Are you maximizing your financial life? If you are, good for you! If not, then this article is the perfect read.

On a positive note, more and more women are college educated and are entering high­paying professional fields. Although on an upwards trend, statistically; women still earn less than men, which not only impacts their current income, but also effects their retirement income. This is particularly a problem since women live longer than men but have less earned resources to fund their retirement. Additionally, many women tend not to optimize their financial choices in preparing for retirement—partly because they find finance boring or ominous––some, who are mothers, spend resources ensuring their children’s needs are met. And a handful even talk themselves into not caring about money. Ironically, they do care about the things that money can buy such as security, independence, and even philanthropy.

Why don’t more women assert themselves financially? There are many reasons. Traditionally, a handful of women were taught that working with money was a man’s role, and they were encouraged to remain dependent. I will dare say that even today, a notable number of women have allowed others to think, talk and act on their behalf rather than solve their own problems and take control of their lives. As a result, they have not fully developed an understanding of how money works. As one brave WRC client shared, “I feel passive aggressive by not participating in our family finances, mainly, because if something goes wrong, I can blame someone else.” The result of not taking an active role may lead to a lack of power over their lives. Like many forms of empowerment, financial empowerment must come from within. Women must claim their financial power. They must seize it with a passion, resulting in a life built of their own choices and needs, not what someone else has chosen. A goal of Women’s Resource Center is to encourage women to improve their comfort level with money in general and gain knowledge and confidence to make good financial decisions. Whether one needs assistance getting out of debt, managing bills or investing for retirement, WRC will encourage and assist one to attain a level of comfort and knowledge to make this happen. Now you may ask the question, “How do I muster the determination to change my thinking?” My suggestion is to start by examining your beliefs about money.

For example, do you believe that money is the root of all evil? Do you have trouble envisioning yourself as well­off financially, because you believe this is only a status for others? By identifying and rejecting such hindering myths, you can clear your path to financial empowerment. The next step is to think hard about your life goals and how financial resources could help you reach those goals. Money is not the end goal, and it is not the secret to happiness. However, learning to use it to your advantage can help you achieve your goals. It can ensure your security. It can provide independence and can be channeled to make a difference not only in your own life but in the world today. Success in finance and investing is dependent upon a plan and discipline. Just about any plan that you can stick to is better than no plan at all. When investing is part of your plan, the most critical factor to success is to understand and control risk. Our culture generally credits men as having better investment skills than women. This is a confusing generality when we look at behavioral finance research, which shows that men tend to make more investing errors than the women who choose to participate.

A better way to look at investing and risk is that women seem to be more attuned to risk when making investment decisions. Empirical data reveals that men tend to be overly confident, and if anything, women are more conscious and informed, making less costly trades than the men. Women also seem to be aware that to be a successful investor, it is not just about returns but also about risk and your individual tolerance for risk. Ultimately, you want to be able to sleep at night while investing. An investment plan is like a road map to your destination; therefore, you want to minimize risk. If you’re in unfamiliar territory, you don’t just get in the car and drive. You make a plan based on information. Your investment plan should balance anticipated returns with risk, and the specific risk inherent in your investment choices should reflect your risk tolerance. It’s a new year, and it’s your money. Let’s learn to use this tool and claim your financial power!

Want to learn more, attend WRC’s upcoming Money Empowerment Series. Details on page 16. If you have specific questions, you may email with subject line Dr. Laura.

Dr. Laura Mattia, MBA, CFP®, CRPS®, CDFA, founder of Women’s Money Empowerment Network, is a professor, researcher, author and adviser.