a farmher checks out at the register of her local cooperative

5 Steps to Financial Security for Women

For me, and many other women out there, finances can be scary. I worry that I might not be making the right decisions. Sometimes it feels easier to avoid making them at all. However, as we all know, the things we avoid tend to just get bigger and uglier until we can’t avoid them anymore. Recently I had the opportunity to listen to Christine Armstrong talk in an online conference about how women can take better control of their finances. Taking control not only feels good, but it leads to financial freedom. I was excited to get Christine onto our podcast, FarmHer Talks for an Everybody Eats episode with Nationwide. Farms need to be financially healthy to be successful, so financial health for FarmHers is an imperative part of the food chain!

Working Together Through Vulnerability

When I first heard Christine talk during the Women in Agribusiness online conference, I was blown away. She is so knowledgeable and approachable – two things which are huge to me trusting someone! Christine helps women with finances and I immediately knew I needed to get her on our show.  She is a financial powerhouse, helping all kinds of people find financial freedom and especially focusing on women.  Christine, like many FarmHers, is a woman in an industry where she looks and operates differently than the majority. 

Her father died of cancer when she was just 5 years old, putting the family in turmoil at a very young age.  Then, when her mother remarried, Christine had the opportunity to move around the world.  This led to some scary and vulnerable times in her life.  When she was in college she realized she did not want to be in a vulnerable position anymore.  She wanted to know the questions and have the answers.  Christine decided to take control of her own future and continued building on her education with a law degree.  One thing Christine knows is we all have those vulnerabilities as women, regardless of our walk of life.  Her goal is to make sure we walk through those vulnerabilities together.  Following are Christine’s steps towards financial security for women.

Christine Armstrong helps women take control of their financial future

Don’t Be Scared, Instead TAKE CONTROL

Things in our past define how and why we navigate forward.  We all make decisions for our lives, based on our past experiences.  Those experiences lead to decision points where we have the pivotal option to take control.  Christine’s past defined how she proceeded forward. She had a decision point at a young age to take control of her own future and work towards financial stability.  That decision to take control led her through a solid education and into corporate America. 

Regardless of where or when the decision point is, Christine notes she has an internal dialogue. She talks herself though what she can control, and what is her decision to take charge of that.  Her motto is “life begins at the end of her comfort zone” which is something I can definitely get behind!  Rather than being scared by what could happen, or not knowing, take control of the things you can control! 

A FarmHer looks out over her field, assessing her cattle in the early morning light.

Just STOP

Christine says to JUST STOP the worrying.  Take some time for yourself to stop and to think.  Women have excruciating pressures and those are especially inflated right now.  When you stop the worrying, the first step is to take a simple look at your budget. What do you have coming in and what do you have going out?  Where are your money sources?   If there are holes or problems, what can you do to alleviate it?

Get Credit Card Debt Under Control

Credit card debit is the WORST debt to have.  Christine says we must get credit card debt under control immediately.  As an example, if you owe just $1000 dollars on a credit card and pay the minimum each month it will take about 20 years and you will pay about $20,000 in interest to pay it off.  That means that $1000 becomes $21,000 over 20 years!  She says this is an issue for people of all income levels.  You must get your credit under control!

Save Cash and Trust Your Intuition

You need to make sure you have plenty of liquidity especially in times like a global pandemic.  This matters the most so you can continue to afford the basic necessities of food and shelter.  Liquidity means cash – whether money you have on hand, a loan or other resources.  It is suggested to have a minimum of 6 months of income saved, however, that can be really tough. The reality is, figure out how much do you need for basic expenses. 

Women have an incredible gift of intuition.  What is your gut telling you?  Is it saying you aren’t making a smart decision about money or expenses?  Let your gut guide you.  Think about the what if’s?  What are the things that you need to make sure you have in place for the times when something goes wrong?  Having those in place brings peace of mind.  Listen to your gut and trust your intuition.

Two women work together on farm planning.

Protecting The Things You Can Protect

There are many ways we can bring peace of mind to all of the uncontrollable areas in life.  Life insurance is a must to make sure your family is covered.  Think about dangerous places and spaces on your property and consider if you have the appropriate property coverage.  Do you have disability coverage if you get injured and can’t work?  It is key to have these structures in place if and when something happens.  Also, if you have life insurance in place, make sure that your beneficiaries are right.  If you have assets that you are worried about whether it is money, land, or family, you need to have a team you can trust. 

A plan on how to deal with those assets is also imperative.  Make sure you have access to an attorney and an accountant you can trust and openly talk to. It makes a huge difference to have a financial, legal, insurance and accounting team in place to help you when things get tricky or tough.  Horrible things happen every day.  We all know someone who has had horrible things happen.  Take the control to protect the things you can, today.  

A woman carries a basket of harvested greens across the farm.

Pay Attention to Your Finances

As a woman another suggestion she has is that you need to be cautious to make sure that you are paying attention to your finances if in a relationship.  This includes areas such as making sure that assets are jointly owned.  You can put the right pieces in place to give yourself the ability to land on your feet, if and when you need to.  Brush off the fear and take control.  Reach out to someone you trust to help guide you through all of the in between decisions.  You can do it!

Ruth Hambleton, founder of Annie's Project smiles for the camera at her farm.

Annie’s Project As A Resource for Farm and Ranch Women

As a resource, check out Annie’s Project which offers classes on business planning to estate planning and everything in between as it relates to farming.  I have met so many women who have engaged in Annie’s Project around the country and one thing is the same – it is  always empowering!   The program was started by Ruth Hambleton, an educator from Illinois.  She built it based on the memory of farming and her mother.  Classes are specifically for women engaged in farms and ranches.  I would encourage you to reach out and connect with Annie’s Project through extension in your state.  I guarantee you are not going to be sad about learning how to diversify you business or learn more about business taxes, or whatever you are struggling with.  Take a look today, you won’t regret it!

Everybody Eats

Find More Stories at Everybody Eats

We all eat, and that is why farming will always matter.  Everybody Eats is where the stories of food and farming intersect.  These stories told through my FarmHer lens connect us to our food and more importantly, the people behind it.  Everybody Eats is a collection of stories of those who protect our rural communities, who grow our food with extraordinary care, and who provide support, education, and assistance to make sure Everybody Eats. 

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