NEW YORK (MainStreet) - "Real Houswives" star Bethenny Frankel always thought she had something special, but so do a lot of people. The difference is that the reality TV personality turned CEO always picked herself up and brushed herself off after failures.

“Don’t focus so much on another person’s product or progress,” Frankel said in a panel discussion hosted by Fidelity Investments and PureWow in Manhattan last week. “Just do your own thing. You succeed by not looking at the person in the next lane.”

That financial independence and prudence become all the more essential for women looking forward. Some $22 trillion in assets will shift to women by 2020 because they will outlive their husbands and because of the advances they are making in the workforce, according to Investment News.

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"When women get involved in finances, they do better than men because men focus on a shorter term performance while women take a longer term view," said Kathy Murphy, president with Fidelity Investments and manager of $1.7 trillion in assets.
“I don’t understand conversations about the glass ceiling,” said Frankel who parlayed a role on Bravo TV into a cocktail brand called Skinnygirl that Fortune Brands acquired. “Women are too worried about the ceiling. Just be better than men.”

Better or not, self-sufficiency is of the essence.
That's because according to the National Center for Women and Retirement Research, there’s a 90% chance that a woman will be the sole decision maker for family finances at some point in her life

“The benefit to being involved in the finances before an unplanned event occurs is knowing where the money is, what to do, what the passwords are and how much money there is,” said Kristen Robinson, senior vice president with Fidelity Investments.
Life changing events that leave women in charge of the family finances include an unplanned divorce, death of a loved one or spouse and losing a job.

“These events typically drive women to take action with their finances but our goal is for women to take action in advance,” Robinson told MainStreet. “We’re encouraging them to take the time to ensure they have enough knowledge to manage their finances so that if something happens, they are ahead of the curve.”

The older a woman gets the more likely she is to engage in family finances. Only 12% of married millennial women identify as primary decision compared to 17% of Gen X women and 24% of Boomers, according to Fidelity’s 2013 Couples Retirement study.

“More than half of college graduates are Millennial women, but only one in eight are the primary decision maker in their marriage because they think men are better with numbers,” said Murphy.

That may be because Millennial women are grappling with challenges that previous generations did not face.

“Many Millennial college graduates have debt, and the debt they are carrying is two times that of previous generations,” said Robinson. “In the last ten years, the amount of debt that millennial women are coming out of college with is $35,200.”

Still Robinson advises saving while paying down debt.

“When people have debt, they think it’s linear and they pay off debt before saving, but we’re advocating that they save while paying off debt,” said Robinson. Saving while paying off debt involves continuing to make 401(k) contributions that are matched or stashing cash in an IRA.

“Once your high interest rate debt is paid off then try to increase your 401(k) contributions with the goal of eventually contributing 10% to 15%,” said Robinson. “Whatever money you were paying to your high interest rate debt is now free to be put towards your 401(k) plan. It’s not like the old days when most people had a pension.”

Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet

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