I was recently stunned when a female colleague of mine admitted that she was sneaking out of work early one day to deal with her overdue bills. She confessed that she’d been so busy at work and in her personal life that she had accidentally let an insurance policy lapse. A successful professional, this colleague values organization more than most, but between her full-time job, parenting three small children and spending some time with her husband, her personal financial affairs had fallen out of priority.
I can sympathize with her — as I’m sure many of you can. Last year, I had to take a day off of work just to attend to some financial paperwork that had been sitting on my desk for months.
Managing multiple responsibilities is not a new challenge for women, but as more working moms climb the corporate ladder, a large portion of them appear to be feeling completely overloaded — hence the intense reaction to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s recent cover story for the Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.” What falls through the cracks? Often it is our own physical and financial health. Exercise, diet, sleep and attending to money matters are major challenges for many supermoms. Ignoring bills can create credit issues and can even disrupt your financial goals and cause extra stress.
For insanely busy women, consider the following five powerful — but relatively easy — steps to simplifying your finances:
1. Organize your home office. It’s easy to become overwhelmed if you can’t find bills, files, account information or statements. Rather than piling envelopes or paperwork on the kitchen counter, consider creating a simple system. Set specific time aside to devote to your finances; a little organization can go a long way.
2. Auto-pay bills. This is one of the most basic steps you can take to save time and ensure prompt remittance of payments. Your rent or mortgage, insurance, utilities, gym memberships and even car registration can be set up for payment at regular intervals.
3. Make saving easier with direct deposit. Take your direct deposit one step further and have monthly contributions sent to your savings or retirement accounts. For many, keeping money out of sight and out of mind creates less temptation to dip into these funds for discretionary purchases.
4. Consolidate accounts. You don’t necessarily need multiple checking, savings, investment, retirement or credit card accounts, yet many people maintain them — often because it takes extra time upfront to consolidate. Maintaining numerous accounts can increase the amount of time you spend opening mail, reconciling statements, keeping records and paying bills. When it comes to credit, you may also earn more rewards if you stick to one or two cards.
5. Simplify your investments. If tracking various investments is stressing you out, consider asset allocation funds or managed accounts so that you can spend less time checking in on them. For women who play multiple roles as professionals, parents, friends and siblings, life can be chaotic, but scheduling a date with your finances is one of the most important things you can do when life gets crazy.
De Baca is vice president of wealth strategies at Ameriprise Financial.