Amanda of the personal finance blog Young and Broke, offers TBF readers advice on how to take control of your financial life.

A recent Chicago Tribune featured a page devoted to women and their money, and focused on what I think is an extremely important point for young women today: Control.  It’s amazing to me because, even though it may be 2006, I still encounter blantant points of feminine inequality on a daily basis, and one area where this stands out the most is money.  We still earn less than men, and I think we all know that the way we handle our $ (saving, spending, investing, perceiving), in comparison to men, is completely different.

Why?  Well, according to the article by Tara Swords, “women’s money attitudes are mired in gender roles”; we aren’t confident enough to tackle our financial future, in many cases, and we have been taught to “not be very good at the money stuff”. . Because we don’t think were are good at handling money, we often hand over control to someone else, and this someone else is generally male (father, husband, accountant…).  Even though we live in a modern age, a lot of women I know seem to still think that their knight in shining armour will one day come along, fix all the financial mistakes they’ve made, and take care of them forever… and what a mistake this line of thinking is.

The thing is, even if you do end up married to Prince Charming and are totally taken care of financially for the rest of your life (or even if you just let your dear old Dad take care of you instead), you’re doing yourself a disservice.  Empowerment comes from taking control of your life and owning all aspects of it.  Your money included.

The article points out a number of tips for women in different life stages, some of which I’d like to share:

- Just entering the workforce? 
Negotiate your salary.  This shouldn’t just be for new grads, it should be a career-long effort.  Know what you are worth, and stick to it.
Get rid of credit card debt.  Once you do, pay your bill in full every month.
Pay yourself first.  The best financial lesson I know.  Your savings should be your first priority upon receiving your paycheck.
Open and contribute to a 401 (k) or other tax-deferred retirement plan.  At least enough to get your employer match.
Learn about investing.  Don’t be scared!  Women tend to be scared of risk, but as the article points out, you’ll never be able to keep up with inflation if you don’t invest accordingly.

- Just moved in with your (non-married) partner?
Keep finances separate.  Your money is yours and you shouldn’t let loose of that control.
Expose yourself, financially.  Share your debts, figure out his.  Time to view each others credit reports.
Draft a cohabitation agreement of some sort.  You need to protect your assets.
Owning property together is tricky.  Be sure you understand all the legal implications before doing so.

- Just married?
Keep some money in your own name.  This is what my husband and I do, in addition to a shared account for joint expenses.  It’s important for you to have money and credit in your own name, not just joint with your spouse.
Stay involved.  If you’re not that into planning finances, at least know about what’s going on.  I’m actually the primary finance person in our household, but that doesn’t mean that my husband is completely ignorant.  It’s an ongoing discussion.
If you file a joint tax return, read through it carefully.  You’re now responsible for everything your spouse does as well.

- Just single?
Maximize your income.  If you feel you deserve more, ask.  It doesn’t hurt.
If you have no kids or spousal responsibilities, you can save more.  The earlier you start, the easier it is.
Create a will.  If you have no spouse or children, who will receive your assets if you pass away unexpectedly?

The point is, your can never predict the future.  We all would like to think that ‘til death do us part really means that, and I’m not saying anything against marriage whatsoever.  But you can never know for sure what the next day holds, and preparing yourself for the unexpected is one of the best ways to prevent it.

You’ll also feel better about yourself, I promise!

Amanda is the author of Young and Broke,  a personal finance blog directed towards twentysomethings. Since it’s
creation 2 years ago, Young and Broke has been featured in national news
publications, including the Wall Street Journal and Chicago Tribune, as well
as on radio spots and magazine articles. Amanda lives in Chicago, IL with
her husband, and loves expanding her knowledge of finance, as well as
exploring the world, trying new foods, and watching interesting films!