenty of statistics that support the importance of those topics. I've quoted a few myself when discussing women and their money. But I think it's only fair we also talk about what women are doing right. For example, I have clients who are great at negotiating six-figure salaries with executive benefits and investing the maximum towards retirement, all while maintaining a diversity of assets.


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More than half of all working women are in managerial and professional occupations, and a large portion of them earn annual incomes of more than $100,000. They are the prototypical clients I attract and work with in my practice. Recently, I was discussing money with several such executive women, whose salaries range from $100,000 to $500,000.

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I stressed to them that women need to be comfortable managing and discussing their finances at any age and regardless of their relationship status. Some women will become widows, some will never marry and still others will divorce. The circumstances may vary but, at some point in your life, you may be managing your finances without a significant other—if you aren't already. For women who earn six-figure incomes, the need for a solid financial plan is especially important.

Add professionals to your team

Sonya Irby, director of luxury brand sales for Hilton Worldwide, has said that having a financial advisor became more beneficial once she achieved a certain level of earning.

She admitted that she initially didn't trust advisors' expertise because she thought their focus was on selling her a product, not helping her reach her goals.

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Because she has now achieved certain financial milestones—primarily on her own—she knew she needed someone to help her understand her investments, how to maximize the growth of her portfolio and align her spending and investment habits so she could reach her other life goals. Irby shared that her financial planner helped her evaluate her current net worth while mapping out a plan for the future.

"I feel good about where I am today and where I want to go," she said.

When in doubt, cut it out

After having to make major financial adjustments because of government cutbacks, Kari Yent also adjusted her perspective and made some hard decisions. As national channel manager for enterprise sofware company Tenable Network Security, Yent could no longer enjoy some of the luxuries she had acquired and grown accustomed to over the years.

She reevaluated her goals and budget, decided to sell her family's boat and relocated to reduce her housing and tax expenses. Minimizing her financial burden in response to her new—although perhaps temporary—situation was an agile and strategic move.

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Master the art of salary negotiation

With all of the conversations around the lingering pay gap, salary negotiation is crucial to women's financial success.

I tell my clients: When you're determining your salary, include not only your budgeted expenses but also the amount that will allow you to max out your retirement savings.

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That figure is your bare minimum. Betty Spence, a Ph.D. and president of the National Association for Female Executives, stresses the importance of negotiating your salary package. Research the salary range of the position you're seeking, she suggests, so you will "know the ballpark figure of what the job pays."

Be ready to articulate your value and the unique skillset that makes you the best candidate and worth the amount you're commanding. During the interview process, you need to "state your accomplishments and blow your own horn," she said.

"Because women are living longer and healthier lives, managing their accumulated wealth is key to their success."

Understand the importance of diversification

Spence admitted that when she first started her career, she knew nothing about money management because it wasn't taught to her at home or school. It was important to her to work with someone who would not only educate her but be patient with her and honest about what she needed to do to achieve her goals. Now she understands that having a diversified portfolio—one with stocks, bonds, real estate, commodities and cash—is a major component to the plan that is helping her reach her goal.

Because women are living longer and healthier lives, managing their accumulated wealth is key to their success. My goal as an advisor who focuses on women is to help my clients become financially informed and aware, because finances are part of the foundation of their lives and empowerment.

—By Zaneilia Harris, president of Harris and Harris Wealth.