I am a really girly girl. Sugar and spice and everything nice– I’m that cliché. My favorite color is pink. I love shopping for beautiful clothes and I love admiring my collection of cute shoes almost as much as I love wearing them! I love and embrace all aspects of my femininity, which is necessary since my household is filled with rugged and manly-men.
However, there are some areas of my life where I do not embody stereotypical feminine behavior, and savings and retirement planning is one of those areas.
Too few women are engaged in their own financial future and of all of the women’s issues that are getting attention on the socio-political stage right now, this is one that needs to be pushed to the forefront.
While 53% of women are the primary wage earner for their family,¹ only 27% take control of their own or their families’ financial and retirement planning.² There are myriad reasons behind these statistics, but rather than dwell on the cause we need to move toward a solution. And, a solution is simple, women need to actively participate in their household financial planning and they need to take an active role in saving for their retirement.
Earlier I said that I was a girly girl, and part and parcel of that characteristic is that I like to be taken care of, I prefer that my husband reconciles our accounts and manages our finances. I fully and completely trust that he is looking out for our best interests. Even though I have this trust and prefer he manages the day to day transactions, this in no way means that I am not aware and participatory in the decisions that are being made. Quite the contrary, our household budget, our financial resources and our retirement plans are a shared discussion and decision. My adorable (and nerdy) husband even goes so far as to produce a household profit and loss (P&L) statement and balance sheet each month that recaps our family’s monthly results. When our two sons are old enough, they will be included in these discussions and will also receive the family P&L and balance sheet. These discussions, these shared decisions, and the review of our overall financial well-being allows me to be engaged, informed and involved with my family’s financial planning and our retirement plans and strategies.
As a woman, as a wife, as a mother and as a daughter, it is in my nature to have a desire and a need to care for others. One of the topics that I am always addressing in our family financial discussions, particularly related to our retirement savings, is that of providing for our children’s needs when they are grown and preparing to care for my parents if that becomes a necessity. While many women have the thought of taking care of family members in the future, if it is not part of your financial plan, it can lead to dire conditions in later life. It is estimated that caregivers (69% of whom are women) will lose more than $300,000 in potential lifetime income.² If caring for loved ones is something you plan to do, you need to include it in your financial plan.
Ultimately, the daunting reality is this, as much as I like being taken care of and as lucky as I am to have a loving and trusting relationship that allows me to shift the day to day account and transaction management to someone else, I will always need to be prepared for the situation when that responsibility must to shift to me.
My greatest fear is that I will outlive my husband and will have to face the twists, turns, highs and lows of life on my own. Statistically, this is an almost certainty. Today, the average 65 year old woman can expect to live to age 86.6, which is already 2.5 years longer than the life expectancy of the average man and with each passing year, average life expectancy increases. No situation could be worse than arriving at this statistical certainty and not knowing what money is available and how to access it. Unfortunately, there are so many women who face this challenge on a regular basis. Nearly 40% of women over the age of 65 are widows,² and undoubtedly some of these women who lived well during their life are living near poverty in retirement because they didn’t take a participatory role in their finances during their younger years.
Much of the fear and hesitation that women feel in regards to shaping their families’ financial and retirement plan can easily be overcome with a little bit of research and a little bit of assistance. I find that the majority of the information that I need to be well versed on regarding investment and savings related topics can be found by spending the time it takes to drink my morning cup of coffee reading the money and finance section of my favorite online news magazine. My preferences are CNN Money and the Money section of USA Today, but there are hundreds of magazines to choose from, and they are written to provide education in an easily understandable way. Beyond the research you can do on your own, you can always reach out to a financial advisor. Working with a financial advisor to walk through your financial goals and aspirations can really help to put things in to perspective and can bring a sense of peace of mind.
Statistically financial and retirement planning is not a girly topic, but it is most certainly is a topic that is important to this girly girl. Whether you are a “girly girl” or not, being engaged in your own financial well-being is a topic that should be of importance to every woman that cares about her own future.
¹Huffington Post, “More than Half of American Women are Breadwinners Study Finds,” Khadeeja Safdar, July 2012.
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