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Jan. 22, 2021, 2:39 p.m. EST

Women: It’s time to take control of your financial life

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Kerry Hannon

There are so many things in life that are out of our control. They shatter us. We feel powerless.

There’s the heart-wrench and loss when someone you love–or your beloved dog–dies (as my nearly 13-year old Labrador retriever Zena did unexpectedly this week,) or when your health is crushed by an illness, or you lost your job during the pandemic.

But there are myriad things in life that we can control. Financial literacy and educating ourselves about money and ways we can build a secure financial future for ourselves is one of those things.

That’s why the recent jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the latest  Women’s Retirement Literacy Report from The American College of Financial Services have me flustered. I will get to these shortly.

The pandemic impact on women’s financial security

For women, being knowledgeable about money is imperative in order to navigate our lives with confidence and ride out the shocks we can’t control.

The pandemic has proven the stark reality of this as women have left or lost jobs and promotions. A big factor in this workplace exodus: It’s often their responsibility to shoulder caregiving responsibilities in a household, whether it be for children who are in virtual school rooms at the kitchen table, or aging parents whisked from assisted care living homes when the shut-down, no-visitor isolation orders landed last spring.

Being knowledgeable about money and how to save and invest and spend wisely has never been more important for women. It is our lifeline.

I am an activist for women and money, as you know from my MarketWatch columns over the past year. These include: Why is it still so hard for women to save for retirement? , How can women do a better job preparing for retirement? a nd T his is why so many women face poverty in their old age .

I regularly dole out advice on what you can and should do, and I will dutifully tack a few of these on to the takeaway section at the end of this column. But here’s the truth: There is little I can say, or shout, or cajole, or show just gee how easy this is to do, if you make it a daily habit and so on.

Because you know what? It’s not easy. And no one can do this for you, not even the best financial adviser.

You have to suck it up and devote the time to your money life. That will give you some control when the world goes topsy-turvy as it has this past year. No amount of words from a columnist or an adviser will do this for you. The motivation has to come from within to take lasting actions.

So many women I know shift into the “I’ll think about it tomorrow when I have time to focus on it” mentality. I’ve been guilty of this myself at times. We kick it down the road. We’re trying to deal with today — right now.

That’s going to bite back one day. And it will be harsh. Only you can find the inner compass and energy to do this for you, for your life, for your future.

So here’s what’s got me swirling today. Use it or lose it, as the expression goes, to make a difference in your life. No one cares about you as much as you do. Fact.

“The most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) monthly jobs report shows that the economy lost 140,000 net jobs in December, marking the first month of job loss since the economy started adding back jobs in May 2020,” according to the National Women’s Law Center , a nonprofit focused on achieving gender justice in courts and public policy. “All of the jobs lost were women’s jobs, with women losing 156,000 jobs and men gaining 16,000. And the overall unemployment rate masks even higher rates for Black women and Latinas.”

Other reports I’ve read show that women have been cutting hours, switching to less demanding jobs, or exiting the workforce altogether because they feel it is their only choice. According to the Census Bureau , women are three times more likely than men to have left their job because of child care during the pandemic.

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