Rich Girl, Broke Girl shows the steps women need to take to gain control of their finances

December 30, 2021

Financial author Kelley Keehn thinks women need to be in charge – not unwilling passengers – when it comes to steering their financial ships of state.

Her well-written (and entertaining) book, Rich Girl, Broke Girl provides step-by-step directions to help women gain control over debt, day to day expenses, investing and of course, retirement savings.

As the book opens, Keehn notes that while most women are told they can “financially achieve anything, dream as big as any man, accomplish anything,” they often get blamed if they fail, and are told to leave finances to “someone else in (their life),” or to “marry rich.”

The stats, she writes, show that many women don’t like others being in charge of their money. A full two-thirds of women “whose partners are the primary breadwinners feel trapped,” Keehn writes. “Seven in ten women wish they had more power in their financial futures,” she continues. “Sixty-four per cent of women wish they had their own money set aside just in case.”

She then tells the story of “Mack,” a young woman who tried to strike out on her own, but lacked financial knowledge, didn’t know the cost of things, tried to live an impossibly unaffordable life, blew her credit on a single trip, then got behind and didn’t ask for help, ultimately forcing her to move back home.

An “anti-budget,” Keehn writes, is the solution here. Track every dollar, categorize spending, multiply expenses by 12 to create an annual budget, and then “trim the excess… (and) reallocate.” Fictional Mack could save $3,255 a year, writes Keehn, by saving just 50 per cent on her discretionary expenses.

The book looks at the ins and outs of credit, and then, cohabitation.

“Have the money talk with your partner early,” Keehn advises. If your partner is a saver, and you are a “live for today” spender, that collision of views could harm the relationship, she notes.

There’s a great, detailed overview of investing, which looks at cash, fixed income and equities, as well as other investment vehicles. Keehn recommends a diverse approach to investing. Don’t invest in just one stock, but a diversified portfolio, she explains. Understand the risks of equity investing, but don’t fear them and put all your money in fixed-income, Keehn adds.

She explains the difference between buying stocks and bonds yourself versus buying units in mutual funds – the latter can have high fees, she warns.

Keehn points out how even the modest inflation we’ve experienced in the past five years can “erode your wealth.”

In the section on tax shelters, Keehn says it is best to think of registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) and Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) “as an empty garage. You have to put “cars” (investments) into them, and depending on the rules of the tax shelter, there are different perks and penalties.”

With both, you can invest in a “plethora” of different vehicles, from “guaranteed investment certificates (GICs) and savings accounts to stocks, bonds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds and more.” Only the tax treatment of the “cars” is different – you get a tax deduction for funds placed in an RRSP, and they grow tax free, but are taxed when you take money out. There’s no tax deduction for putting funds in a TFSA, but no taxes on growth, and no taxes due on any income taken out of the TFSA.

She talks about the need to maximize your contribution to any company-sponsored retirement savings plan, because otherwise, “you are leaving money on the table.”

Keehn offers some thoughts on the idea of paying off mortgages quickly as a strategy – perhaps, she writes, it’s less of a good idea given the current low mortgage rates – if you have debts at a higher interest rate, perhaps they should be targeted first.

She’s a believer in getting financial advice when you run into problems.

“It’s natural to feel ashamed of our money mistakes. However, our problems compound when we can’t manage on our own and don’t seek help. Think of it this way: Would you formulate a health-improvement plan before going to your doctor to see what’s actually wrong with you? Probably not.”

This is a great, clear, easy-to-follow walk through about a topic that many people don’t like to deal with. If you’re living paycheque to paycheque, with no emergency savings, this book offers you a blueprint for getting out of trouble and building financial independence. It’s a great addition to your financial library.

Kelley Keehn spoke to Save with SPP last year and had great additional insights about the stress Canadians feel over money matters.

Did you know that in-year contributions you make to the Saskatchewan Pension Plan are tax-deductible? In 2022, you can contribute up to $7,000 per calendar year, subject to available RRSP room. As the book suggests, funds within a registered plan like SPP grow tax-free, and are taxed only when you convert your SPP savings to future retirement income. Check out SPP today.

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

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