Wealth planning is a women’s issue
While supporting women during earning years is important, it is equally important that women are also equipped for what comes after — and in particular, that means having a comprehensive wealth plan.
Increasingly, women are reaching the upper echelons of career success, and are earning wealth like never before in history. And fortunately, we are seeing an increased corporate focus on supporting women in their income-earning years — from increased wage gap transparency, to improved family leave policies, substantive DE&I programs, even dedicated inclusive investing efforts to help women manage their personal financial lives while they juggle the many competing pulls on their time.
But while supporting women during earning years is important, it is equally important that women are also equipped for what comes after — and in particular, that means having a comprehensive wealth plan. Read on to learn why wealth planning is a women’s issue, and what you need to consider as you create your own plan for the future.
Living longer and earning less
In the U.S., female life expectancy is five years longer than male.1 Practically, this means women need their retirement savings to last longer than men. Yet women are 80% more likely than men to be impoverished at age 65 and older: women between the ages of 75-79 are three times more likely than men to be living in poverty, and widowed women are twice as likely to be living in poverty as their male counterparts.2 These sad statistics are due in part to longer life expectancy, but also in part because of factors that lead women to have saved less over their lifetimes: the gender pay and gender wealth gap, women continuing to take more time away from work, and women more likely to take on unpaid caregiving responsibilities than men.
For a woman looking to maximize her retirement savings, the benefits of goals-based planning cannot be overstated. An experienced advisor can develop a tailored financial plan that takes into account your lifestyle needs and long-term goals, anticipated career breaks (and the potential impact of unplanned breaks), and also outline the steps needed to achieve your goals. Already saving, but not sure whether it will be enough to eventually retire with the lifestyle you seek? A goals-based analysis can address this, too, and give you peace of mind — or identify gaps that can be addressed by making adjustments to spending, investing, personal risk management, and even estate planning.
Taking care of aging parents
The financial burden of leaving paid work to take on caregiving responsibilities continues to impact women more than men.3 But there are other, non-financial concerns a daughter should consider when planning for aging parents, too. Often, it is an adult daughter who is responsible for providing care of aging parents — in fact, an estimated 61% of family caregivers are female.4 For aging parents, this care may later translate to taking on end-of-life responsibilities. Where tradition or practice dictate that a daughter steps into an informal caregiver role, that should ideally be discussed and agreed upon as a family — particularly if the responsibility comes with financial obligation, will require significant time, or conveys the authority to make medical or end-of-life decisions.5
After the passing of a parent, someone must oversee the estate administration process — this work, too, falls on the shoulders of women more often than men.6 The estate administration roles of personal representative, trustee, and other fiduciaries are important, and include tasks such as overseeing professionals, locating and marshalling assets, ensuring all outstanding debts are paid and inheritances are distributed, and potentially interfacing with a probate court judge. For a busy woman who is juggling a career, raising children, overseeing a home, and other demands on her time, the added responsibilities of administering an estate may or may not be welcome; at the very least, it shouldn’t be assumed. A better plan is to engage in a family conversation in advance while parents are in good health and can explain their wishes, to ensure any responsibilities are fully understood and readily accepted.
After the passing of a spouse
Each year, one million women enter the growing group of 15 million widows in the U.S.; the median age a woman becomes a widow is 60 years old.7 In most heterosexual couples, the woman will outlive her male spouse, which in turn will leave her solely responsible for administering almost all aspects of their estate plan.
As the person most likely to live with the practicalities of the plan’s implementation, perhaps for many years, women need to have a seat at the table during the estate planning process, and should be active participants in shaping the plan’s contents. That involves understanding both her and her spouse’s individual wills and other documents, including trusts established by her and her spouse. It also includes being comfortable with the individuals named in the documents as fiduciaries, their roles, and their responsibilities. If she does not know one of her spouse’s trusted advisors, or is not comfortable with the responsibilities she is to be saddled with, the best time to raise concerns and make adjustments is at the time the plan is being formed. A competent estate planning attorney will welcome questions about the estate plan and its contents, and will have experience answering questions about the estate administration process.
Lean in by assembling a team
For any woman looking to take the reins of her personal financial and wealth planning, the best place to start is by assembling a team of trusted advisors. Such a team includes a financial advisor, as well as legal and tax professionals. Your team of advisors should take the time to listen to you, understand your priorities, ensure you are kept informed along the way, and answer questions as family or career circumstances change. Together, you will develop and implement a plan to ensure you have the best possible long term outcome for yourself and your family.
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