Women are perhaps the most ignored people on the planet when it comes to finances, yet they control nearly 70% of the money and spending that happens in America. I received a lot of flak for writing a financial book just for women, but I felt it was important to empower and educate them. As I look back with hindsight, most of the criticism came from male financial planners.
Most women today see themselves as their home's chief financial officer. In a survey conducted by Allianz, women revealed that 57% of them do the research on financial planning and more than 60% handle their household taxes. 59% felt that educating their children on personal finance fell squarely on their shoulders.
Yet these same women surveyed had the majority admitting they use the internet as their No. 1 source for gathering information. They felt distrust and neglect from their financial advisor. Lastly, 90% felt they would be happier by joining the financial conversations.
"Women no longer take a back seat when it comes to finances," said Katheryn Parker-Merritt, CEO Katalyze Group. "We are decidedly not 'fragile flowers.' We are powerful and want to be informed and effective in our financial futures. And we want to know the truth about how our money can grow safely."
I want to share three ways to improve your odds for a more secure retirement.
- Understand how to maximize your Social Security benefits. Women are more often not covered by private retirement plans because of less time in the work force. This makes their dependence on social security even higher in their later years.
"It may be beneficial for the lower-earning spouse to start collecting Social Security benefits at age 62 while the higher-earning spouse waits until full retirement age," says Joshua Mellberg, founder of J.D. Mellberg Financial. "This can results in an 8% increase every year by simply delaying benefits."
- Secure life-long life insurance coverage. Most men are set on the "buy term and invest the difference" slogan instead of using permanent life insurance. Yet, most women know they will outlive their husbands and need a financial boost of cash to cover the depleted nest egg from supporting a husband til death do they part.
99% of term policies are outlived and become too expensive to maintain. Yet, 100% of women would benefit from tax-free death benefit money during their senior years. The middle class especially would benefit from this as they typically have too much to receive financial aid and not enough to take care of themselves. Remove yourself from between the rock and the hard place.
"The facts are women tend to live longer," Mellberg adds. "But studies also show that women control and spend more money than men. This is why it is very important for women to understand their finances and ensure they will have enough money."
My wife and I have a "pass away plan," where she knows how much she will receive and a plan in place for how to make it last, put off income and in what order to pay off debts.
- Financial education. The internet is full of good ideas and mediocre opinions. It is important that women be involved in the finances. Too many times I have seen a women become divorced or widowed only to speak the words out loud, "I didn't handle any of the finances and don't know what to do."
"Women need to be an active participant in their own financial future, says Ashley Wyrick, owner of the Ganger Wyrick Agency. "It's no secret women typically outlive men. So it is extremely important for women to know how to accumulate on their assets and eliminate the risk of outliving their money in retirement."
There are many incredible personal finance books and resources available today -- some written by women to women and some just for the masses that still provide incredible insight and understanding. There are also many women's groups to discuss personal finance, investments and lending programs. Being involved and educated is the key.
It's important to be clear on your what if scenarios. What if you became a widow tomorrow? What if you lost income next week? What if you became divorced? Having a plan is important.
In our family, we work hard to make sure my wife has her name attached to credit. Having good credit has been important to her and our family's success. We've made sure to have her name on our primary mortgage and as the owner of our rental property and on the bridge loan lending we do.
Understand good and bad debt is important. Planning for income verses wealth is important. Having a system you can understand and trust that provides growth now and income later is vital.
Mellberg also added that while strange to really consider, "women should plan for retirement as if they will be single. In retirement the outcome is the income, so focus on cashflow not growth."
I believe the best way to improve a community is to support and empower the women in a community. Seek advice from the best books, seek out a mentor or trusted advisor. Ask other women what is working for them and also what has not worked and why. Continue educating yourself and making yourself more valuable to your own future, your family's future and your community.