Single Women

Single and Thinking About Retirement? Five Tips to Help You Get There

Single Women Retirement Planning
Single Women Retirement Planning

Most of us dream about the day that we can take a break. We envision a full, long-lasting retirement that is free of financial worries and packed with more of the things we enjoy spending our time on. Whether you’re planning to retire at the traditional age of 65 or you’re aiming to get there earlier, being single doesn’t have to slow you down.

Use your unique strengths to your advantage, and plan for a retirement filled with time spent with friends and family, giving back, reading books, traveling, and everything else you enjoy. If you’re thinking ahead to your retirement, but you’re not sure where to start, here are a few tips that will help you get there:

Revisit your spending and saving

The start of your retirement planning is a great time to check in with your spending or looking at it in reverse, at your savings rate. Could you be saving more money? Are you spending on things that aren’t important to you? Are you wasting money anywhere, such as trial subscriptions you forgot to cancel that are now costing you money annually? Paying for a high-priced gym that you rarely use? Highlight anything you think can be cut out or reduced. Savings gives you freedom and it’s something you have control over, more than your investment returns or even your income.  Then, use Vanguard’s handy retirement calculator to compare your current monthly income to what you’ll need in retirement. 

Make small changes

Now that you’ve revisited your spending vs savings rate and identified areas that could use improvement, start making small, incremental changes. Save takeout or restaurant meals for weekends; make coffee at home instead of suffering through long drive-thru lines; cancel unused services or subscriptions. Discretionary items like these add up quickly to cost us thousands each year. Aim for improvement, not deprivation and watch your savings grow. Cutting out all discretionary spending isn’t sustainable long-term. Choose the changes and budget cuts that make the most sense to you and your goals.

Max out your savings

Reallocate the funds from your discretionary budget cuts to your retirement accounts or investment accounts. While opting for easy alternatives may have been eating up all of your extra cash, maxing out your savings opportunities will make you extra cash. When it comes to saving for retirement, compound interest is your best friend. Start spending time with her as soon as you can.

Diversify

Any personal finance expert will tell you that it’s not enough to match your employer’s contributions (or fully fund your Solo 401(k) if you’re self-employed). Investing outside of your retirement account in mutual funds, ETFs, or individual stocks can help you create additional streams of income when you’re settling comfortably into your retirement.

Work a little longer than you think you can stand

While you are working your salary funds your expenses. When you stop working you are going to rely on other income sources: social security, maybe a pension, and withdrawals from your retirement and investment accounts. If your retirement projections are at all iffy – meaning, it seems your money may not last through your retirement years, it pays to stay employed. Most people want to maintain their standard of living in retirement not have to reduce it. Staying employed and savings as much as you can in those last years of working is one way to get you closer to your goal.

No one-size-fits-all plan for retirement

There’s no one-size-fits-all plan for retirement. But if your end goal is a retirement free of financial worries, there are plenty of actionable steps you can take now to set your future self up for success. A lack of financial stress helps us better connect with the people we love, sleep better, stay healthy, and enjoy both the destination and the journey. Employ financial strategies that will help you move consistently toward your goals.  

If you need a retirement plan and want to work with a trusted financial partner, we encourage you to explore our services and schedule an introductory phone call.

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Putting Women At The Center Of The Story

I was getting a hair-cut recently, and instead of scrolling through Instagram while my stylist did her work, I flipped through the February issue of Vogue. In it, there was an adorable photo of Reese Witherspoon with her daughter and mother and an article about what Reese has been up to. As I was skimming the story, I came upon a quote by Witherspoon that intrigued me enough to pay more attention. It read:

“But there’s a reason I’m very passionate about women having their own money. I have a lot of friends, and I have a lot of personal experiences with women feeling afraid and making life choices because they felt completely paralyzed or in stasis because they didn’t know what to do financially. And you can’t have liberation if you don’t have that.”

Being a financial advisor who has many female clients, this statement resonated with me. I knew about Reese’s involvement in the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, but I didn’t realize the depth of her passion for changing the status quo. In the article, she laments “being tired of being the only woman in the room” – a situation familiar to me and other women who have struggled for promotions, pay raises, equity stakes, funding, and equal opportunities in the workplace. The truth is that until women gain equal status, they will lag behind financially and may never achieve their full potential. Reese’s solution to this problem?: “The idea is to put women at the center of the story.”

Witherspoon is doing this by producing women-centric content on every media platform imaginable. She is also an outspoken advocate for women in the entertainment industry. It got me thinking of how the rest of us could put women at the center of the story. Here are some ideas:

What you can do to put women at the center of the story.

  • Mentor women in your company, your industry, or your community to make the road a little easier for them.
  • Take every opportunity to teach girls and young women about money whether it’s your daughter, niece, cousin, nephew’s girlfriend, or friend’s daughter.
  • Encourage women to speak up in any type of meeting or gathering by noticing who is quiet and asking direct questions.
  • If you’re a manager – support women’s personal and professional development by funding classes or seminars on public speaking, leadership, or money-management skills.
  • If you’re a financial advisor, offer pro-bono financial advice, take on a young female client below your minimum fee or teach a class on personal finance in your community.
  • Understand and resolve your own gender biases by attending workshops or hiring a coach.

These may be small things that don’t have the social power and reach of Witherspoon’s media empire, but they are doable for anyone – that has a power all its own.

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10 Tips to Being a Happily Self-Employed Person

A friend who recently left her corporate job and is now self-employed asked me how I manage to run a business while still enjoying an active, interesting life outside of work.  She wanted some suggestions, which made me reflect on what has been most important for me in achieving a healthy and happy work-life balance.

I focus on these ten goals – and I must emphasize that it is always a work in progress – I succeed at some better than others, but I’m always trying.

1. Be flexible about when you work and when you play.

Schedule your day creatively: wake up early to finish a project so you can slip out of the office for a long lunch with a friend, or work later in the evening so you can enjoy a daytime activity.

I find that fitting everything into a strict 8 AM-to-5 PM time frame is not my most effective or productive schedule. And hey, flexibility is one of the perks of self-employment people report valuing the most!

2. Don’t be afraid to say No.

If you receive an invitation to do something interesting – whether it be moderating a panel, traveling to a conference, becoming a member of a board, or chairing a committee – don’t say yes immediately.

Stop and think about how the request fits in with or enhances your priorities. No one can do everything, and you can quickly be overwhelmed if you say yes too often. If you get burnt out from being overcommitted you are no good to anyone.

3. Take great care of your physical self.

Regular exercise and healthy eating contribute to the energy, endurance, focus, and confidence of a successful career.

I make sure to schedule daily exercise and subscribe to Michael Pollan’s philosophy: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” I prioritize my physical health, which results in increased motivation and productivity. It’s a
win-win.

4. Quiet your mind.

For years I have been told that meditation reduces stress and anxiety and can increase productivity along with a multitude of other benefits. But I was too busy to slow down and try it.

I am now working on meditating in the morning – sometimes just going into a quiet room and taking a few deep breaths before starting the morning routine. I can now see where this habit is just as important as exercise and eating healthfully to having a balanced life.

5. Systematize everything you can.

This saves not only time, but the mental energy required to complete certain tasks and jobs. This applies to workflows at the office as well as household chores like paying bills.

Related: Financial Housekeeping: What To Do with Those “Old” 401(k)s

6. Spend time with people who lift you up.

Conversations and connections with positive, energetic people naturally make me feel positive and energetic, and those are the influences I choose to surround myself with. Seek out others to lift up – as a mentor, colleague, or friend – and empower optimism.

7. Work smarter, not longer or harder.

I used to sit at my desk until late in the evening, spending hours at my computer — which often resulted in a sore neck and shoulders (and being cranky when I got home) rather than my best work.

I am happier and more productive working in spurts – I work as a sprinter runs, with high-intensity, uninterrupted periods followed by a break to renew and refresh. I think more clearly and creatively, and stay fully engaged.

8. Develop support systems.

I am very lucky to have an extremely supportive spouse. We work as a team to manage the household, business, and pleasure aspects of our lives, and we outsource the tasks that we have neither the time or energy to do ourselves.

It’s tough to do it all, so play to your strengths and outsource what you need – personal assistant, tech support, housekeeper – delegate tasks so you can focus on that work-life balance.

9. Find a way to schedule uninterrupted work time.

If you are surrounded by people you are vulnerable to distractions. I find it’s much simpler to achieve a ‘flow’ state when I’m in a quiet space – and sometimes feel I accomplish a full day’s work in two hours when the flow is working.

If you have to, leave your office or home and go sit in a library, coffee shop or other alternative space to get some uninterrupted time.

10. Know yourself and where you want to put your energy.

When you can identify what makes you happy, and what is meaningful, you’ll be able to seek out the activities that support those interests and values.

I have a strong desire to live a varied and interesting life, and that knowledge drives me to stretch my limits by challenging myself and re-defining what’s possible — while focusing on taking care of myself so that I can continue to do more.

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Women and Financial Education: Start Learning Now!

It is crucial that women make financial decisions as if they were the sole keeper of their personal finances in all phases of their lives. Women have something in common when it comes to their money: At some point in their lives, they will need to manage it on their own. Unfortunately many are ill-prepared to do so because they haven’t taken the time to learn about personal finances. Whether a woman is single, married, with a life-partner, divorced or widowed it is smart to be informed and active in personal financial management.

Women and Money

As an advisor focused on women clients, I often hear statements such as:

“My dad invested my money for me, and I haven’t looked at my accounts since he died.”

“My brother is managing my money, and I’m not sure how it’s invested.”

“I handled the bills, and my husband took care of everything else.”

“I’m embarrassed about my finances and how clueless I feel about my money.”

“I don’t understand investing and I don’t know where to start….”

By seeking out an advisor, these women acknowledged they needed help, but there are many who don’t seek help and miss out on opportunities to save and invest wisely—possibly undermining their financial health.

Because of these realities, I believe it is crucial that women make financial decisions as if they were the sole keeper of their personal finances in all phases of their lives. Learn from these women and their stories:

Single, Urban and Underpaid

Mary is a single woman living in an expensive urban area. She is 35 years old and has a job that she loves. However, her pay covers her living expenses—and that’s about it. She isn’t saving for retirement and has $15,000 in a savings account, earning next to nothing. She feels she is underpaid, but she is very loyal to her employer and is always willing to take on extra work for no extra pay.

Advice: As the sole steward of her finances, Mary owes it to herself to ask for a raise – at least enough so that she can contribute to an individual retirement account. Or, she could ask her employer if they would contribute to a retirement savings account for her.

If she can’t get an increase in pay or benefits from her employer, then her only options are to find a higher-paying job or to reduce her living expenses. Then she can afford to save for retirement and other financial goals.

Middle-aged and Widowed

Sally is 57 years old, the mother of a teenage daughter and a recent and unexpected widow. She gave up her career to raise her daughter and now works part-time for very little money.

For the first time, she is forced to handle the finances: understanding her investments and figuring out whether there is enough money to last through retirement. As she becomes more educated, she realizes that her husband left some money on the table. For example, he wasn’t contributing the maximum to his 401(k) plan or contributing enough to get the full employer match. In addition, he invested his 401(k) savings in stable value funds as he was extremely risk-averse. Given the number of years he worked, the 401(k) balance is disappointing.

Fortunately, he worked for a large corporation, and there were other retirement income benefits. Sally and her husband were frugal, and she thinks she will be able to get by, but she is actively looking for full-time work.

Lesson: Women who disrupt their careers to raise children also disrupt their ability to save for retirement. However, there are several things that wives can do even if they aren’t earning money:

  • Get educated about basic investments, and understand the investments in spousal retirement and joint accounts.
  • Make sure their spouse is fully maximizing employee benefits (especially employer match to a retirement plan), life insurance, and disability benefits.
  • Learn about and take advantage of the spousal IRA.
  • Have jointly owned, as well as individual, bank and credit card accounts.
  • Know where all the money is, and keep log-in credentials for all accounts stored safely.
  • Open a Roth IRA and contribute any earned income from part-time work.

Successful and Divorcing

Jane has a lucrative corporate career in technology. She is 45 and has made six figures since her late 30s and receives generous company benefits. She has a large balance in her 401(k) plan and substantial investments outside of her 401(k).

Her husband, who is a writer and stay-at-home dad (they have a 7-year-old son) announced unexpectedly that he wanted a divorce. Jane, focused on her work, did not expect this and realized too late that she did not prepare for this possibility. She has hired a lawyer to help with a property settlement.

Lesson: If a woman is coming into a marriage with wealth, it pays to consider executing a prenuptial agreement beforehand. Prenups are not a romantic proposition, and it might seem like they’re meant only for the super-rich, but that isn’t the case.

At a highly emotional time, she will be required to make decisions that will affect the rest of her life, as well as that of her child. A prenuptial agreement would have made this process a lot less stressful and ensure a fairer outcome.

It’s time to stop sabotaging yourself

These three scenarios are just a few examples of ways that women sabotage themselves financially by relying on others to do the right thing or take care of them. This isn’t to say that spouses, partners or bosses are bad people; it’s just the reality of life.

As women enter each new phase of their lives and are required to deal with different realities, it is critical to their financial health that they look out for themselves. The choices are clear: Get educated about finances and take action, and seek out help from trusted advisors—or leave things to chance and hope that they work out. What seems like a better choice to you?

Do you want to manage your money (and life!) better?

The Happiness SpreadsheetIf you want to think differently about the relationship between your spending, your values and your happiness, then sign up to get your FREE copy of The Happiness Spreadsheet.

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