A small but faithful crowd gathered Friday night for the first-ever Utah Women’s Economic Forum.
Organizers of the Utah Women’s Economic Forum, held in the Classroom Building at Utah Valley University, sought to educate women in personal financial planning. According to Jenie Connors, senior advisor at Diversify Inc. and keynote for the evening, 85 percent of the world’s consumer decisions flow through women, but about the same percentage of women wish they had greater financial education.
“Over the next decade, two-thirds of the world’s wealth — $12 to 40 trillion — will be turned over to women,” she said, explaining that this turnover is due to widowhood, earning power and other factors of today’s changing society. “So it’s very, very important to have an understanding of your finances.”
Connors knows this from her own experience. She experienced a family tragedy, and saw in that moment the difficulty financial instability adds to life experiences.
“It is hard enough to deal with what life hands you, then add financial problems on top of it,” she said.
Connors touched on some key economic principles women should comprehend and use to their advantage.
The first is the adage, “More is better.” In the realm of financial planning, Connors said, more retirement funding, more planning for the future, etc. is better.
The second adage is “Now is better than later.” While that can work against people, especially in the realm of using a credit card for something now instead of waiting, it also works well in financial planning.
“Investing now is better than later. Getting that emergency fund now is better than later,” she said.
Finally, the last economic principle was simply, “Limits.” As women, or men, plan for retirement or financial goals, they must understand their limits — financially, physically, in ability, etc. — and make tradeoffs for what is most important.
The evening’s breakout sessions went more deeply into these and other financial planning principles. Investment and retirement strategies took up about half the sessions, while business and entrepreneurial topics filled out the rest. Dan Luke, CEO of Diversify, explained that smart investing incorporates all of these — there is no need to be a business owner to achieve millionaire status.
“The simplicity of investing is to own assets that can build wealth. You don’t have to be a business owner, but you can own assets that grow your money,” he said in his breakout session. “You want your money to become a machine so one day it is paying you a paycheck.”
Financial planning is one area where “time is on your side,” he added. The more time you have to invest and sock away retirement savings, the more it will grow.
Connors put this into perspective in her breakout session, setting out a roadmap for retirement planning, split up by how many years before a person retires. She split up the retirement strategy into four sections: money needed within five years, within five to 10 years, within 10 to 15 years, and 15 to 20 years or more. The money needed earlier is invested more conservatively in liquid assets. The money not needed for decades is invested in growth-targeted areas like stocks.
Most stock market downturns take at least a year and a half to turn around, she reminded attendees, so she recommends balanced investments. All retirement strategies, she said, should include three sections: safe investments, like life insurance or a home; growth-oriented investments tied to the stock market; and growth investments not tied to the stock market, like real estate. The exact mixture and proportions of these three vary from person to person according to personality and where they are in life.
Connors suggested women find a good financial planner to help them chart out a financial strategy, but said it can also be done individually with the right tools. Those attending Friday’s event immediately tapped into some of those tools through the various breakout sessions.
According to event organizers, more than 200 people registered for the event, but only about half attended. One attendee suggested that organizers hold next year’s event on another night than the Friday just before the start of the school year.
The event was part of a partnership with the Utah Women and Leadership Project.