A young woman executive in a financial meeting

Women, Don’t Retire Without…

A practical financial checklist for the future.

 

When our parents retired, living to 75 amounted to a nice long life and Social Security was often supplemented by a pension. How different things are today!

 

The good news is that life expectancy for women – as measured by the Centers for Disease Control – is now 81.1 years. The Social Security Administration estimates that the average 65- year-old woman today will live to age 86. 1,2

 

Given these projections, it appears that a retirement of 20 years or longer might be in your future.

 

Are you prepared for a 20-year retirement? How about a 30- or 40-year retirement? Don’t laugh, it could happen: the SSA projects that about 25% of today’s 65-year- olds will live past 90, with approximately 10% living to be older than 95. 2

 

How do you begin? How do you draw retirement income off of what you’ve saved, and how could you create other possible income streams? How do you try and protect your retirement savings and other financial assets?

 

Talking with a financial professional – a female financial professional – may give you some good ideas. You want an advisor who walks your walk, who understands the particular challenges that many women face in saving for retirement (time out of the workforce due to childcare or eldercare, maintaining financial equilibrium in the wake of divorce or death of a spouse).

 

As you have that conversation, you can focus on some of the must-haves.

 

You should plan your investing. Many women (and men) retire with a random collection of investments, and no real strategy. Some are big on “chasing the return” – assuming risk they really shouldn’t in pursuit of a double-digit yield. Others are very risk-averse, so fearful of what stocks might do that they stay out of the market entirely – and in the current low interest rate environment, that represents an easy way to fall behind and lose purchasing power to inflation.

 

You need a middle ground. When you are in your fifties, for example, you have less time to make back any big investment losses than you once did. So protecting what you have is a priority. At the same time, the possibility of a 15-, 20-, or even 30- or 40-year retirement means you have to keep a foot, if not both feet, in some kind of growth investing. Your initial retirement nest egg has to keep growing.

 

You should look at long term care coverage. It is an extreme generalization to say that men die sudden deaths and women die lingering ones; however, women often have longer average life expectancies than men and can require weeks, months or years of eldercare. Medicare is no substitute for LTC insurance; it only pays for 100 days of nursing home care, and only if you get skilled care and enter a nursing home right after a hospital stay of 3 or more days. Long term care coverage can provide a huge financial relief if and when the need for LTC arises. 3

 

Claim those Social Security benefits carefully. If your career and health permit, delaying Social Security  is a wise move for single women. If you wait until full retirement age to claim your benefits, you could receive 30-40% larger Social Security payments as a result. For every year you wait to claim Social Security, your monthly payments get about 8% larger. 4

 

Married women can look at spousal claiming strategies such as the “file and suspend” approach and claiming spousal benefits first. This may help to maximize the Social Security benefits you and your spouse receive.

 

Above all, retire with a plan. Have a financial professional who sees retirement through your eyes help you define it on your terms, with a wealth management approach designed for the long term.

 

1 – http://cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr61/nvsr61_06.pdf

2 – http://ssa.gov/planners/lifeexpectancy.htm

3 – http://medicare.gov/coverage/skilled-nursing-facility-care.html

4 – http://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/articles/2012/04/02/what-older-workers-dont-know-about-social-security

Woman reading stock quotes from WSJ.

Ways Women can become Engaged in their Financial Life

Some women handle their money brilliantly all the time- in a perfect world. It is crucial to be connected with your finances. However, most of us are in dark about our finances for reasons like misunderstanding terms or not being involved enough. Luckily, there is always time for you to become engaged. The tips below will help you become involved with your personal finances:

  • Do you let your husband or partner manage money without your involvement? Change happens all the time in relationships, don’t start learning about your finances while you are in shock.
  • Do not sign your joint income tax return without reading it. Make sure you understand and thoroughly read your income tax return. If you need to, consult a professional; but don’t rush into signing anything.
  • Do you use your husband’s financial advisor, even if you don’t really like him, know him, or can’t stand him? At your next meeting with your Advisor, ask yourself how much YOU were engaged in the conversation. If not, consult with your partner and try to find an Advisor both of you can be engaged with.
  • Ask for confusing terms to be explained. Don’t let uncertainty and being uncomfortable get in the way of understanding your finances.
  • Not taking enough risk. We women tend to be more against taking risks. Women live longer lives; we retire with two-thirds the retirement savings of men. This calls for greater risk taking to earn a higher return. Many women HAVE to push themselves to do this.
  • Not seeing your money as a means to express your values. Value is defined as a person’s principles or standards of behavior. Many women express their values through the products they buy, the way they spend their time, and the companies they work for. However, few women view their investments as a tool for expressing value. Today, the new industry can represent a way for women to have their money work at more than just earning a financial return.

It is time for you to become engaged and find success in your finances! Take control now! Did you find this email helpful? I’d love to hear from you, please post feedback to Financially Savvy Women Fanpage.

 

Money Issues Across Your Life Cycle

Some women are co-breadwinners while others are the only source of income. Throughout a woman’s life, she will experience many money issues unique to women. A woman may experience the following situations: lower earnings, lack of retirement planning, divorce, and fewer years in the workplace because of child-rearing or caring for older parents. Many of these issues can work against a woman’s ability to accumulate money and attain stable financial status.

Lower Lifetime Earnings

As a population, women generally earn a lower income than their male counterparts. The Equal Pay Act that passed in the 1960s was supposed to narrow the earning gap between men and women, yet a gender pay gap still exists today. Women who work full-time year-round still are paid 77% of a man’s pay ($37,000 for a woman compared to $48,000 for a man in 2009) (U.S. Census Bureau 2012). Inequities start early and worsen over time. Research has shown a 5% difference one year after college graduation and a 12% difference after 10 years. The only identified explanation for the unexplained gaps was gender discrimination (Arnst 2007; Boushey, Aarons, and Smith 2010).

Breaks in Career

Women are more likely to have gaps in their work years because of child-rearing (Duke 2010). Some women may leave their jobs for extended periods of time to go on maternity leave. Other women make the choice to stay home for an extended time, reentering the job market years later. During child-rearing years, some women may leave careers behind and choose to work part-time or find a job with hours that match closely with children’s school schedules. As a result, upon retirement age, women’s income and Social Security benefits are often lower than those of their male counterparts.
Women need to pay attention to any employer retirement plan or matched contributions that may have been a job benefit. Find out about retirement or savings before you leave the job. If money is invested in a retirement plan, can it stay until you are ready to retire? What are the options?

Divorce

The divorce rate in the United States is estimated at 36%–50% (U.S. Census Bureau 2010). In general, divorce creates a financial disaster for families and may leave a woman to raise children using less money. Spending may likely need to change when a divorce occurs. It is important to review monthly expenditures and establish a budget. Since cash flow may drastically change and not be the same from week to week, continue to review income and expenses. Depending on the number of years a woman was married, she may be entitled to part of her husband’s retirement income. Be sure all financial issues are revealed and resolved during divorce proceedings.

Care of Elderly Parents

Another family obligation that may interfere with building wealth is caring for an elderly or ailing parent or other family member. Women tend to be the major caregivers for sick or older parents. Some women may take a career break or retire early to attend to the full-time care of a family member. Even if a woman continues to work, caring for the family member may become a financial burden.

Widowhood

As women age, the likelihood of living alone increases. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2010), among those 65 and older, 44% of women were married, compared to 75% of men. Widowed women account for approximately 40% of women 65 and older, but only 13% of men 65 and older are widowed (U.S. Census Bureau 2010). The average age of widowhood is 55 years old (U.S. Census Bureau 2010). A spouse’s death is not only emotionally exhausting, but also will likely end with financial consequences.

Lack of Retirement Planning

As a whole, women tend to focus less on planning for their retirement over the course of their career, having saved less for retirement than men. Because women are often the caregivers for the family, taking steps to ensure their financial future may take a backseat when other events occur.
Women are reluctant to taking risk. When women do put money into a retirement fund, it is often a conservative investment that earns lower interest rates than their male counterparts. Try to research investments and identify your best options.

What You Can Do to Prepare Yourself

Women can improve their financial status and retirement income. Financial planning and learning about investing are the first steps on the road to financial independence. Time is on your side when you start early. Small amounts of money saved and invested over time add up to a secure financial life.

(U.S. Census Bureau 2010)

The Bag Lady Syndrome

Many women worry about ending up destitute and in the streets in their senior years. This is the bag lady syndrome; it often stems from lack of confidence in knowing how to make and manage money. The bag lady syndrome ranges from women who have a lot of money to women who have a highly emotional relationship with money. To build up confidence you must explore your money mindset. What is your thought or belief about money and its purpose in the world? Your money mindset ultimately dictates how you save, spend, invest, and gift daily.

Source: Kingsbury, How to Give Financial Advice to Women

Building Your Divorce Community

A divorce can be one of the most challenging experiences in life. How you approach the divorce and manage the divorce both emotionally, legally and financially can have a huge impact on your ability to recover and rebuild a better life for yourself. They key is don’t try to go it alone.

Women work best in a community but when experiencing divorce you must build your community that can provide both objective advice while supporting and encouraging you to make the best decisions for your future so that you can heal and shine again.

It’s important that you formally ask for their help and to be available to you and a part of this community.

Your divorce community must incorporate one of each of the following.

  1. A family member who understands your situation and challenges but can also be objective with their advice and support.
  2. A friend who can commit to supporting you and provides sound and objective advice but who can listen and empathize when needed.
  3. An attorney that is recommended and that you LIKE with whom you feel will provide the best council.
  4. A Financial Advisor who respects women and provides not just investment advice but the education you need to understand your money and what it means to your future.
  5. A Life Coach who will not just be a sounding board but provide action steps to help you move forward and improve your life.

Think of a beautiful diamond ring, that diamond is held firmly in place by prongs that do not hold that diamond down but together supports that diamond so everyone can see its beauty and brilliance.

You too can become that diamond again, but it starts with building your community.

Do you have a “Whisper Letter”?

As women accumulate wealth, their focus often turns to their children; how can I help them and how will my money support them when I am gone. It’s easy to assume they will use it in ways that will better their lives and provide the security we want for them, but this can be “wishful” thinking. For more affluent people, trust is often an effective way to control distribution and even put stipulations on how the money can be used, yet this doesn’t always convey our wishes and desires. A “Whisper Letter” is written before your passing, and communicates to your children what your hope is for this money you are leaving behind. It’s not designed to control but to encourage your children to be more thoughtful in how they use this money. You might encourage tithing or investing; you may inspire them to save more or even to splurge a little bit. Giving your children some gentle guidance by using a Whisper Letter can provide both parties some guidance.
If you wrote a Whisper Letter, what financial philosophies and principles would you want to encourage?

You Too Can Be a Courageous Woman

Being wealthy and financially engaged takes courage. For many women, their fear of facing their financial affairs only comes to light after experiencing a personal life crisis, divorce, and loss of a spouse or involuntary retirement. At that point your actions are more about survival. It takes courage to weed through the emotional aspects of challenging life events but your lack of financial knowledge only exacerbates an already stressful situation.
True courage is when a woman proactively decides to take charge of her financial affairs especially when life is Good. Courage is when a woman voluntarily becomes more engaged in the process of managing her money asking questions even if it makes her feel stupid. Courage is when a woman becomes aware of what she spends and what she needs before a crisis occurs to prompt her into action.