Whether it's from high divorce rates, living longer than their husbands, or getting married later in life, more and more women are finding themselves in charge of their own finances. As such, women need to be able to stand on their own two feet when it comes to money matters. In a growing number of cases the refrain "a man is your financial plan" is no longer relevant.
Personal finance expert Joan Baker says: "There's no guarantee that life comes with a man. Even if it does, there's no guarantee that money comes with that man. And even if you get a man who comes with money, there's no guarantee that either will stay."
While that may sound a bit crass, the fact is that women need to take care of their own finances. On average, women earn lower salaries than men; due to child rearing, they are in and out of the workforce. As a result, women tend to work less time than men, but because they live longer, they have to save more for retirement. Women need to learn the tools necessary to budget correctly, set short- and long-term financial goals and to invest in an appropriate fashion to meet those goals.
Though not scientific, it has been my experience that many financial professionals act condescendingly toward women when it comes to helping them plan and invest. You get the feeling that they believe women are unable to create budgets and live by them. Instead of helping women take control of their financial situations (by giving them the tools and education needed to be financially stable), they skip this step altogether and focus only on their investments. Here, too, many investment professionals get low marks. Because women outlive men, they need financial plans that account and compensate for their longer life expectancy.
Unfortunately, there have been many studies that show women tend to have significantly more conservative investment portfolios than men have. While this may have served women well as the markets dropped last year, women who take too conservative an approach may end up running out of money prematurely.
I recently met with a single woman in her early 30s who has been working in hi-tech and saving for about a decade. As she lives with two roommates, her living expenses are quite low and she has accumulated a very respectable sum of money. She also receives a full complement of social benefits, so she has a good start on planning for retirement as well.
It turns out that all the money she has saved over the years has been sitting in her local bank on deposit, earning next to nothing. I asked her why she had never invested the money and/or bought an apartment. She said there were two main reasons: she always figured she would get married and have her husband handle everything, and she was put off by a financial advisor. She had met with a fast-talking professional who wouldn't take the time to explain various investment concepts in depth. She was told that since she didn't grasp the basics right away, she would be better off keeping the money in the bank. He basically wrote her off.
We spoke about her potentially buying an apartment. I said she could continue to have roommates and charge them rent, which would cover her mortgage payments. Instead of throwing money away on rent, she could build equity in an apartment - all while keeping her roommates and having them cover her mortgage.
We also spoke about creating a long-term stock portfolio to help pay for the weddings of her children when she does get married. After taking the time to explain various investments in depth and to answer her questions, she thanked me and said this was really the first time anyone ever took her seriously when it came to money matters.
All women, married or divorced, single or widowed, have their own specific issues when it comes to managing finances. Speak with a professional who is sensitive to women's needs and has the patience - and will take the time - to explain various financial solutions. This will help give you the tools to get on the path to financial stability.
Aaron Katsman is a licensed financial adviser in the United States and Israel and helps people who open investment accounts in the US.
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