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Senior Correspondent

A blues musician I once lived with called it the ‘tude. And he personified it. When he walked into a room, without making any effort, conversations shifted and people looked up. It was all about the energy he exuded. The ‘tude.

He owned his space. It didn’t own him.

How you handle your money is no different.

Either you own it. Or it owns you.

What do I mean by “owning” your money?

It starts with taking responsibility for your financial situation. And that’s all about the absence of excuses.

Can you have messed up royally? Absolutely. But own up to it. And change it.

Here are some actions that will help you own your money.

1.  Stop hiding. Women often have psychological issues with money, which come from childhood messaging. But the beliefs that come from that messaging can be identified and released relatively easily. Most of them are worn-out myths.

The economic turmoil of 2008 should have shaken everyone up enough to break through any mental blocks. Although there does seem to be more conversation and questioning about personal finances, too many women actually seem to feel they have even less control over their money than before.

Money is not a topic you can be timid around. Granted, it takes commitment to break through whatever myths or mistaken beliefs are holding you back, but you do need to do it.

2.  Get comfortable. Start learning some “money terminology” around things that are most relevant to today’s economy. Visit sites like The Motley Fool. Spend time digging around sites with all sorts of calculators, like Bankrate.

Even if at first it bores you to death, pick things to read about that seem somewhat familiar and you’ll suddenly see the pieces of the puzzle start to come together. Understand inflation and what it does to anything you have in cash or savings. Read about metals like gold and silver to decide if you’re comfortable putting a bit of your assets into one or the other. Know enough about the housing market in your region to know what you should do about the home you own (if you do own one). Know what your options are if you are upside down, that is, if your mortgage balance is greater than your house’s value today. And know about types of mortgages that you might qualify for, if you could refinance.

In short, be prepared to carry on conversations with people around you: those you might learn from or whose advice you might seek. The world economy is not going to get any easier any time soon. You cannot afford to be a non-player. You have to be fully engaged in the conversation, or you’ll be left floating … and powerless.

3.  Find an advisor. It doesn’t have to be a financial advisor, unless you’re ready for one. But find a mentor who knows more than you do and pick her brain. Join or form a money club where women can talk openly about money and learn as they go. The learning you do will go a long way to building your personal confidence around money.

4.  Start saving and investing immediately (no matter how little money you have to start). Get a savings account set up somewhere, maybe an online one to make it most convenient. Also set up an IRA or a 401(k), ideally one that is funded regularly from somewhere automatically (whether from your salary or from a personal bank account).

Once it’s budgeted, you’ll be amazed how you can adjust your “needs” to be able to live without the money you’re setting aside. Then, you’ll be surprised at how fast your savings accumulate when you just add to them and let the interest compound. (Try some scenarios out on this calculator on the Bankrate site, using just 5 percent annual interest, compounded monthly, and you’ll see what I mean.)

The mere act of saving money has an almost magical empowering ability. Maybe it comes from knowing you’re doing something for yourself, something to take care of yourself in the future. Whatever it is, it contributes greatly to the ‘tude!

5.  Strut your stuff. Once you have come out of hiding, have learned to talk about money, have found someone you can turn to when you need input and have money in the bank … you’ve got ‘tude. Suddenly people are more willing to do business with you. Others will invest more in you. Your boss is willing to pay you more money. And so on.

You are more self-sufficient. And independent.

You own your money.

Let me know in the comments below what part of this you find the most challenging. And let’s see how to get you past it!

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