Career, Style, Health…those I can do. Personal finance? Budgeting? Now that’s terrifying. I attended an event recently hosted by Fidelity and PureWow, and the opening speaker was Fidelity’s President of Personal Investing, Kathy Murphy. She said that this year, women are on track to earn $18 trillion, 50% more than just five years ago. By 2030, women will control two-thirds of our nation’s wealth. About 80% of affluent women consider themselves “beginner investors” compared with just 50% of affluent men. And yet, only one in eight female Gen-Yers calls herself the primary decision maker when it comes to personal finance. Kathy cited a severe confidence gap for women when it comes to personal money management, and pleaded with the Millennial women in the room to break that cycle. It starts now.
1. Make a realistic budget and commit to it.
We can all say “yeah, sure, we budget,” until we’re blue in the face and flat broke. Vaguely keeping an eye on your account balance doesn’t count as budgeting. Budgeting requires—for one—writing it down. Take all of your typical expenses into account, figure out a budget that you can actually stick to, and document everything. One of the easiest ways to do this is with a personal finance app like Mint, LearnVest, Level, or Betterment. Downloading one is a great first step. (Yes, I mean now.)
2. Look for freelance opportunities for extra cash.
If you need it of course—not if you’re working a job that requires insane hours and pays accordingly. But if you could use a bit of extra cash, start brainstorming freelance possibilities. With 38% of millennials currently freelancing, the opportunities are many. Whether it’s writing, copy editing, social media, consulting, design, becoming an Uber driver, or anything in between, there’s probably some way to supplement your income with the skills you have (or can acquire).
3. Ask for a raise at some point this year.
The wage gap isn’t just some unfair thing we as women can’t do anything about. It’s our responsibility to ask for more, even though it can be really, really tough. Whether it’s right now or at the end of the year, a bump in a freelance project or in your full-time salary, check #Ask4More off your to-do list at some point in 2015.
4. Learn the basics of investing.
Like I said, Kathy Murphy was emphasizing the necessity of investing, and investing early. She pointed to some great resources she oversees at Fidelity to teach people the basics. However you go about it, make investment knowledge a priority this year. It’s something that we as Millennial women have a responsibility to understand.
5. Commit to saving some amount of money each month, even if it’s small.
Once you do make a realistic budget, stick to it for a month or two, and then start figuring out where you can cut costs. Eliminate one Starbucks latte per week and you’ve saved about $16 per month. Skip the nail salon—there’s another $15-20. Walk a few times per week instead of taking the subway—enjoy $25-40 extra dollars. Now here’s the kicker: you don’t get to spend that money on something else. Actually save it, and keep track of how much you’re accumulating.
Photo: Jamie Grill / Getty Images