I know plenty of women that handle the finances for their family. I also know many women that don’t care to be involved in day-to-day financial decisions. Neither is right or wrong. All family situations are different.
But if you are a woman, there is a good chance you’ll be managing your own finances at some point in your life.
Because the reality is that while only 20% of men die single, 80% of women do.
Average life expectancies for men and women, along with trends related to marriage and divorce have set the stage for women to control 2/3 of all wealth in the U.S. by the year 2030.
With that in mind, here are four things that women should be on top of with respect to family finances, regardless of whether they are taking point on paying the bills now.
First, where the heck is everything?
It’s pretty rare to have all your savings in one account. If you have retirement assets like an IRA, these accounts are segregated from your non-retirement savings by design. Families that have significant wealth often create trusts to fulfill special purposes. Whatever your situation, you want to make sure you have an up-to-date list of all of your assets (including investment accounts and things like real estate) and what they are worth.
Technology is the best way to do this. Our Director of Marketing, Michele Caccamise, finds it easy to use a simple excel spreadsheet. Heritage Wealth Advisor Hanna Gomez uses the Mint app to stay organized:
“It has tracking and budgeting features, but I just use it to see all of my accounts in one place.”
A word of caution here – it’s not enough to just make a list and set it aside. You should check in on it at least a few times a year to understand how the value of your wealth has changed. If you’re not actively engaged in your household finances currently, you don’t want to be surprised about the actual value of your wealth if and when it becomes time for you to take charge.
Who’s Running the Show?
Over time, we all accumulate a number of professional advisors that help us with various aspects of our financial life. Whether you have already built significant wealth or are just starting out, you likely have relationships with several professionals that work with you on banking, investments, insurance, taxes, and more.
Keep an up-to-date list of these key contacts along with the overview you create of your accounts. And make sure you’ve at least met all of these people a few times in person. You don’t want to be scrambling for this information or working with someone you don’t know in an emergency situation. Online password keepers (Keeper, LastPass) are a great place to keep this information, along with your account numbers and passwords.
What’s Going In and Out?
The biggest reason that finances become a problem is spending. If you spend more than you make, you’re going to run out.
A survey last year by Intuit MintLife showed that 65% of Americans had no idea how much they spent in the prior month.
Even if you aren’t the one paying the bills, it’s good to know how much the household is bringing in, paying out, and saving. If you are involved in the finances now, this is critical information for managing the household from month-to-month. And if you aren’t, you don’t want to be surprised or confused if you have to suddenly step in.
Senior Wealth Advisor Kenzie Ferris has seen firsthand how overwhelming it can be when a suddenly widowed or newly divorced spouse starts to get an understanding of actual monthly spending.
“There are almost always surprises, and those surprises just make the adjustment process more difficult.”
At Heritage, one of the first things we request from prospective clients is a budget overview so we can assess whether financial goals are realistic in light of actual spending. Fill out this simple budget on your own or with your spouse and update it at least annually as a way to stay on top of household spending.
How can you stay educated?
Ladies, we are going to have responsibility for a lot more money as time goes on. For some, that might feel like an opportunity to start learning as much as you can about budgeting, saving, and investing. And, as they say, it’s never too late to learn. For others, it might feel like a burden. That’s ok too. The key to navigating what the future holds for your finances is to know where to go for resources.
That list you made of your accounts and all the key professionals is a start. And we can help you build on that. Our new and growing online library of financial resources is another invaluable tool!
Today we are launching a new HER Resources page on our website. For starters, we’ve added links to suggested podcasts, interesting articles, worksheets, calculators, and videos. Most of our initial resources are focused on saving and investing, family and relationships, and career development. Going forward, we plan to add even more, including topics like HER Health and HER Values.
We hope you’ll check out this new resource, where you can find things like:
And don’t forget to share this free resource with other special women in your life.
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