Ninety three percent of women feel stress when it comes to managing money. This is often due to financial factors that are true for most women: shouldering more of the caregiving duties, living longer than men (aka higher retirement years costs) and higher healthcare costs than men. The World Economic Forum reports that working women are projected to pay $15 billion more each year on healthcare costs than working men. 

Taking financial action is key to reducing financial stress, but don’t get ahead of yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your financial freedom. Here are small steps that women can take to minimize financial stress.

Create a Plan

Every great idea starts with a plan, including financial freedom. Myah Moore Irick, private wealth manager and founder at the Irick Group at Merrill, advises to create a plan based on retirement goals and execute on that plan. 

This includes everything from your monthly budget, paying off debt and saving for a short-term emergency fund and a long-term retirement. A financial plan helps you take inventory of your finances, gets rid of the what-ifs of the unknown and places you in the driver’s seat of managing your money.

“Many people have a fear of falling behind in building wealth and preparing for retirement, but it is never too late to start,” she said. “The fear of falling behind becomes a problem when it keeps you paralyzed and stops you from moving forward.”

Build an Emergency Fund 

Starting an emergency fund is all about setting aside money for the unknown and future necessities and urgencies. The goal is to help you stay out of debt. Financial emergencies are a guarantee, whether it be a job layoff, a car break down, a plumbing issue or unexpected medical bills. Financial experts suggest starting your emergency fund at $1,000. After you have built your initial emergency fund, aim to grow it to three to six months worth of your expenses. 

Pay Off Debt

Another money move to make in order to reduce financial stress is to pay off debt. First, figure out how much debt you really have. Open up every account and pull up the numbers. Start by paying off the smallest debt and moving up to the larger debts, while, of course, still making minimum payments on all debts. 

Save for Retirement

According to a recent study by Goldman Sachs, only about one in two Black women have retirement savings, compared with about six in 10 of all adults. It’s critical for Black women to look ahead and create a strategy for the future. Many financial experts suggest saving 15% of your income for retirement. 

However, this percentage will depend on your age and when you begin saving. When considering what to save, Irick encourages asking the following questions: 

  • What are you able to contribute monthly to your retirement? 
  • What are your anticipated living expenses and health care costs in retirement? 
  • What is your desired lifestyle in retirement? 
  • Will you need to help provide for others in your retirement?

These questions will be key in helping you create a blueprint for a stress-free retirement and financial freedom for the future.