Why Taking Charge of Your Finances Is So Important

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It’s odd to think that just 40 years ago, women couldn’t apply for a credit card or even secure a bank loan by themselves. “It’s shocking that—in my lifetime—this existed,” says Christine Graham, executive vice president, director of trust administration and chief fiduciary officer at UMB Private Wealth Management. “That’s why it’s important to talk about just how far women have come in terms of managing money—and to look back at those historical obstacles when we talk to women about their finances.”

Graham and her team at UMB Private Wealth Management are passionate about helping women fully understand and take charge of their finances. “When we work with our female clients, we remind them how important it is to be actively involved in money matters—whether they’re single or with a partner.”

The Pandemic Spurred an Interest in Finances
Since the pandemic hit nearly a year ago, Graham says she’s seen a growing number of women who want to drive their financial decisions. “The pandemic certainly threw us for a loop and reminded us to plan for the unexpected,” she says. “Now, as we move into 2021, we’re finding women don’t just want to have a seat at the table—instead, they want to be heard and actively participate in the money management process.”

Graham says the key is to both get engaged in the conversation and to find a financial advisor with whom you can openly and honestly discuss your finances. While it may sound simple, many women are hesitant to ask questions and engage in the process. “Maybe they weren’t included in the conversation in the past. Or maybe they’ve become comfortable letting someone else handle financial matters,” she says. “Around here, we call it getting ‘uncomfortably comfortable.’ If you don’t understand something, ask us. When it comes to managing your money, there really is no such thing as a stupid question and it’s ok to be uncomfortable as you learn and get comfortable with your finances. For UMB, it’s about encouraging women to become informed about their financial plan and helping them understand how important it is for their future.”

The Risks of Not Knowing Your Bottom Line
The pandemic notwithstanding, there are plenty of unforeseen developments that can strike without warning. “These are significant events—a death, a divorce, an illness,” says Graham. “They can force these women to be in charge of their finances when they weren’t before. When one of these events happens, they can be forced to take control of financial matters overnight and find themselves completely unprepared.” Graham suggests simply having a game plan that includes knowing where assets and accounts are located and who to call for assistance can be a lifesaver. “We can help them with the basics and ensure they have the information they need to get started. Don’t get blindsided by unexpected developments. Whatever the case may be, it can have a major impact on your finances. Being uninformed or unprepared is the biggest risk.”

 Take Charge
The help and information you need is out there. Graham suggests turning to the many free resources that are available—everything from reputable websites to trusted advisors. Learning the basics and getting educated is half the battle. Graham also suggests women seek out a financial advisor they trust. “There are folks in the profession that can point you in the right direction, guide you and support you,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions when selecting an advisor and make sure they are a good fit for you. Look for an advisor that is focused on you and your goals.”

Retirees Are Learning the Ropes
As couples retire, many tend to become more focused on their finances. “They have all this extra time, so they really become engaged in the process and want to learn more,” says Graham. It’s never too late to start a dialogue about important financial matters, such as ensuring you have a power of attorney or a trust. “You really should have a network in place—especially if something should happen and you need help managing your finances,” she says. “And you need to be the one who chooses those people. Take the time to empower the right people and put the right structure in place. This starts by putting your wishes and objectives in writing.”

Trusted Advisors Can Help
A trusted advisor or financial planner can also assist your family members or power of attorney if they need to step in and manage your finances. “If your family or power of attorney has the information they need, they can step in and work with your trusted advisor,” says Graham. “We work with a lot of folks who care for parents who have declined to do this, and they struggle to locate the assets, investments and basic documents causing delays, loss of assets or other issues.”

Graham says it’s all about opening up dialogue—and getting the discussion underway with their advisor. “Honesty is key. For many of our clients, when they were growing up, people didn’t talk about money—it was a taboo subject,” she says. “While it can be difficult, we recommend finding somebody you’re comfortable with. Choosing the right advisor is critical—otherwise you’re not going to realize all of the benefits of an advisor relationship. It’s key to a successful planning process.”

From setting goals to setting objectives, there are many ins and outs of wealth management. “But just having a plan will make you more successful with your finances—and that’s a fact,” says Graham. “Why risk losing assets or paying more in taxes? There are lots of potential negative consequences when you don’t have a plan. Bottom line—have a good advisor, get educated, and start building your financial plan.”