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An age-by-age guide: Key financial questions every woman should ask

Use our answers to help you take charge of your financial future

 

YOUR MONEY SHOULD BE WORKING HARD to help you create a secure financial future. That’s true for everyone — but maximizing your financial power is even more important if you’re a woman. According to Lorna Sabbia, head of Retirement & Personal Wealth Solutions at Bank of America, women need to take several unique factors into account as they plot out their financial future: the likelihood they won’t be paid as highly as their male counterparts, possible career breaks to take care of family, higher health care costs and a good chance of a longer retirement due to the greater life expectancy of women than men.

 

“For all these reasons,” Sabbia says, “women should pay careful attention to every financial decision they make.” Use the following questions — and answers — as a starting point for thinking about how you can seize the opportunities available to you and put your money to best use at every stage of your life.

Your 20s & 30s

 

The learnings and best practices below have been gleaned from organizations who not only survived but thrived in 2020, with a focus on operations, communications, fundraising, finances, and leadership.

How do I get comfortable with — and knowledgeable about — investing?

My employer offers a 401(k) plan — how much of my salary do I need to put away for my future?

If I marry, should I keep my finances separate from my spouse’s?

Can I afford to be a stay-at-home mom for a while? Will that hurt my career and my future financial security?

Your 40s & 50s

 

During your 40s and 50s, life is whizzing ahead, both personally and professionally. You may be married, raising young children, managing the household finances, funding college tuitions, paying a mortgage and tending to a demanding career. How can you best plan for potential needs later in life, and take advantage of opportunities to advance your progress toward your life goals?

At this stage of my financial life, I feel like I could benefit from working with a financial advisor. How do I find one I can trust?

How can I put aside money for my child’s education while still saving for my own retirement?

My marriage is shaky — are there financial moves I should make right now, just in case?

What’s the best way to care for my elderly parents without jeopardizing my own financial security?

60 & beyond

 

At this stage, perhaps you’re eyeing retirement, ramping up travel or time with grandchildren, pursuing hobbies, starting your own small business or getting involved in philanthropic endeavors that help you give back and find meaning.

Could it help me financially to continue working past the traditional retirement age?

When should I apply to receive my Social Security benefits?

Should I consider my future health care costs when planning my retirement?

What if I become a widow? How can I help ensure that I’ll be financially secure as I move forward alone?

1 Amanda Barroso and Anna Brown “Gender Pay in U.S. Held Steady in 2020,” Pew Research Center, May 25, 2021

2  Kelly Anne Smith, “Half of Parents Financially Helping Their Adult Children Say It’s Putting Retirement Savings at Risk,” Bankrate, April 24, 2019

3 U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Retirement Security: Women Still Face Challenges,” July 2012

4  Sarah Jane Glynn, “The Rising Cost of Inaction on Work-Family Policies,” Center for American Progress,  January 21, 2020

5 Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz, editors, Women Working Longer: Increased Employment at Older Ages, University of Chicago Press, April 2018

6 Richard W. Johnson, “What is the Lifetime Risk of Needing and Receiving Long-Term Care Services and Supports?” Urban Institute, June 24, 2021

7 Merrill/Age Wave, “Widowhood and Money: Resiliency, Responsibility, and Empowerment,” 2018

8 Ibid

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