The work world is changing, says Garry Thurman, owner of Guardian Investment Advisors. Men may have, at one time, dominated financial affairs. But as more women enter the work force, they are learning to take control of their financial health and longevity.
"Women need to have a voice in their retirement plan," says Thurman. And the sooner the better.
"The average age widow age is 59 now. So, women have a lot of years left after that point and they need to make sure how to make financial decisions -- and they need to work with someone who understands those decisions, as well."
In Thurman's experience, women face four main financial challenges as they look toward retirement:
Women are more likely to rely on their spouse to handle financial matters. Statistics show that about 40% of men and 25% of women claim to be the sole retirement planner for the family. Women who aren't involved in the family's financial planning leave themselves in a vulnerable situation.
Women earn and save less than men. While times are changing, women continue to earn significantly less than men. Over the course of a lifetime, what can seem like a small difference add up to losses of up to $250,000 or more, making it harder to save and build wealth. Women are also called upon to take care of children and elderly parents, which can pull them out of the workforce and affect lifetime earnings.
Women may be more conservative investors. Studies show that women tend to be more reluctant to taking risks in their investment portfolios, he says. And while a conservative approach may be appropriate in some cases, it's also an important component to investing, as there's a strong correlation between risk and reward.
Women are disproportionately impacted by divorce. Studies show that the burden of divorce often weighs heavier on women because her income is more likely to undergo the larger decrease. And for those women who let their spouse take sole responsibility for the family's financial planning, there may be unpleasant hidden surprises such as debt. For female divorcees aged 50 and up, the problem gets more complicated, depending on whether they've been generated income or not. And with retirement only 10-15 years away, they have less time to recover financially.
In response to these issues, Thurman's firm offers six rules of guidance: Plan for longevity; budget for health care expenses; protect against volatility; account for inflation; seek professional advice; and protect your legacy.
"Women need to understand they're going to live longer and most likely be forced out of workplace earlier because of children or elderly parents," says Thurman. "I see this happen so much it's unreal.
"I think women also need to be very involved in their family retirement planning. For a lot of women, all of a sudden the spouse passes and they have no idea about what they have, where it's invested or what needs to be done. Women need to have an understanding of how their portfolio is set up and how it's going to work."
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