When I became a financial advisor in 1993, college-educated women were earning 73 percent as much as their male colleagues. Today, the gender wage gap has improved somewhat, with 2016 data reflecting that women now earn 80 percent as much as men, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. However, there are a number of other variables that affect the financial security and well-being of women and their families, where even less progress has been made over the past 25 years.
Women — and the people who love them — might want to give special consideration to the following areas:
Longer life expectancy
People are living longer these days, with women outliving men by an average of about five years. To prepare for this and to help ensure that they don’t end up living on “leftovers” in their investment portfolio, women need to implement strategies tailored to these possible long-term needs. These may include considerations such as Social Security-claiming strategies to maximize the household’s lifetime income, an evaluation of life insurance needs to protect the surviving spouse, and an analysis of long-term care insurance options and alternatives.
Being on your own
Fifteen percent of households in the United States consist of women living alone — not only as a result of a spouse’s death but also because of divorce or choosing to remain single. It’s important to think about alternatives in the event you should be faced with any of these situations. Whether single or married, it is important to build and maintain a personal safety net.
Time spent out of the workforce
When caring for children — or an elderly parent — women tend to spend more time away from work than men. The lost months, years, or even decades can have a significant impact on a family’s financial security. The implications for women with regards to investments are clear: They likely will have less time than their male counterparts to contribute to their retirement nest eggs. Proactively understanding these consequences and modeling scenarios before making a decision can help maximize the family’s preparedness.
The single most important action step women can take for themselves and their families is to have a plan. Take time to assess your current financial situation to help get a clear picture of where you stand. Make a list of your financial goals, and then develop strategies to meet them. Keeping in mind the special circumstances we mentioned earlier, you can chart a course of action that will help you be better prepared for future challenges. I lead an all-women team of advisors working with women and the people they care about to help them succeed financially. Over the years we have hosted many seminars to educate women and their families on these potential challenges and offer ways to help them prepare for financial security and independence. We know that with education and planning, many of these issues can be effectively managed. It begins with deliberately considering your unique financial situation and mapping out various scenarios and planning for them. We have witnessed time and again that those who have a plan in place are much more confident about their futures and react with more resiliency to unexpected events.
As female investors driving your plans and strategy to help you and your families succeed, getting started is the most important step. Working with the right financial advisory team can help you develop your plan, implement an investment strategy, and provide monitoring and accountability to help keep you on track. A brighter financial future comes from the actions you take today.
Based in Issaquah, Yvonne D. Hall, CFP, CIMA, is a financial advisor with Hall Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors.