A Letter from Thasunda Brown Duckett

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The CEO of Chase Consumer Bank on why financial health is important for women

Saving money is often attached to key moments in life, like buying a home, starting a family, or planning a wedding. Or maybe it’s a smaller goal, like taking a girls trip or starting an emergency fund.

We call these “dreams” and “goals” for a reason. They require hard work, drive, and yes, they cost money. And that, in turn, means saving.

“Saving” might sound simple. From my own experience, it’s not. When I was growing up in Texas, paying the bills each month was a struggle, never mind putting aside extra money to do something with my girlfriends.

Having had that experience, saving became a critical part of my financial journey. I worked hard for it. When I got my first job out of college, I made sure to contribute the maximum amount to my 401(k) so that I started saving for the future.

“Just having extra cash can go a long way to help get rid of financial stress.”

But saving doesn’t always mean investing or retirement. Just having extra cash can go a long way to help get rid of financial stress. And as women, we have a lot of it, from raising families, paying off student debt or supporting elderly parents.

Unfortunately, though, nearly 40 percent of families are hit with extraordinary payments, like a medical bill, according to the JPMorgan Chase Institute, and it takes them over a year to recover financially.

The good thing is, it’s never too late to start saving. And, saving can start small, whether it’s $10 a week or $10 a month. To get serious about your financial health, consider a few of these easy steps.

Pick a goal: Whether it’s saving for the girl’s trip (or what you’ll wear), studies show that people are more likely to save when they have a specific goal in mind, especially when the goal feels achievable. It also helps to get those goals down on paper. A study out of Dominican University found that participants who wrote down their goals were far more likely to achieve them.

Set it and forget it: Nix the temptation to spend by automatically moving some of your paycheck into a savings account. Most workplace-sponsored retirement plans, like 401ks, offer an automatic savings option. You can even automatically increase the amount on a regular basis.

Build an emergency fund: It’s so important to have an account just for short-term needs so that you’re covered for unexpected expenses, like a medical bill or home repair. Try to save enough to cover at least three months’ worth of basic expenses.

Hold yourself accountable: People are far more likely to stick to savings plans when they announce them. No, not something to announce on social media, but tell a trusted girlfriend about your plans so that you have someone to cheer you on.

Treat yourself: Here’s the golden rule. It’s okay to have a “cheat day” or a splurge, like buying those shoes you’ve been longing for, as long as you have room in your budget. After all, saving for the future is important—but you should still get to enjoy your money today, too.

As women, we need to talk to and support each other when it comes to savings and finance which is why we started Currency Conversations. We invite you to gather your girlfriends, sisters, aunties, and co-workers to break the taboo of talking about money. Start with the first chapter of our Toolkit found on www.currencyconversations.com to get started on focusing on a specific financial topic and actions you can take to achieve your goals. Also, make time for personal reflection on your progress over time. Celebrate your savings wins, big and small. Remember, it’s not about what you make, but what you keep.

 

THASUNDA BROWN DUCKETT is the chief executive officer of Chase Consumer Banking