Ways women can more actively plan their financial futures.
By Lori Johnston
WOMEN ARE LIVING LONGER, making more money and getting more outspoken about their investment choices.
That’s an excellent trend, says Catherine Gordon with the Investment Strategy Group for Vanguard, the world’s largest mutual fund company, which produces women and investing webcasts. “There’s no reason to think that women shouldn’t be as successful with their investing and saving career as they are with their professional career,” she says.
When women are at the same income level as men, they tend to save more. In 2012, 78 percent of women earning $50,000 to $74,999 participated in their employer’s plan—compared with 62 percent of men in the same income group, according to Vanguard’s “How America Saves 2013” study.
Still, women have a long way to go in closing the gap between their retirement account balances and those of men. The Vanguard study found that the average retirement account balance for men in 2012 was $102,889 compared to only $65,833 for women.
If you’re confused and uninspired leaving a meeting with a financial services provider, it’s possible to gain support and coaching. “Women often turn to their financial advisers more as a coach, as a mentor, as someone that they trust,” says Karin Grablin, a CPA, CFP and chief operating officer/wealth adviser with SRQ Wealth Management in Sarasota. “This is your financial future we’re talking about.”
No matter your stage of planning for that future, these strategies can help you become more comfortable with where you are headed in retirement.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Become familiar with basic financial terms by subscribing to business magazines and asking your financial advisers to recommend books on the topic. Push your adviser to explain concepts instead of using jargon.
Knowing what you have will protect you from being the victim of fraud, or being unprepared if a relationship breaks up or a spouse dies. Too often, Gordon says, people will call Vanguard, saying, “I don’t know what I have. I don’t know what to do.”
“You can’t just sit on the sidelines,” says Susan Hines, a vice president and trust officer at Caldwell Trust Co. in Sarasota, who also has a doctorate in law.
PLAN AND PRIORITIZE
Know your current assets and liabilities as you start to formulate a retirement savings plan. Retiring debt is first and foremost, Gordon says. A financial planner can use software to forecast a retirement budget and what it will take to comfortably retire.
Allow yourself to dream a bit and envision your retirement years. Hines says you may consider these questions: Will you be traveling with your grandchildren? Will you be starting another business? Will you want to tuck some away for shopping trips? Will you fund college for your heirs?
Investing in a 401(K), especially if an employer matches it, and a ROTH IRA are wise decisions, depending on your debt and your income, as are diversifying your investments with a focus on long-term, not short-term, growth. That will help you resist making knee-jerk movements with your investments as the market goes up or down.
Grablin also recommends an emergency fund in a money market, checking or savings account, covering about three to six months of expenses.
If you have 10 years or more until retirement, Grablin generally advises people to be a bit more aggressive in order to take advantage of growth potential.
EMBRACE YOUR EMOTIONAL, INTUITIVE SENSE.
Sometimes women want to have a personal connection to their investments, and that’s not wrong. “One of the things you often hear, and we find that it’s true with a lot of our women clients, is that they’re more connected to what they actually own,” Hines says. For example, they collect artwork because they love it and aren’t planning on selling it. It’s the same when it comes to stocks and bonds. Researching your investments, such as the company whose stock you own, may create a connection with the organization that helps you better understand your investment.
Deeper decisions also may revolve around who your retirement plans will affect. The mindset among females may be: “The more I make, the more I can save. The more I can invest and save, the more I can help my family.” ■