5 Ways Women Can Raise Their Financial Confidence  

When it comes to earning and investing, studies have shown that women tend to lag behind men – often because of family responsibilities that take them fully or partially out of the workforce during key earning years. But according to a 2015 study by Fidelity Investments, they may also lack confidence; many women simply haven’t the time or inclination to build up their financial confidence (FC) levels.

The Fidelity study found that most women want to learn more about financial planning (92 percent) and be more involved in their finances (83 percent), but are uncomfortable discussing money, whether it’s with spouses or investment professionals.

That’s problematic, because at some point in their lives, most women will be the sole financial decision makers in their families. And women thrust into this role experience significant stress. According to a 2014 American Psychological Association study, about half of women surveyed were so stressed about money they couldn’t sleep (compared to 32 percent of men).

Fortunately, there are ways to boost women’s financial confidence that are readily available and often free or inexpensive. Here are five:

  1. Employer-sponsored programs. Many employers have workplace programs that offer financial guidance, yet 65 percent of women don’t take advantage of them, according to Fidelity.
  2. Books. There are many books designed to help women gain FC.
  3. Seminars. Many financial institutions offer workshops for women. While the emphasis may be on investing, many also offer a chance to share experiences, which can be inspiring to everyone.
  4. Networking. Four in five women avoid talking about finances with someone they’re close to because the topic feels uncomfortable, according to Fidelity. But while it may feel awkward at first, discussing money issues with trusted friends can be empowering.
  5. Advisors. Working with a financial professional offers women a chance to develop confidence with the guidance of a pro. Select your advisor carefully and feel comfortable asking questions.

Stock Market Getting You Down? Decide Not to Panic  

The headlines aren’t very comforting: A collapse in Chinese stocks has pushed the Dow Jones Industrial Average down by triple digits several times recently, even forcing Chinese regulators to halt trading. And, also recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut its 2016 global growth forecast from 3.6 percent to 3.4 percent, citing challenges such as falling commodity prices and rising interest rates in the U.S. as well as slower growth in emerging markets. China, for example, grew by only 6.9 percent in 2015, its slowest pace of economic expansion since 1990.

One might conclude that there are a host of unforeseen instabilities that will play havoc with our investments in the future. But we may be drawing the wrong conclusions. True, we can’t predict the future, but it’s important not to assume the worst when events like these occur.

First, we’ve seen similar events before. For example, last summer, in July and August, the Shanghai Composite Index fell 30 percent, sending the Dow down 11 percent. But Chinese and U.S. stocks rebounded.

And while the stock market – one of 10 components of the Conference Board Leading Economic Index – is definitely a leading indicator, not all corrections signal a looming recession.

Still, investors are prone to panic when corrections arise. It’s like the first big snowstorm of the year, one analyst suggests: people forget how to drive in the snow.

So how should you drive in these snowstorms? Simple: don’t panic. Speak to your advisor, ensure you have a solid plan in place, and decide to stay the course.