While financial advice is designed to apply to all investors, the reality is that women statistically live longer than men and may face issues such as ensuring their assets last through their expected lifetime. While the concept of planning for this may be easy, the difficulty comes in the fact that women are also more likely to earn less over the course of their careers, between taking time off from working to be caregivers for children or elderly relatives, or a basic gender pay gap.
While the gender pay gap is narrowing, in 2015, women earned 83 percent of what men earned according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. This often results in women receiving less in Social Security benefits, saving less for retirement and getting smaller pensions. Women are also more likely to live on their own in their golden years, whether by choice, divorce or death of a spouse; therefore, it is important that they take sole responsibility for their financial decisions. Regardless of the gender, your financial adviser should develop a financial plan that is designed to have your assets last through the youngest spouse’s age 92 or later, knowing that there is a chance one spouse may end up spending several years alone.
Typically in couples, one spouse takes control of the finances, paying the bills and making the financial decisions. Even then, it is important for both spouses to have a working knowledge of their overall financial plan. While one spouse may pay the bills and control the investment accounts, the other spouse still needs to know about insurance policies in place, where assets are held and how to access these accounts should something happen to the other spouse. Furthermore, a couple should have a team of experts in place, including a financial adviser, estate planning attorney and C.P.A., and all should have copies of important documents and understand the overarching plan. I always try to encourage both spouses to understand why we make the decisions we do and understand not just plan itself, but the investments choices, decisions made regarding insurance, etc.
When only one spouse is making the financial decisions for the family, it is important for both to be involved in developing the estate plan as the spouses often have differing views on where assets should go, yet, make each other their primary beneficiary. If you should die first, your assets may not be used or distributed as you desire if your spouse is in control. Alternatively, it may come as a shock to a surviving spouse that they do not have access to assets they may have been counting on.
Once a spouse becomes a single individual, regardless of the circumstances, it is often a tragic event, be it death or divorce or incapacitation. A surviving spouse should not make any major decisions for at least six months to year. Spending patterns will change, and the individual will need to become accustomed to what their new financial life their will look like. Risk tolerances may change during this time, and plans may need to be modified. There may be a new need for life insurance or long-term care insurance as well.
Regardless of your gender, if you are not the one who takes control of the financial decisions, you need to have a working knowledge of your plan so when you find yourself in charge, you can handle the responsibility.
William G. Lako, Jr., CFP®, is an Executive in Residence at Kennesaw State University’s Coles College of Business and a principal at Henssler Financial and a co-host on Atlanta’s longest running, most respected financial talk radio show “Money Talks” airing Saturdays at 10 a.m. on AM 920 The Answer. Mr. Lako is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional
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