Women often talk about finding financial freedom, but single women especially need to think about being financially whole, according to Tiffany Aliche, a personal finance expert who is known as "The Budgetnista" to her hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.
"The goal is to really holistically look at your finances, not just, 'I want to be financially free,'" Aliche, whose new book "Get Good With Money" focuses on the 10 components, told "Good Morning America." "Single women in particular should be hyper sensitive to holistically looking at their finances and taking it one step at a time."
Financial wholeness, according to Aliche, is achieved when the 10 core components of a person's financial life are in order. Those 10 components include budgeting, savings, paying off debt, earning good credit, learning to earn, investing, insurance, creating net worth, having a money team and estate planning, according to Aliche.
"Ask yourself, 'Do I have a budget? Great. What about a savings plan?,'" explained Aliche. "And accumulate those 10 steps along the way."
For many women, the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic has added financial stress this year. It has put millions of women out of work, and forced many women to tap into their retirement and savings accounts to be able to live.
In the midst of that crisis, here are five tips from Aliche to help women, and single women in particular, become financially whole.
1. Make a name for your 'later lady' and plan for her.
Aliche has created an image of herself in retirement and named her "Wanda," and that's who she thinks of when she is making decisions about investing her money.
"There was a study that was done that said people don't set aside for retirement because they're disassociated from their older self. They don't see themselves as ever getting older," Aliche said. "So my older self is Wanda, and I almost think of her as my grandmother self, or my later lady."
Aliche said she thinks of Wanda, for example, when deciding whether to maximize her Roth IRA in addition to her 401(k) retirement account.
"You get tax breaks now with a 401(k) or traditional IRA, but with Roth IRAs you get tax breaks later," she said. "So I think, 'OK, I've got my match at work. Now let me take care of Wanda. Let me max my Roth IRA because although I don't a tax break on the front end, I will, when I'm Wanda's age, be able to withdraw that money and the growth tax free.'"
"I think to myself, 'Do I want a tax break for Tiffany now, who is able to work and is young, or do I want Wanda to get a tax break who is like, 'Girl, don't have me working out here at 80,'" Aliche added.
2. Split and save your money.
Aliche advises women to "save like a squirrel" by splitting their money well before it even hits their checking account.
"I want you to go to your [human resources] department, go to your payroll department and say, 'Instead of putting all of my money in my checking account, could you also put some of my money in my savings account,'" she said, explaining that adding a direct deposit to your savings account will allow you to split your money "without having to worry about being disciplined."
"And make sure that savings account is an online-only savings account because doing so makes it inconvenient," added Aliche. "Inconvenient money gets saved."
3. Be strategic after filing taxes.
If you owe money after filing your taxes, Aliche recommends considering meeting with an accountant to make sure you did your taxes correctly.
If you did file correctly and if you cannot afford to pay what is due, an accountant can help you arrange for a payment plan, according to Aliche.
If you get money back, Aliche said to look closely at where you are in your life before automatically spending or investing the money.
"Take care of your health and safety bills first and foremost. Don't put it towards anything else other than the things that maintain your health and safety," she said. "You need food to eat and a safe place to live. Make sure that is priority."
If you are set on your immediate expenses, Aliche said to then make sure you have your emergency fund funded.
How much to save in an emergency fund depends on what industry you are in and how quickly you can replace your income, i.e. get another job, according to Aliche. She recommends saving for a minimum of three months' expenses.
Only after making sure you have money saved for your current and future expenses should you consider, first, paying off high-interest debt and then, last, investing the money, according to Aliche.
4. Know when to hire financial help and when to DIY.
Aliche's rule of thumb is to hire a financial adviser if you have $250,000 or more in assets to invest. Otherwise, she says advisers' fees are typically too expensive to make it worth the money.
"The truth is you really don't need all of that if you just did the financial fundamentals," said Aliche. "If you have a retirement account at work and you do a target date account where you set the target date you want to retire, that is done."
"If you're investing for wealth, choose a mutual fund, which is similar to a target-date fund, and set it up to put $50 every month, for example," she said. "If you just did that you'd be leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else."
Aliche said the exception to the rule is that hiring a fee-only certified financial planner can be worth the money. That is someone you could hire for $100 to $500 an hour to review major financial decisions, like whether or not to return to school.
5. Learn to earn money.
"Everybody should know how to make additional money," Aliche said of her "learn to earn" philosophy.
One way to make money outside your full-time job is to monetize your skill set, according to Aliche.
"I used to be a preschool teacher for over 10 years and when I did so, I used to tutor and babysit," she said. "What skill set can you use to make money as your side hustle?"
At work, one way to earn more money is to create what Aliche calls a "go me" file to have a record of your accomplishments that make you an asset to your employer.
"When you help to make the company you work for money or help to save the company you work for money, when that happens, put it in a file or write it down so when you go for a review or you ask for a raise, you can quantify your ability to do so," she explained.