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10 things I wish women were taught about self-preservation

Every year, women’s magazines come out with their lists of things that we all should know, usually by the time we are X years old. This is my top 10 list of practical, self-preserving, pragmatic things that can be absolutely critical to your success and your survival.

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1. You must be able to support yourself, on your own, without assistance from others. Self-sufficiency is paramount.

Why this is important: Self-sufficiency provides you with three important things: freedom, power and respect. Those things enable you to have more choices.

2. If you choose to stop working to take care of your family, you must understand all the risks that you are taking.

Why this is important: There are very real, long-term effects of removing yourself from the workforce: lost future earnings, years of not contributing to your retirement accounts and outdated skills. Understand how difficult it is going to be when and if you decide to return to the workforce. You’ll be competing against people who are more experienced and, more importantly, more recently experienced. You cannot simply look at the cost you will incur in the present.

3. You must understand all household financials

Even if you aren’t the one writing the checks, you need to know what it costs to run your household. You also must know about all accounts and investments, including knowing where they are and what their value is.

Why this is important: You have a financial stake in the household. You need to know how much it takes to run and how the balance sheet looks.

4. If you have dependent children, you and their father must each carry life insurance — yes, even if you are a SAHM.When you decide on an amount that you think is sufficient, double it.

Why this is important: You need to plan for possible financial losses to your household. Raising children costs money. You must ensure that, in the event of the death of you or their father, there is money to house, feed, clothe and educate them.

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5. Don’t bake for the office

Don’t volunteer to clean up after meetings. Get coffee for your male coworker only as a courtesy and not as a condition of employment.

Why this is important: Women have been fighting for equal opportunities and equal pay for more than 100 years. Don’t volunteer for tasks that promote the idea of “women’s work.”

6. Have a contingency plan

If something catastrophic occurs (divorce, death of spouse or loss of home), you should at least have an idea of how to proceed.

Why this is important: It is critical that you are able to be financially independent in the event of a life-changing event.

7. Keep all your important papers together in one place, preferably in a bank safety deposit box.

Important papers include birth/adoption/death/marriage certificates, divorce decrees, military discharge papers, wills, life insurance policies and the like.

Why this is important: These documents are usually needed during very stressful times. Eliminate unnecessary chaos by having them all in one centralized location.

8. Be sure that your name appears on the mortgage, deed and tax records of any property that you own with another person.

Why this is important: Did you know that prior to the 1970s, women were not allowed to obtain credit in their own names?

9. Don’t apologize for your opinions or beliefs — ever.

Why this is important: When you apologize for your stance, you diminish it and marginalize yourself. There is enough external subjugation of women; you needn’t do it to yourself.

10. Find a mentor, a trusted adviser whose expertise you value

Learn all you can from him or her. Then pay it forward and mentor someone else.

Why this is important: Lifelong learning is a way to mitigate risk. Don’t be left out in the dark or caught off guard. Share your knowledge with others.

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