Put Your Money Where Your Mouse Is!

Contrary to popular belief, women and money do go hand-in-hand. The current perception is that most women continue to be tentative about managing their finances, either online or off, because historically, men have handled the majority of the family’s finances. Not so anymore.In a recent research study of 1000 plus men and women, the first WingspanBank.com Financial Index, confirmed just the opposite. In fact, women, on average, hold the primary responsibility for managing the majority of financial activities for their households including the checking account, paying and reviewing bills, deciding where to bank, saving and investing and creating a budget.

Women are twice as likely as men are to assume the title of Chief Financial Officer of their family.

Here’s what WingspanBank.com Financial Index found:

  • 62% of women manage the family’s checking account (compared to 38% of men)
  • 59% of women review the bills prior to paying them (compared to 32% of men)
  • 58% of women actually pay the bills (compared to 35% of men)
  • 53% of women decide where their family is going to bank (compared to 35% of men)
  • 46% of women head up savings and investment accounts for their family (compared to 42% of men)
  • 53% of women create the family’s budget (compared to 30% of men)

These statistics are not surprising, considering that women wear so many hats on any given day. Women are everything to everyone: they are mothers, employees, wives, caregivers, general household manager and something that men might not like to admit, they are the primary managers of the household finances. Women need solutions to help them manage all of their many roles and responsibilities.

Begin with 10 Easy Steps

The above stats don’t say that women feel that they do it “right” all the time. Rather, they say, “Women are in charge of the management of the household money-the banking, investing, saving and spending…and need/want all the information they can get to be better with their CFO Hats on.” With that in mind, here are “10 easy-to-manage” steps to help you do a more effective job:

  1. Identify any fears and concerns you have about handling and managing your finances (refer back to the previous two months’ columns).
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  2. Identify how money is spent.
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  3. Become educated – take advantage of the Internet to learn about all relevant financial matters that impact you.
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  4. Determine and assess your current financial situation. List all income, assets, equity, fixed/flexible expenses, and discretionary income.
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  5. Identify your objectives and start to create a written financial plan (including your goals for education, family and retirement).
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  6. Determine the types of investment most appropriate for your current situation and goals.
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  7. Determine how much money you can save and invest monthly.
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  8. Refer to experts (including financial planners and online websites that MsMoney.com offers). Take advantage of the tools and financial calculators to help plan for the future and understand your current financial situation.
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  9. Create a realistic financial plan and budget…and stick to it.
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  10. Allow for mistakes, you will make them. And take advantage of others’ mistakes, you will learn from them.

When it comes to money, there’s good news and bad news in risking taking. Historically, women have been less inclined than men to take risks when it concerns managing their finances and will spend a lot of time and effort researching financial opportunities. The good news is that we want to know where are money is going. The not so good news is that because we are more risk averse, we avoid putting money in investment opportunities that could create higher returns.

Let Your Mouse Do the Walking

The Internet has created an incredible resource to get info twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Use it. Embrace the ease and convenience of managing your finances online and becoming part of the growing trend of consumers who are taking advantage of time and cost savings with online banking, investing, savings, shopping and gathering up financial information that can reshape your future. Today’s CFO demands quick and accurate information and implementation.

Use online banking to help conduct all types of financial services not only because it is easy and convenient, but more importantly, because it will save you a ton of time. While at home or on the road, I use it to pay bills, check account balances, search for the best mutual funds, purchase insurance and assess various financial plans with financial calculators, all at one website address, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are lots of sites; the one I like best is WingspanBank.com. I’ve found that the various financial tools are the easiest to tap into and if I need a REAL person, she is a phone call away with just ONE menu option (the multi-layers that are so prevalent today on most phone systems are a major button pusher for me).

Online banking is in its infancy. There are approximately six million consumers who bank online today according to Gomez Advisors (the Internet’s Consumer Reports!). The overall number of customers banking online is expected to expand to over 26 million by the year 2003.

There are different types of on-line banking options. Some sites serve as an extension of a traditional bank, while others operate as true Internet-only banks, leaving behind the traditional “bricks and mortar.” Some financial sites combine a variety of features including checking accounts, online bill pay, online loan applications, financial planning calculators, and online brokerage services.

Try It, You’ll Like It

So if you’re thinking of giving online banking a try, here are some things to consider before opening an online account:

  1. How will you get money in and out of your account? In most cases you can get money out of your account via check, ATM, or electronic transfer. You can deposit money via check, mail or ACH transfer.
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  2. Does the online bank offer bill payment? If yes, what does it cost? Most online banks offer bill pay service. Some, such as WingspanBank.com, offer free bill pay to customers who have a WingspanBank checking account.
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  3. What is the ATM policy? Does the bank offer free ATM usage or rebates? Check for an online bank that rebates money for ATM fees. WinspanBank.com will rebate customers up to $5/month for ATM fees.
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  4. Is there an initial amount you’ll need to open an account? What interest rates are being offered? Are there account fees? Is there a minimum balance required? Some online banks have different pricing structures based on the amount you keep in your account. Generally online banks offer better rates than most brick and mortar banks – it’s not unheard of to get 4.5% interest on a checking account.
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  5. Can you download your bank records directly into personal finance software (Quicken, Money)? This will help you with your household budgeting as well as make tax filing a little bit easier. The ability to download your bank records into personal finance software will help you with your budgeting and financial planning efforts.
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  6. In addition to banking, what additional products are offered…CDs, money market, brokerage, credit cards, loans, etc.? There are many online financial sites that offer a wide range of products including traditional banking as well as brokerage, investing, insurance and more.
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  7. What tools and/or assistance are available at the site? Some sites provide financial calculators – these will help you determine how much you should save for retirement, your child’s college tuition or your next vacation.
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  8. What type of customer service is available if you have questions? Some online banks offer 24/7 customer service. So if you’re banking at 2 a.m. and you have a question, there’s someone to help.
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  9. What is the security level of the site? Check to see if the online bank is insured through FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation). In addition, online bankers will need to have browsers that can support encryption (128 bit is usually recommended).
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  10. If you switch to online banking, what will you do with your extra time? The time you won’t spend waiting in line at the bank, writing checks, etc, that’s up to you. Spend time with your family, relax, and play. This is a good thing too!

Some financial websites you might want to check out include:
bankrate.com, wingspanbank.com, quicken.com, fool.com and smartmoney.com.

Solutions

For me, online banking offers solutions. I have a ready resource that I can tap into with financial questions; I can take care of my banking needs; I can pay my bills from anywhere; I can play “what if” scenarios using financial calculators on the site; I can check on how my investments are doing; I was ready to buy a new life insurance policy and reversed the decision when I did a “what if” and found that I could pay less for the same amount and better company with the online search; I get more interest on my checking account than I did at my brick and mortar bank; etc. etc. etc. Most women today are swamped, including me. All you need is a computer and Internet access…it’s a Smart Money Move!

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