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Julie Niznansky | Vice President, Private Banker Associated Bank

Kelly Mould | Senior Vice President, Wealth Fiduciary Advisor Johnson Financial Group

Anna Burish |  First Vice President – Wealth Management The Burish Group Judith Martinez Director, Financial Advisor The Burish Group

What are a few things that every woman should know about her finances?

Judith Martinez: Before you can have a plan to go anywhere you have to first understand where you are. This starts with knowing your net worth – essentially everything you own (your “assets”) minus everything you owe (your “liabilities”) – which will be the foundation of your plan.

Kelly Mould: People are often overwhelmed by their finances – they’re busy building careers, raising families, and taking on their whole financial picture feels really daunting. But if you don’t understand your circumstances, you will at some point be faced with a lifestyle change – maybe a divorce, a job loss – and not be prepared. If you take control now and develop some clarity about your financial circumstances and goals, then you have some power to make decisions.

Julie Niznansky: First and foremost, every woman should have a budget. The key to understanding your finances starts with budgeting, and ultimately knowing what money you have. What debts and assets you have, and what are the rates on all of those accounts. Lastly, how much you’re saving each year toward retirement. Having a grasp on your finances and keeping them top of mind is very important.

Anna Burish: Understanding where you are is critical, and the first step is to know your budget. What are the sources of your income and then how do you allocate your income? As women, statistically, we outlive men, so savings should be a part of your allocation.

Financial goals can change with age. Could you share what a few general goals should be for women ages 20-40, 40-60 and over 60?

KM: Those early years are really tough. You could be facing student loans, career development, possibly marriage, having children. In my opinion, every high school senior should be required to take a financial literacy class before they graduate. The earlier you have a financial plan, the better. Arm yourself with that information. Start saving and contributing to a 401k as early as you can – the more you save, the more choices you’ll have when life happens.

AB: Compounding is extremely powerful. The sooner you start, the better off you’re going to be. Over my career, people are taking more control as to when to retire. Retirement for a lot of people now isn’t necessarily 65. I’m finding clients are setting their own retirement age. We help them see how to achieve that goal.

JN: In your 20-40s, your priority should be paying off debts and building a savings account and retirement account. In your 40-60s, now is the time to gradually increase your 401k toward the annual max contribution. Those dollars will continue to grow rapidly during this stage and compound. In your 60s, it’s time to get serious about financial planning and retirement as a whole, which includes your estate plan.

KM: And that retirement is not the same retirement that my grandparents had. Today, we’re living longer, we’re healthier, physically and mentally. You should have a thoughtful discussion with your financial planner early about what retirement looks like so you can build finances around that purpose – maybe you want to travel, or maybe you want to be the best grandparent ever and devote your finances to those grandchildren, or maybe there are charitable causes near and dear to your heart.

What are some ways a person can become more comfortable and informed about investing?

JN: When it comes to investing, I think it’s important to have a trusted financial partner. Your bank is a great place to start and find that relationship. Try not to be intimidated and ask questions. They are here to help and you would be surprised how much you can learn, whether it’s from the first financial decisions in your 20th and all the way into retirement.

KM: People shouldn’t feel self-conscious about this. There are many financial education resources out there – I’m biased, but I would recommend the podcast I host, Your Money. Your Mission. We just recorded an episode on basic investing. You know, at their core these are simple concepts, and the more we demystify investing the better.

How should someone weigh the cost of a financial advisor against the benefits?

JM: It is important to invest in your financial well-being the same way you invest in your health. This means educating yourself and understanding when you need to rely on professional help. It can start with something relatively inexpensive, like attending a weekend seminar or an online class, and later evolve to hiring a professional when your financial situation and needs become more complex.

KM: Today, we have so much information at our fingertips with the internet. We can self-diagnose, draft our own legal documents, get market information at a moment’s notice. But that accessibility doesn’t replace the expertise and skill of a doctor or a lawyer or a financial advisor. You want the most trusted professional for the most critical elements of your life, right? You want that knowledgeable advice.

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