Money Through the Years


Women have been called “the biggest emerging market in the history of the planet.” And while expectations are that women’s wealth will grow tremendously over the next few decades through their own earning, plus inheritance and marriage, the need for understanding financial management will grow at the same pace.

So while it is possible to surmise from future predictions of women’s wealth, that these women of tomorrow need a strong financial foundation today, it can be a challenge to understand how to get them there. For those of us already grappling with mortgages, salary negotiations, and retirement accounts, we need to see how learning about money at a young age benefits future wealth and responsibility.

It is definitely possible to teach a conceptual financial foundation to younger girls, and see how that learning evolves into serious financial management. Let’s start with three easy financial concepts for elementary school-aged girls: understanding the difference between “wants” and “needs” when spending money, setting goals to plan to buy something in the future, and saving money to achieve those future spending goals.

Here’s a map of how those three simple financial concepts translate and build through time:


  • Wants vs. needs
  • Goal-setting
  • Saving

High School:

  • Wants vs. needs: Budget allowance or part-time income
  • Goal-setting: Plan for college
  • Saving: Save and invest for college


  • Wants vs needs: Budget college spending and full- or part-time income
  • Goal-setting: Pursue a major for potential career, including understanding career and income options
  • Saving: Manage student loan debt service and/or college fund

Young 20s:

  • Wants vs. needs: Budget for life, including college debt repayment and saving for the future
  • Goal-setting: Negotiate the first salary with big spending goals like home ownership in mind
  • Saving: Start investing in a 401(k) or other retirement fund

Here’s a quick recap: understanding wants vs. needs translates into budgeting, which becomes a powerful tool for figuring out how to repay debt, save money, and know how much you need to survive on a day-to-day basis. Goal-setting covers areas like college which then translates into careers, and ultimately dreams of home ownership, and the income you are going to need to get you there. Saving quickly evolves into college fund and/or debt management, and then investing as early as possible for retirement to take advantage of time and the power of compound interest.

The big wins show up in the 20s and beyond, when that first salary is negotiated to maximize income, as opposed to under-negotiating which can cost $500,000 or so over a lifetime. Another win is starting to invest for retirement very young, so that less capital is necessary to yield more income later in life, which means a secure retirement and potentially more money along the way for other forms of life investment like home ownership. Budgeting at any age is a powerful tool, but even more so when debt repayment and saving are both in the mix.

It’s interesting to see how girls and young women of all ages can engage with money understanding and financial planning. It’s even more critical to see how much more financially powerful they will be if they have an opportunity to actively learn and develop financial management through the years.

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