I was fortunate to be a speaker on two panels at the Pennsylvania Governor’s Conference for Women on October 2, 2008. What an incredible experience – 5,000 women in one room! The two panels I was part of were: “Recession-Proofing Your Finances” and “It’s Your Money So Take it Personally” both moderated by Valerie Coleman Morris. Valerie is the former Business Anchor for CNN domestic and international and provided a wealth of experience on the panels. Given that money is on everyone’s mind these days, there were a few key questions and points that kept springing up during the panels and from participants afterwards.
1) There were many women attending that are successful professionally but don’t have anything to show for it (i.e. high paycheck, low savings). They feel their options are limited.
Here are a few ways to get started if you do not have a lot of money saved. You first should make sure you have an emergency savings account with at least 3 months worth of savings. Since you want to have access to this money in less than 5 years, you should keep it in just a money market. You can find ones that yield a higher interest rate than your local bank (and are FDIC insured) at ingdirect.com and emigrantdirect.com. Once you have this account saved, you can also start investing in a mutual fund for just $50 a month at T. Rowe Price (troweprice.com). They waive their minimum if you commit to saving automatically. A point of comfort during this tumultuous time is that the investments you are buying in this down market are at a low, which is the optimal time to buy!
2) With all the gyrations in the market, should I get out of stocks entirely until this blows over? Should I at least seriously reallocate my portfolio?
If you do not need your money for at least 7 years, you should stay in the stock market. If this is your time frame, this is not the time to ignore your IRA; if anything, your investments need more attention than ever. If you don’t keep investing, your retirement portfolio could run out of money since your portfolio won’t be able to keep up with inflation (study by T. Rowe Price). If you are investing for the long term (at least 7 years), you should make sure you are diversified in large cap, small cap, international and bond mutual funds.
3) With some big banks in jeopardy, are my liquid accounts safe? That cash is my rainy day fund, and I may need it!
You have a right to feel worried. It is hard to keep track of all the bank mergers in the last few weeks. You should start by checking if your bank account is FDIC insured. A great new site to do this is http://www.myfdicinsurance.gov/. It probably is which means you are insured up to $250,000 per depositor. This recently went up from $100,000 per the new recovery bill. This means that your liquid account is safe.